26 November 2023

26 November

Charles Forte - businessman and hotelier

Multi-billion pound empire started with a single café

Businessman Charles Forte - later Sir Charles and then Baron Forte of Ripley - was born Carmine Forte in the hamlet of Mortale in the Frosinone province of southern Lazio on this day in 1908.  Forte was most famous for his hotels empire, which once numbered more than 800 properties ranging from Travelodge motels to the high-end luxury of the Grosvenor House in London and the George V in Paris.  Starting with a single milk bar in London, opened in 1935, he grew a business that became so vast that, when it changed hands 61 years later, it was valued at £3.9 billion.  Charles Forte was brought up largely in Scotland, where his family emigrated in 1911 after his father, Rocco, decided to follow the lead of his brother by abandoning farming in his impoverished homeland to try his luck in the catering business abroad.   Rocco ran a café and ice cream parlour in Alloa, a town in central Scotland about an hour's drive north-east of Glasgow and a similar distance to the north-west of Edinburgh.  Charles went to school in Alloa and nearby Dumfries before completing his education at the Mamiani High School in Rome.  Read more…


Letizia Moratti – politician and businesswoman

First woman to be Mayor of Milan and head of RAI

Letizia Moratti, one of Europe’s best-known businesswomen and a successful politician, was born on this day in 1949 in Milan.  Married to the oil magnate Gianmarco Moratti, she was chair of the state television network RAI between 1994 and 1996, a minister in former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s second and third administrations, and Mayor of Milan between 2006 and 2011.  Born Letizia Maria Brichetto Arnaboldi, her antecedents are the Brichetto family from Genoa, who founded the first insurance brokerage company in Italy, and the noble Arnaboldi family from Milan.  Her grandmother, Mimona Brichetto Arnaboldi, was a society hostess in the 1930s and an outspoken opponent of Fascism.  Letizia attended a private school in Milan and had classical dance classes at the Carla Strauss Academy in the Brera district.  She attended the University of Milan and graduated in political science.  At around the same time, she met Gianmarco Moratti, an oil contractor whose brother, Massimo, a petrochemicals tycoon, is the former chairman of Internazionale.  With funding from the Moratti family, Letizia launched her first business at the age of 25.  Read more…


Giorgio Cini - heroic entrepreneur

Name lives on in cultural life of Venice

Giorgio Cini, the man whose name was given to a major cultural institution on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice was born on this day in 1918 in Rome.  The eldest child of Vittorio Cini, who in the early 20th century was one of Italy’s wealthiest industrialists, and the celebrated silent movie actress Lyda Borelli, Giorgio took on an entrepreneurial role in his father’s businesses, which encompassed a broad range of interests, in the financial and insurance sector, steel and electrical, maritime and tourism. Vittorio was born in Ferrara, owned a castle in Monselice near Padua, but adopted Venice as his home and devoted much of his energy to enhancing the wealth of the city. A key figure in the development of the port of Marghera, he was a close friend and business partner of Giuseppe Volpi, the businessman and politician who founded the Venice Film Festival.  Giorgio’s life was tragically cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in 1949 at the age of just 30, shortly after taking off from the small airport of Saint-Cassien near Cannes, where he had been with his fiancee, the American-born actress Merle Oberon.  Read more…


Amelita Galli-Curci - soprano

Singer’s beautiful voice lives on thanks to early recordings

Amelita Galli-Curci, one of the most popular Italian opera singers and recording artists of the early 20th century, died on this day in 1963.  Galli-Curci was a ‘coloratura’ soprano and her voice has been described as ‘florid, vibrant, agile and able to perform trills.’  Although she was largely self-taught her voice was much admired and it has been claimed she was encouraged to become an opera singer by composer Pietro Mascagni, who was a family friend.  She was born Amelita Galli in Milan in 1881 and studied the piano at the Milan Conservatory, which is in the centre of the city close to the Duomo. She made her stage debut as a soprano at Trani in 1906, singing Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. She was widely acclaimed and her career took off from there.  In 1908 she married an Italian nobleman, the Marchese Luigi Curci and she subsequently attached his surname to hers. She remained known as Amelita Galli-Curci even after they divorced.  She sang in just two performances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lamermoor with Enrico Caruso in Buenos Aires in 1915 but they went on to make wonderful recordings together.  Read more…


Enrico Bombieri – Mathematician

Brilliant professor who won top award in his field at just 34

The mathematician Enrico Bombieri, one of the world’s leading authorities on number theory and analysis, which has practical application in the world of encryption and data transmission, was born on this day in 1940 in Milan.  Bombieri, who is also an accomplished painter, won the Fields Medal, an international award for outstanding discoveries in mathematics regarded in the field of mathematical sciences as equivalent to a Nobel Prize, when he was a 34-year-old professor at the University of Pisa in 1974.  As well as analytic number theory, he has become renowned for his expertise in other areas of highly advanced mathematics including algebraic geometry, univalent functions, theory of several complex variables, partial differential equations of minimal surfaces, and the theory of finite groups.  Mathematics textbooks now refer to several discoveries named after him in his own right or with fellow researchers, including the Bombieri-Lang conjecture, the Bombieri norm and the Bombieri–Vinogradov theorem.  He has been described as a "problem-oriented" scholar - one who tries to solve deep problems rather than to build theories.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Newcomers' Lives: The Story of Immigrants as Told in Obituaries from The Times, edited by Peter Unwin

To mention the names Ernst Gombrich, Nikolaus Pevsner, Joseph Conrad, Nancy Astor, CLR James and Lucian Freud is to give but a brief glimpse of the impact immigrants to this country have made on our national culture and character. Indeed, these people have been crucial to the development of recent British history and have been indispensable in shaping the way we live now. This collection of obituaries from The Times of some of the most important of these people gives the reader a unique view of their contribution. It becomes clear that this contribution has been a determinant factor in British history.  Newcomers’ Lives covers politics, business, art, architecture, music and sport, as well as philosophy and religion. The breadth and depth of the influence of immigrants is thus reinforced.  The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, contributes a fascinating introduction surveying our historical and cultural landscape.

Peter Unwin, PhD, is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Worcester, UK, where he teaches on the MA and BA in Social Work.

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