Showing posts with label Engineering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Engineering. Show all posts

13 October 2023

Eugenio Barsanti - engineer

Created the first working internal combustion engine

A model of the Barsanti-Matteucci engine pictured on display at a museum in Milan
A model of the Barsanti-Matteucci engine
pictured on display at a museum in Milan
The engineer Eugenio Barsanti, whose internal combustion engine was the first working example of the technology known to have been produced, was born on this day in 1821 in Pietrasanta, a town in northern Tuscany.

The Belgian-French engineer Étienne Lenoir and the German Nicolaus Otto are credited with the first commercially successful internal combustion engines, but Barsanti’s machine, which he developed with partner Felice Matteucci, was unveiled in 1853 - six years before Lenoir’s and eight years ahead of Otto’s.

Barsanti might have achieved commercial success himself but shortly after reaching an agreement with a company in Belgium to produce his machine on a commercial scale he contracted typhoid fever, from which he never recovered.

A rather sickly child, known by his parents as Nicolò, Barsanti took the name Father Eugenio after entering the novitiate of the Piarists, the oldest Catholic religious order dedicated to education, where was ordained as a priest.

He took a teaching position at Collegio San Michele in Volterra. It was there, while lecturing on the explosive energy created by mixing hydrogen and air that he realised the potential of using combustible gases to lift the pistons in a motor.

He developed the idea further after meeting Matteucci, an engineer, while teaching at an institute in Florence. 

A postage stamp issued to mark the 150th anniversary of the engine's invention
A postage stamp issued to mark the 150th
anniversary of the engine's invention
After exhibiting their first engine at the prestigious Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence to much excitement, Barsanti and Matteucci travelled to London to obtain a patent. 

By 1856, Barsanti and Matteucci had developed a two-cylinder five horsepower motor and two years later built a two-piston engine designed to provide a source of energy to drive machinery in factories and workshops.

The Barsanti-Matteucci engine was quicker and more efficient than the one developed by Lenoir and won a silver medal from the Institute of Science of Lombardy. They believed it could also be used in the propulsion of ships as an alternative to steam.

After the prototype of their engine was built in Milan, the two were all set to go into mass production at a plant near Liège in Belgium owned by the English industrialist John Cockerill when Barsanti fell ill with typhoid fever. He died on April 18, 1864.

After his partner’s death, Matteucci found himself unsuited to the demands of running a commercial business and failed to secure the contracts necessary to make mass production viable. He returned to his previous work in hydraulics. 

Nicolaus Otto, on the other hand, had a background in business, giving him an edge not only in marketing skills but in the contacts he could approach for investment. He was the first to enjoy significant commercial success producing internal combustion engines and tends to be credited with its invention.

Barsanti's ashes are buried at the  Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Barsanti's ashes are buried at the 
Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Matteucci’s arguments that Otto’s engine was clearly similar to his and Barsanti’s were largely ignored. Nonetheless, many of the documents relating to the original patents he and Barsanti obtained are preserved in the Museo Galileo in Florence, while Barsanti’s achievements are acknowledged in Italy, where a postage stamp was issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Barsanti-Matteucci engine.

In 1954, Barsanti's ashes were moved from the Church of San Giovannino degli Scolopi, the small, Piarist church in Florence, to the Basilica of Santa Croce, to rest alongside the remains of such illustrious Italians as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Ugo Foscolo and the composer Gioachino Rossini among many others.

Copies of Barsanti’s engines can be seen at the Osservatorio Ximeniano in Florence and the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan.

The wide, sandy beach at Marina di Pietrasanta is 5km long and attracts thousands of visitors
The wide, sandy beach at Marina di Pietrasanta
is 5km long and attracts thousands of visitors
Travel tip:

Pietrasanta, just north of Viareggio in the province of Lucca in Tuscany, still has part of its Roman wall, although as a mediaeval town it was not founded until 1255, expanding around the Rocca di Sala fortress of the Lombards. Its Duomo - the Collegiate Church of San Martino - dates back to the 13th century. Pietrasanta grew in importance in the 15th century due to its marble, the beauty of which was first recognised by the sculptor, Michelangelo, to be followed in later years by such artists as Fernando Botero, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, and Damien Hirst. The town declined during the 17th and 18th centuries, partly due to malaria, but underwent reconstruction in the 19th century. It has a pleasant central square, while the seaside resort of Marina di Pietrasanta is just 3km (1.9 miles) away.  Part of the Versilia coastline, Marina di Pietrasanta boasts some of the area's best beaches, stretching for 5km (3 miles).

The waterfront at Viareggio is notable for its many examples of Liberty-style architecture
The waterfront at Viareggio is notable for its many
examples of Liberty-style architecture
Travel tip:

Viareggio, which can be found just 13km (8 miles) south of Pietrasanta, is a popular resort also known for its excellent sandy beaches and for its carnival, a month-long event dating back to 1873 that runs from February through to March and features parades of giant papier-mache floats designed to represent well-known public figures. The Tuscan resort is also notable for its beautiful Liberty-style architecture, much of it built in its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century, many examples of which thankfully survived heavy bombing in World War Two when the town was a target because of its shipbuilding industry.  The body of the English poet Shelley, who drowned at sea, was washed up on a beach near the resort in 1822.  He was cremated on the beach under the supervision of his friend, the poet Lord Byron. There is a monument to Shelley in the town’s Piazza Paolina.

Also on this day:

54: The death of Roman emperor Claudius

1687: The birth of architect Giorgio Massari

1815: The execution of Joachim Murat, former king of Naples

1884: The birth of anarchist Mario Buda

1988: The birth of sportsman and entrepreneur Piero Dusio

1985: The death of silent movie actress Francesca Bertini


9 March 2023

Andrew Viterbi – electrical engineer and businessman

The amazing life of 'the father of the mobile telephone'

Even at the age of 88, Viterbi remains actively involved in the scientific community
Even at the age of 88, Viterbi remains actively
involved in the scientific community
Andrew Viterbi, who invented the Viterbi algorithm and co-founded the American multinational corporation Qualcomm, was born Andrea Giacomo Viterbi on this day in 1935 in Bergamo in the Lombardy region of Italy.

The Viterbi algorithm is still used widely in cellular phones and other communication devices for error correcting codes as well as for speech recognition, DNA analysis and other applications. Viterbi also helped to develop the Code Division Multiple Access standard for cell phone networks.

He is recognised in Italy as ‘il padre del telefonino’ - the father of the mobile telephone.

Viterbi’s father, Achille, was director of Bergamo Hospital’s ophthalmology department, and his mother, Maria Luria, came from a prominent family in Piedmont and had a teaching degree. But after Mussolini introduced his new racial laws in Italy before the start of World War II, the couple, who were both Jewish, were deprived of their position and could no longer make a living to support their family.

They had planned to sail to the United States on 1 September, 1939, but after receiving a tip-off alerting them to possible danger, they secretly escaped two weeks early and were able to land safely in New York, where a member of their extended family already lived.   They then moved to Boston, where Andrea’s name was anglicised as Andrew after he was naturalised as an American.

Andrew Viterbi pictured in 2005 with his late wife, Erna, who assisted him in his philanthropic causes
Andrew Viterbi pictured in 2005 with his late wife,
Erna, who assisted him in his philanthropic causes
As Andrew Viterbi, he attended the Boston Latin School and entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952 to study electrical engineering. After qualifying, he worked at Raytheon and then the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, where he worked on telemetry for unmanned space missions and helped to develop the ‘phase-locked loop.’ At the same time, he was studying for a PhD in digital communications at the University of Southern California and graduated from there in 1963.

He was awarded academic positions at the University of California and, in 1967, he proposed the Viterbi algorithm to decode convolutionally encoded data, a ground breaking mathematical formula for eliminating signal interference. This allowed for effective cellular communication, digital satellite broadcast receivers, and deep space telemetry.

With Irwin Jacobs, Viterbi was the co-founder of Linkabit Corporation in 1968, and Qualcomm Inc in 1985, which became one of the most important communications companies worldwide. He became president of the venture capital company, The Viterbi Group in 2003, which invests in emerging businesses that are pioneering innovative technologies in the area of wireless communications.

Viterbi has received many awards for his invention of the Viterbi algorithm and a computer centre and an engineering school have been named after him. His algorithm paved the way for the widespread use of cellular technology, which changed the way people communicate worldwide.

In 2003 he was awarded an honorary degree in computer science by La Sapienza University of Rome and in 2007 an honorary degree in electrical engineering by the University in his native city of Bergamo. He has written two internationally respected books about digital communications and coding.

Viterbi in 1958 married Erna Finci, a Jewish refugee who had arrived in the United States from Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia. Her family had been deported from an Italian occupied zone in Sarajevo to Parma in Italy, where they were interned. They were saved from being sent to an extermination camp by the residents of Gramignazzo di Sissa, the village when they were interned, and were looked after by a local family when the Germans advanced into Italy, who hid them in their vineyard. Other Italians helped them to walk across the Alps into Switzerland, where they stayed until after the war.

The couple had three children. Erna, who helped organise Viterbi’s multiple acts of philanthropy, died in 2015. Their charitable donations included $52 million to the University of Southern California, where the engineering school was renamed the Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering. 

Bergamo's Città Alta is protected by an imposing wall built by the Venetians
Bergamo's Città Alta is protected by an
imposing wall built by the Venetians
Travel tip:

Bergamo in Lombardy is a beautiful city with an upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians who ruled at the time. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.

The Rocca dei Terzi with its 89ft central tower
The Rocca dei Terzi with its
89ft central tower
Travel tip:

Gramignazzo, the village near Parma where Viterbi’s future wife, Erna, was saved with her family from being shipped to a Nazi extermination camp, is a frazione of the municipality of Sissa, in farming country on the south bank of the Po river in Emilia Romagna. Sissa has a restored castle, the Rocca dei Terzi, which dates back to the 11th century and is notable for a 27-metre (89ft) tower added in the 16th century. The village is host every November to a festival known as the Sapori del Maiale, celebrating products made from pork, including many varieties of sausage and salami as well as roast pork dishes such as porchetta, typically made of rolled loin or belly pork stuffed with herbs.

Also on this day:

1454: The death of explorer Amerigo Vespucci

1809: The birth of statesman and winemaker Bettino Ricasoli

1842: The premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco

1908: The founding of football club Internazionale

1948: The birth of politician Emma Bonino


31 October 2018

Galileo Ferraris - electrical engineer

Pioneer of alternating current (AC) systems

The engineer Galileo Ferraris saw himself as a scientist rather than an entrepreneur
The engineer Galileo Ferraris saw himself
as a scientist rather than an entrepreneur
The physicist and electrical engineer Galileo Ferraris, who was one of the pioneers of the alternating current (AC) system for transmitting electricity and invented the first alternators and induction motors, was born on this day in 1847 in Piedmont.

The AC system was a vital element in the development of electricity as a readily-available source of power in that it made it possible to transport electricity economically and efficiently over long distances.

Ferraris did not benefit financially from his invention, which is still the basis of induction motors in use today. Another scientist, the Serbian-born Nikola Tesla, patented the device after moving to the United States to work for the Edison Corporation.

Tesla had been working simultaneously on creating an induction motor but there is evidence that Ferraris probably developed his first and as such is regarded by many as the unsung hero in his field.

He saw himself as a scientist rather than an entrepreneur and, although there is no suggestion that his ideas were stolen, openly invited visitors to come in and see his lab.  Unlike Tesla, he never intended to start a company to manufacture the motor and even had doubts whether it would work.

One of Ferraris's early motors, currently  in a museum in Sardinia
One of Ferraris's early motors, currently
in a museum in Sardinia
Born in Livorno Vercellese, a small town in the Vercelli province of Piedmont now known as Livorno Ferraris, Galileo Ferraris was the son of a pharmacist and the nephew of a physician in Turin, to whom he was sent at the age of 10 to obtain an education in the classics and the sciences.

Ferraris was was a graduate of the University of Turin and the Scuola d’Applicazione of Turin, emerging with a master's degree in engineering. He remained in the academic world and independently researched the rotary magnetic field.

He experimented with different types of motors and his research and his studies resulted in the development of an alternator, which converted mechanical (rotating) power into electric power as alternating current.

While Tesla sought to patent his device, Ferraris published his research in a paper to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Turin and the alternator as a source of polyphase power became key in the history of electrification, along with the power transformer.

These inventions enabled power to be transmitted by wires economically over considerable distances and electricity to be generated by harnessing the natural power of water, thus enabling power to be available in remote places.

The city of Turin marked the contributions made to science by Ferraris, who also researched in the field of optical instruments, with the creation of a permanent monument at the Royal Italian Industrial Museum of Turin (now the Royal Turin Polytechnic).  From 1934 to 2006, the "Galileo Ferraris" Electrotechnical Institute could be found in Corso Massimo d'Azeglio.

The Palazzo Chiablese di Castell'Apertole, the former Savoy hunting lodge near Livorno Ferraris
The Palazzo Chiablese di Castell'Apertole, the former
Savoy hunting lodge near Livorno Ferraris
Travel tip:

Known at different times as Livorno Piemonte as well as Livorno Vercellese, Livorno Ferraris occupies a wide area of countryside in the province of Vercelli in the plain of the Po river, bisected by the Depretis, Cavour and Ivrea canals. Located about 40km (25 miles) northeast of Turin and about 25km (16 miles) west of the city of Vercelli, it  hosted the conclave for the election of the antipope Benedict XIII in 1384. Nearby is the 18th century Palazzo Chiablese di Castell'Apertole, a former hunting lodge of the Savoy royal family.

The modern Politecnico di Torino of today
The modern Politecnico di Torino of today
Travel tip:

The Royal Turin Polytechnic can be found in Corso Duca degli Abruzzi in the centre of Turin, about 2.5km (1.5 miles) from the Royal Palace. It evolved from the Royal Italian Industrial Museum, which was established in 1862 by Royal Decree as an Italian equivalent of the South Kensington Museum of London and of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers of Paris, to promote industrial education and the progress of industry and trade. Parallel with Corso Duca degli Abruzzi is the Corso Galileo Ferraris, a long, straight road that links the Giardino Andrea Guglielminetti with the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, the home of Torino football club, a distance of 4.1km (2.5 miles).

More reading:

How Alessandro Volta invented the electric battery

Antonio Meucci - the 'true' inventor of the telephone

The physicist who tried to bring corpses back to life

Also on this day:

1929: The birth of swimmer-turned-actor Bud Spencer

1984: The death of Neapolitan dramatist Eduardo De Filippo


17 March 2018

Innocenzo Manzetti - inventor

Made prototype telephone 33 years ahead of Bell

Innocenzo Manzetti was an inventor of such energy he could get by on minimal sleep
Innocenzo Manzetti was an inventor of such
energy he could get by on minimal sleep
The inventor Innocenzo Manzetti, credited by some scientific historians as having been the creator of a forerunner of the telephone many years ahead of his compatriot Antonio Meucci and the Scottish-American Alexander Graham Bell, was born on this day in 1826 in Aosta, in northwest Italy.

Manzetti's extraordinary catalogue of inventions included a steam-powered car, a hydraulic water pump, a pendulum watch that would keep going for a whole year and a robot that could play the flute.

But he was a man whose creative talents were not allied to business sense.  Like Meucci, a Florentine emigrant to New York who demonstrated a telephone-like device in 1860 - 16 years before Bell was granted the patent - Manzetti did not patent his device and therefore missed out on the fortune that came the way of Bell.

Research has found that Manzetti may have had the idea for a "vocal telegraph" as early as 1843, as a result of his success with his flute-playing automaton, which he constructed as a life-size model of a man sitting on a chair, inside which were concealed a system of levers, rods and compressed air tubes that enabled his lips and fingers to move on the flute.

This was linked to a program recorded on a cylinder much like those that would become the key component in the self-playing pianos, or pianolas, that were popular in the early part of the 20th century.

Manzetti's automaton
Manzetti's automaton
When Manzetti showed off his automaton in public, he went to great lengths to make it appear lifelike, programming it to stand and take a bow at the end of a performance.  He successfully devised a system of wires whereby he could transmit the sound of a piano being played out of view of the audience so that it would appear to come from his automaton.

The natural extension of this was to attempt to transmit his own remote voice, so that the automaton would seem to speak, and there are descriptions in newspapers of the time that spoke of a cornet-like device, containing a magnetized steel needle and a coil of silk-coated copper wire, into which Manzetti spoke.

However, he put the idea aside for two decades and concentrated on other projects.  It is thought that this was because there were imperfections in his system, which could transmit vowel sounds accurately but was not clear enough to make one consonant sound different from another, that he was unable to solve.

He revisited the idea in the 1860s and there were newspaper articles at the time proclaiming his invention of the télégraph parlant. But neither he nor Meucci could meet the high cost of patenting their devices and it was left to Bell to take the glory in 1876.

Nonetheless, there is no detracting from Manzetti's achievements as an inventor, the product of such enormous creative energy that he was said to exist during his most productive phases on only a couple of hours' sleep a night,

Manzetti's house in Aosta on Rue Xavier de Maistre
Manzetti's house in Aosta on Rue Xavier de Maistre
The hydraulic pump-like mechanism he devised in 1855 to remove water from the previously unworkable Ollomont copper mines of the Aosta Valley meant the mines were put back to use and remained in service until 1945.

The steam-powered car he built in 1864 came 27 years before Léon Serpollet built and demonstrated one in Paris.

Manzetti also built a wooden flying parrot for his daughter that could hover for two or three minutes before settling down again, created several instruments he used in his work as a land surveyor and invented a telescope based on three converging lenses that produced such magnification of images that the user could observe the movement of a small lizard, for example, at a distance of more than 7km (4 miles).

Nonetheless, he was not a wealthy man. Married to Rosa Sofia Anzola, he had two daughters, neither of whom survived beyond childhood, and himself died in impoverished circumstances in 1877, aged only 51.

The beautiful entrance facade to  the cathedral in Aosta
The beautiful entrance facade to
the cathedral in Aosta
Travel tip:

Aosta is the principal municipality in the Aosta Valley, an autonomous bilingual French-Italian region close to the Italian entrance to the Mont-Blanc Tunnel, about 110km (68 miles) northwest of Turin. Its position in relation to the Great and Little St Bernard passes made it a place of strategic importance and there are the remains of a Roman military camp and an amphitheatre as well as the Arch of Augustus.  The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Giovanni Battista boasts a beautiful Renaissance facade decorated with frescoes and high reliefs dedicated to the Life of the Virgin.

Hotels in Aosta by

The Centro Saint-Bénin in Via Jean-Boniface Festaz
Travel tip:

Since April 2012, there has been a permanent exhibition dedicated to Manzetti and his inventions in a hall of the Centro Saint-Bénin in Aosta, where his the automaton, which is still visited today by engineering scientists from all over the world, can be seen at close quarters.  The main square outside the town's railway station is named after Manzetti.

13 April 2017

Antonio Meucci - inventor of the telephone

Engineer from Florence was 'true' father of communications

Antonio Meucci, the Florentine scientist and engineer who lived in New York
Antonio Meucci, the Florentine scientist
and engineer who lived in New York
Antonio Meucci, the Italian engineer who was acknowledged 113 years after his death to be the true inventor of the telephone, was born on this day in 1808 in Florence.

Until Vito Fossella, a Congressman from New York, asked the House of Representatives to recognise that the credit should have gone to Meucci, it was the Scottish-born scientist Alexander Graham Bell who was always seen as father of modern communications.

Yet Meucci’s invention was demonstrated in public 16 years before Bell took out a patent for his device. This was part of the evidence Fossella submitted to the House, which prompted a resolution in June, 2002, that the wealth and fame that Bell enjoyed were based on a falsehood.

It has even been suggested that Bell actually stole Meucci’s invention and developed it as his own while the Italian died in poverty, having been unable to afford the patent.

Meucci’s story began when he was born in the San Frediano area of Florence, which was then part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the first of nine children fathered by a policeman, Amatis Meucci, and his wife, Domenica.  A plaque marks the address in Via dei Serragli where he grew up.

At the age of 15, Meucci gained a place at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts as its youngest student, studying chemical and mechanical engineering. He had to leave after two years because he needed to find work but continued to study part-time.

A plaque marks the house in Florence's Via dei Serragli,  where Antonio Meucci was born in 1808
A plaque marks the house in Florence's Via dei Serragli,
where Antonio Meucci was born in 1808
He worked as a stage technician at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, where he constructed a type of acoustic telephone to communicate between the stage and the theatre’s control room. He married costume designer Esterre Mochi, who worked at the same theatre, in 1834.

A year after they were married, Meucci and his wife emigrated to Cuba, largely because Meucci was fascinated by research being conducted in Havana into treating illnesses with electric shocks. In helping to further this research, he discovered by accident that sounds could travel by electrical impulses through copper wire.

Realising there was commercial potential in what he had stumbled upon, he moved to the United States in 1850, acquiring a house at Staten Island, near New York City, where he set up a workshop in the basement.  He had considerable savings from his time in Cuba, which he invested in a tallow candle factory.

His personal circumstances changed, however, when severe rheumatoid arthritis left his wife paralysed and in need of care.

A replica of the handsets Meucci created for his prototype telephone, which he unveiled in 1860
A replica of the handsets Meucci created for his
prototype telephone, which he unveiled in 1860
In one respect, this provided an opportunity. He devised a system, using copper wire, whereby Esterre could communicate with him by a rudimentary telephone linking to his workshop.  

This consisted of two wooden cylinders, each containing an electromagnet and a soft iron membrane, which converted the vibrations made by voice soundwaves into electrical impulses that travelled along a length of connecting wire, which were in turn reproduced as the same sounds at the other end of the line.  With handles attached, the two components resembled hand bells.

It was this device that he demonstrated in public in 1860, attracting sufficient interest that New York's Italian-language newspaper carried the story.

But events conspired against Meucci.  He improved and developed his device but his candle factory went bankrupt, which meant he had no funds to invest. His limited English made it difficult for him to find American backers, while most of his Italian friends, including the unification hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, were not from moneyed backgrounds.

It did not help that he was badly burned in an accident aboard a steamship, which further impacted on his ability to earn money. Meanwhile, needing to pay for treatment for her illness, Esterre sold his prototype machines to a second-hand goods shop for $6.

Meucci quickly made another device but could not afford the $250 needed for a definitive patent. Instead, in 1871, he filed a patent caveat - one-year renewable notice of an impending patent. Three years later he could not even find the $10 for the patent caveat.

He sent a model and technical details to the American District Telegraph Company, a subsidiary of Western Union based in New York, but failed to generate much interest. When he asked for his materials to be returned, in 1874, he was told they had been lost.

Two years later Bell, said to have worked in the laboratory where Meucci’s notes, diagrams and prototype devices were stored, filed a patent for a telephone. He subsequently struck a lucrative deal with Western Union, which made him wealthy, and a celebrity.

Suspecting that Bell had hijacked his ideas, Meucci sued. He appeared close to winning when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and proceedings against the Scot to annul the patent were begun in January 1887.

However, by this stage Meucci was in failing health and he died in 1889 before the process could reach a conclusion, the legal action dying with him.

The church of San Frediano in Cestello in Florence
The church of San Frediano in Cestello in Florence
Travel tip:

The parish of San Frediano is the part of the Oltrarno section of Florence that forms the neighbourhood around the Chiesa di San Frediano in Cestello, a church dedicated to St Fridianus, an early Christian Irish pilgrim who became bishop of Lucca. He is said to have miraculously walked across the surface of the Arno river near where the church was built.  Work began on the church in 1460 and it was rebuilt between 1680 and 1689. Although rather plain on the outside, the church contains many fine frescoes and paintings by Florentine artists.

Florence hotels from

Teatro della Pergola in central Florence
Teatro della Pergola in central Florence
Travel tip:

Primarily a court theatre used by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, it was only after 1718 that the Teatro della Pergola, in Via della Pergola, was opened to the public. A highly prestigious theatre in its heyday, it was at La Pergola that the great operas of Mozart were heard for the first time in Italy. Gaetano Donizetti's Parisina and Rosmonda d'Inghilterra, Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth and Peitro Mascagni's I Rantzau all made their debuts at the theatre.  Today, the theatre presents primarily 250 drama performances, by authors ranging from Molière to Neil Simon. Opera productions are hosted only during the annual Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. The theatre is about 10 minutes' walk from the Duomo.

More reading:

How Marconi made the world's first radio communication

Alessandro Volta - creator of the first electrical battery

What Luigi Galvani did to add a new word to the language

Also on this day:

(Picture credits: Meucci plaque and Teatro della Pergola by Sailko; prototype telephone courtesy of the Milan Museum of Science and Technology; San Frediano in Cestello by Amada44; all via Wikimedia Commons)