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Pasquale Sconzo papers

Collection MS-2002-031: Pasquale Sconzo papers


  • Creation: 1883-1985
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1926 - 1985

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the professional life, work, and scientific interests of Pasquale Sconzo, Italian mathematician and astronomer. Materials include notebooks and class notes from Sconzo's years as a graduate student and astronomy professor in Italy, Argentina, and the United States; work papers and subject files; correspondence; reports and other materials from his tenure at IBM; manuscripts and published writings by Sconzo; clippings; and research materials. Among his research interests were orbital mechanics and the three-body problem, the application of computers to terrestrial and interplanetary navigation, as well as a fascination with the history of astronomy, especially Italian astronomy, and Italian Renaissance culture.


Language of Materials

English, Italian, and Spanish

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. Series II. Biographical is closed until 2045 due to the presence of personnel and security clearance files.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Pasquale Sconzo was born in Palermo, Italy in June of 1908 to Geatano and Antonina Sconzo. He attended the Technical School at Palermo from 1918 to 1922 and then the Scientific Lyceum until 1926. He then enrolled in the University of Palermo from which he received a Ph.D. equivalent in 1931. In 1934 Sconzo received a Humboldt Fellowship to undertake post-graduate studies in Heidelberg, Germany where he remained until 1936, when he married Elisabeth Schlag. In 1937 he began teaching at the Instituto Nautico Savona and the following year moved to the Naval College at Venice where he taught until 1940.

From 1940 to 1943 Sconzo served as an Artillery Captain in Libya and elsewhere. During World War II he was a guest scientist at the Konigstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg, Germany. After the war, Sconzo taught briefly at the Instituto Nautico Camogli in Genoa before moving to La Plata, Argentina in 1947 where he became a professor at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata Astronomical Observatory. In 1955 he left La Plata and lived briefly in the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship before returning to Italy to teach in Genoa and at the Galileo Galilei Institute in Rome until 1959.

In November of 1959 Sconzo became an assistant professor at Georgetown University where he remained for one year before joining the IBM Cambridge Space Systems Group. He remained at IBM Cambridge as Chief Scientist and Astronomer for twelve years, working on complex problems related to the Apollo space program and other federal contracts. Sconzo retired from IBM in 1972 and became a visiting scientist at the European Space Research Organization for several years.

Sconzo died in Arlington, Massachusetts on March 14, 1994.


American Men of Science

"Pasquale Sconzo, Mathematician Noted for Orbital Calculations; at 85: [City Edition]," Boston Globe, March 18, 1994.

IBM report on Sconzo.


19 Linear Feet (19 containers)


Papers documenting the professional life and scientific work of twentieth-century Italian mathematician and astronomer Pasquale Sconzo. Materials include correspondence, manuscripts, working papers, reports, notebooks and articles much of which relates to his work with IBM and space exploration.


Collection is arranged into nine series: I. Notes; II. Biographical; III. Research; IV. Correspondence; V. Lectures, conferences, and professional organizations; VI. IBM publications; VII. Astronautics reports; VIII. Writings; IX. Reference materials; and X. Clippings.


Gift of Wega Firenze, 2002.

Processing Information

This collection has been minimally processed. Arrangement is based primarily on an initial inventory done after the collection was accessioned in 2002.

Pasquale Sconzo Papers
1883-1985, bulk 1926-1985
Carolyn Fargnoli, Abby Blachly, Mitch Frass, Kelly J.S. McGovern, Yvette Hanley, September 2003; Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States