Library reaches two million mark
Published: Monday, January 26, 2004
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Boston College's recent acquisition of a first-edition work by Galileo is a major milestone in the school's attempt to enrich and diversify its libraries. The tome is also a milestone for another reason, according to school officials. BC Libraries can now boast an impressive two million book collection.
The 390-year-old volume, published in Rome in 1613, has been accompanied by considerable fanfare, including a talk by Monan Professor of Law Daniel Coquillette titled, "Five Cheers for Galileo," delivered in December. The book's new home beneath the glass in Burns Library, where BC keeps rare books and special collections, is a far cry from its previous home in a Belmont basement, according to Wega Frienze, the book's donor.
"I was interested in donating to an institution of higher learning, and after looking at the options, I decided [BC] was going to be the place," Frienze said. "It was our wish that scholars could enjoy this book. We had this in our basement, after all, and knew it would a travesty to keep this hidden."
According to Frienze, BC became the front-runner for the book because of the interest the university showed in the career of her father, NASA scientist Pasquale Sconzo (1908-1994), who passed it down to her. Sconzo worked his way up the Italian educational ladder, beginning his career as a high school teacher and rising to prominence through his work in the field of celestial mechanics, or the movement of bodies in space.
Sconzo benefited partially from being in the right place at the right time, according to his son Sirio, who is named after the largest star in the southern hemisphere, Sirius. "It wasn't until they started shooting rockets up into the air that that field, celestial mechanics, really became prominent," he said.
After accepting a teaching fellowship at Georgetown University, Sconzo found himself doing groundbreaking research at NASA headquarters, applying his mathematical know-how to landing and docking maneuvers for spacecrafts. His work was well-received by his peers, and became one of the main topics at an International Astronomical Union conference.
Sconzo collected several historic texts during his career and never forgot the legacy created in his field by Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and others, according to his son.
"He always kept in mind the discoveries that made his work possible. Much of the math he used was actually derived from some of Newton's fundamental laws," he said.
According to Burns Librarians Robert O'Neill, the sunspot study was the perfect book to symbolize BC's crossing of the two-millionth book barrier. "One of the reasons we selected the Galileo was that it shows how far BC has come, particularly in the sciences," O'Neill said. "This is one of the seminal books in world thought."
It took BC 124 years to collect its first million library books, and only 16 to crack two million. The Burns Library has accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the million books added to BC library shelves since 1987.
The sunspot study discusses the principal of inertia, a fundamental aspect of Newton's work, which established the modern view of the solar system.