The Human Webcam

This is Padre Antonio Piaggio and his collection of volcano diaries at The Royal Society.

In the 1760s, the padre kept a thorough log, including countless hand-drawn pictures, of a very active Mt Vesuvius.

The story is told in our second episode of the Objectivity video series.

The padre had been enlisted by William Hamilton, who was working in Naples at the time and developed an interest in vulcanology.

Sir William Hamilton

Sir William Hamilton

The diaries are extraordinary and include all manner of sketches, some of them extremely detailed.

Having someone keep such a close watch on the volcano brings to mind an early version of a webcam.

But alas the work was not put to good use. The ageing Hamilton decided he could not be bothered converting them into a scientific paper and essentially just dumped them on the society. 

So, to this day, they sit on a shelf largely unexploited.

They sure are pretty to look at though.

In case you missed it, here is part one of Objectivity, Isaac Newton's Space Wood.