At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Paolo Gorini – scientist

Teacher invented technique for preserving corpses


The statue of Paolo Gorini in  Piazza Ospedale in Lodi
The statue of Paolo Gorini in
Piazza Ospedale in Lodi
Mathematician and scientist Paolo Giuseppe Antonio Enrico Gorini, who made important discoveries about organic substances, was born on this day in 1813 in Pavia.

He is chiefly remembered for preserving corpses and anatomical parts according to a secret process he invented himself. His technique was first used on the body of Giuseppe Mazzini, the politician and activist famous for his work towards the unification of Italy.

Gorini was orphaned at the age of 12, but thanks to financial help from former colleagues of his father, who had been a university maths professor, he was able to continue with his studies and he obtained a mathematics degree from the University of Pavia.

He paid tribute in his autobiography to his private teacher, Alessandro Scannini, who he said first inspired his interest in geology and volcanology.

Gorini went to live in Lodi, just south of Milan, in 1834, where he became a physics lecturer at the local Lyceum.

As well as teaching, he dedicated his time to geology experiments, actually creating artificial volcanoes to illustrate their eruptive dynamics. He also made his first attempts at the preservation of animal substances.

Gorini took an interest in politics at a time when Italy was moving towards unification and was in touch with some of the famous names of the time, such as Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. He even came up with an innovative plan of attack against the Austrians during a secret meeting of revolutionaries in Lodi in 1848.

The Mazzini Mausoleum in Genoa, where the body of Giuseppe Mazzini, preserved by Gorini, was laid to rest
The Mazzini Mausoleum in Genoa, where the body of
Giuseppe Mazzini, preserved by Gorini, was laid to rest
He retired from teaching at the age of 43 to spend more time on his experiments. He was commissioned by the Government to write a report on the characteristics and dangers of the volcanoes in Italy and in 1871 he published Sull’origine dei vulcani - On the Origins of Volcanoes.

He was asked to preserve the remains of Mazzini after the latter's death in Pisa in 1872, ahead of a funeral in Genoa that drew a crowd of some 100,000 people.

Mazzini’s body now lies in the cemetery of Stigliano near Genoa and the last examination of the corpse in 1946 acknowledged its substantial preservation.

Gorini had arrived in Pisa two days after the death of Mazzini when the body’s condition was already compromised.

Gorini embalmed the body of the novelist Giuseppe Rovani
Gorini embalmed the body of
the novelist Giuseppe Rovani
But although the process of mineralisation of the tissues did not produce excellent results because of the delay, the Gorinian technique was praised and brought the scientist international fame.

After successfully preserving the body of the novelist Giuseppe Rovani, who died in Milan in 1874, Gorini began to focus his energies on cremation. He planned the first crematorium in Italy, which was built in the cemetery of Riolo near Lodi in 1877.

In 1878 he was commissioned by the Cremation Society of Great Britain to construct the cremator at Woking Crematorium.

Gorini died in 1881 at the age of 67 in Lodi. There is now a statue of him and a museum dedicated to his work in Lodi.

The beautiful Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi is famous  for the porticoes that line all four sides
The beautiful Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi is famous
 for the porticoes that line all four sides
Travel tip:

Lodi, where Gorini taught and carried out his experiments, is a city in Lombardy, south of Milan and on the right bank of the River Adda. The main square, Piazza della Vittoria, has been listed by the Touring Club of Italy as among the most beautiful squares in Italy and it has porticoes on all four sides. Nearby Piazza Broletto has a 14th century marble baptismal font from Verona.

Travel tip:

A museum in Lodi houses the Collezione Anatomica Paolo Gorini, where you can see some of the animal and human anatomical preparations created by the scientist as he focused his efforts on preserving dead bodies. The collection is on display inside the Ospedale Vecchio of Lodi in the beautiful 15th century Chiostro della Farmacia. It is open on Wednesday from 10.00 to 12.00, on Saturday from 9.30 to 12.30 and on Sunday from 14.30 to 16.30. Entry is free of charge.

More reading:


Giuseppe Mazzini, the revolutionary who became the hero of Italian unification

Why the discoveries of 18th century anatomist Antonio Maria Valsava still help astronauts today

How physicist Luigi Galvani's name entered scientific terminology

Also on this day:


1968: The birth of Italy and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon




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