Showing posts with label University of Turin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label University of Turin. Show all posts

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


5 April 2018

Vincenzo Gioberti - philosopher and politician

Writings helped bring about unification of Italy

Vincenzo Gioberti, who was a major  philosophical influence on Italians
Vincenzo Gioberti, who was a major
philosophical influence on Italians
Vincenzo Gioberti, a philosopher regarded as one of the key figures in the Italian unification, was born on this day in 1801 in Turin.

He became prime minister of Sardinia-Piedmont in December 1848, albeit for only two months.

Although he was an associate of the republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini - and was arrested and then exiled as a result - he did not agree with Mazzini’s opposition to the monarchy and was not an advocate of violence.

However, he was staunchly in favour of a united Italy, particularly because of his conviction that Italians represented a superior race, intellectually and morally, and that by pulling together as one nation they could assert a profound influence on civilisation that would benefit the world.

Gioberti’s book Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani (The civic and moral primacy of the Italians), which detailed examples from history to underline his theories about Italian supremacy, is said to have helped give momentum to the unification campaign.

Born into a family of modest means, Gioberti studied diligently, obtained the baccalaureate in theology and in 1825 was ordained a priest. He became professor of theology at the University of Turin and a court chaplain in 1831.

Gioberti was arrested over his association with revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Mazzini
Gioberti was arrested over his association with
revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Mazzini
However, his ties with a secret society known as the Cavalieri della libertà, his links with Mazzini and his sympathies with republican views were treated with suspicion within the church and he was arrested in 1833 on trumped up charges of conspiracy. After a four-month prison term he was forced into exile, first in Paris, then Brussels, where he lived from 1834 to 1845, teaching and writing.

It was in Brussels that Gioberti wrote Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani, in which he also proposed his plan for the unification of the Italian people, based on co-operation between Turin and Rome.

Gioberti’s vision was an alliance between what he saw as the spiritual greatness of the Holy See with the secular greatness of the Royal House of Savoy.

He proposed that the princes of the Italian states govern themselves at local level but that the states should bind themselves together in a federation under the leadership of the Pope in order to have a common military, foreign policy, overseas colonies and a customs union.

He regarded this federation as more realistic than Mazzini's revolutionary republican plan and on his return to Italy made a series of tours in Liguria, Tuscany, and Rome in which he was able to swing more Italians behind his philosophies than Mazzini had ever reached.

The cover of the book that was banned from the Vatican Library
The cover of the book that was
banned from the Vatican Library
However, Gioberti seldom had the pope on his side at the same time as the monarchy and ultimately abandoned federalism in favour of a unitary programme.

An amnesty permitted Gioberti to return to Turin in 1847. Appointed president of the newly constituted Chamber of Deputies, he was also premier briefly from 1848 to 1849 until his proposal for military intervention in Tuscany in support of the deposed Grand Duke Leopold II lost him support and forced his resignation.

He retired from politics and in 1851 wrote a book Del rinnovamento civile d'Italia (On the Civil Renovation of Italy), which foresaw an Italy in which the power of the Pope was diminished. It was banned by the Vatican.

Gioberti died in Paris in 1852.

The monument to Gioberti in Piazza Carignano
The monument to Gioberti in Piazza Carignano
Travel tip:

A statue of Vincenzo Gioberti, created in 1859 by Giovanni Albertoni, stands on a monument erected in front of the magnificent Baroque Palazzo Carignano in the square of the same name, adjoining Palazzo Castello and just a short distance from the Royal palaces in the heart of Turin. The square became symbolic of Italy’s Risorgimento, as did the Ristorante del Cambio, established in the 18th century, where the united Italy’s first prime minister, Camillo Benso Cavour, and its first king, Vittorio Emmanuele II, were frequent diners.

The front facade of Palazzo Carignano
The front facade of Palazzo Carignano
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Carignano, a royal palace commissioned in the 17th century and designed by the architect Guarino Guarini,  now houses the Museo nazionale del Risorgimento italiano (the National Museum of the Risorgimento), the largest and most important of 23 museums across Italy dedicated to the history of the unification. Originally housed in the Mole Antonelliana, from which it moved in 1938, its exhibits include weapons, flags, uniforms, printed and written documents, among them the original manuscript of the song Il Canto degli Italiani, dated November 10, 1847 by Goffredo Mameli, now the Italian national anthem.


27 January 2018

Giovanni Arpino – writer and novelist

Stories inspired classic Italian films

Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both a sports writer and a novelist
Giovanni Arpino had a distinguished career as both
a sports writer and a novelist
The writer Giovanni Arpino, whose novels lay behind the Italian movie classics Divorce, Italian Style and Profumo di donna – later remade in the United States as Scent of a Woman – was born on this day in 1927 in the Croatian city of Pula, then part of Italy.

His parents did not originate from Pula, which is near the tip of the Istrian peninsula about 120km (75 miles) south of Trieste. His father, Tomaso, was a Neapolitan, while his mother, Maddalena, hailed from Piedmont, but his father’s career in the Italian Army meant the family were rarely settled for long in one place.

In fact, they remained in Pula only a couple of months. As Giovanni was growing up, they lived in Novi Ligure, near Alessandria, in Saluzzo, south of Turin, and in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. His father imposed a strict regime on Giovanni and his two brothers, who were required to spend a lot of their time studying.

In fact, Giovanni was separated from his family for a while during the Second World War, when his mother returned to the Piedmontese town of Bra, not far from Saluzzo in the province of Cuneo, to deal with the estate of her father, who passed away in 1940. He left the family a villa on the hill overlooking the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Fiori, on the outskirts of the town.  Giovanni remained at school in Piacenza.

After the armistice of 1943, his father left the military and they settled in Bra, where he attended high school before enrolling in the faculty of law at the University of Turin.  He later switched to literature, completing a thesis on the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin.

Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a  year-long battle with cancer
Arpino died prematurely in 1987 after a
year-long battle with cancer
Arpino spent several periods of his life working in journalism, including a stint writing about football, for which he had a massive enthusiasm. Gianni Brera, the celebrated football writer, had brought his literary style to the sports pages a few years earlier and Arpino was encouraged to do the same.

His time working for La Stampa, the Turin daily newspaper, enabled him to travel to the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, from which his reports attracted a substantial following. 

It was as a novelist, however, that he truly made his mark. He wrote in a dry and sardonic style to which readers responded well.

His first novel, Sei stato felice, Giovanni (You’ve been happy, Giovanni), was published by Einaudi in 1952. At around the same time, having completed his own military service – compulsory rather than voluntary – he began courting his future wife, Caterina, whose parents owned the Caffe Garibaldi in Bra.

They married in 1953 and moved to Turin, where he began to work in the sales department of the Einaudi publishing house and at the same time wrote a column for the Rome newspaper Il Mondo about provincial life.

His first big break came when his fourth novel, Un delitto d’onore (An Honour Killing), published in 1962, formed the basis for the hit movie Divorzia all’Italiana – Divorce, Italian Style – a satirical comedy directed by Pietro Germi and starring Marcello Mastroianno.

Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Vittorio Gassman (left) and Alessandro Momo in a scene
from Dino Risi's film Profumo di donna
Two years later, his sixth novel, L’Ombra delle colline (The Shadow of the Hills), about the apprehensions and delusions of a young man who, as a child, had witnessed partisans fighting for their country towards the end of the Second World War, won the Strega Prize – the Premio Strega – which is Italy’s most prestigious literary award.

The film industry gave him another massive sales boost in 1969 when his novel Il buio e il miele – The Darkness and the Honey – was turned into the film Profumo di donna, directed by Dino Risi and starring Vittorio Gassman, both of whom received David di Donatello awards.

Another version of the film was made in 2012, when Martin Brest directed Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, in which Pacino’s performance as Frank Slade, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who had lost his sight in an accident with a hand grenade, won him an academy award for best actor.

Arpino, whose enjoyment telling stories to his son, Tommaso, led him to write for children as well as for his established adult readership, developed cancer in his late 50s, which ultimately led to his early death in 1987 at the age of just 60.

Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Piazza dei Caduti in Bra with the Bernini church of
Sant'Andrea Apostolo on the left
Travel tip:

The town of Bra in Piedmont, situated some 50km (31 miles) southeast of Turin, is renowned as the birthplace of the Slow Food movement, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Every two years, Slow Food organizes the cheese festival in Bra, with artisanal cheese makers invited from across the world.  There are a number of attractive churches in the town, including the beautiful Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Apostolo, just off the main Piazza dei Caduti, which was built to a design by the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, famous for the impact his designs made in the city of Rome in the 18th century.

The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
The Castiglia, historic residence of the Marchesi di Saluzzo
Travel tip:

The Piedmontese town of Saluzzo, about 30km (19 miles) west of Bra on the edge of the southern part of the Alpine arc, is notable for a beautifully preserved 15th century historic centre characterised by a network of cobbled streets and steep passages by which to explore a number of fine palaces and churches, including the 15th century cathedral built in the Lombard-Gothic style.  At the summit of the town is the Castiglia, built in the 13th century by the Marquis Tommaso I and renovated in 1492 by Ludovico II of Saluzzo, at the time when the town was a powerful city-state.

6 November 2017

Cesare Lombroso – criminologist

Professor who first encouraged study of criminal mind

Cesare Lombroso changed the way the  world thought about criminals
Cesare Lombroso changed the way the
world thought about criminals
Cesare Lombroso, a university professor often referred to as ‘the father of criminology’ was born on this day in 1835 in Verona.

Although many of his views are no longer held to be correct, he was the first to establish the validity of scientific study of the criminal mind, paving the way for a generation of psychiatrists and psychologists to create a greater understanding of criminal behaviour.

In broad terms, Lombroso's theory was that criminals could be distinguished from law-abiding people by multiple physical characteristics, which he contended were throwbacks to primitive, even subhuman ancestors, which brought with them throwbacks to primitive behaviour that went against the rules and expectations of modern civilized society.

Through years of postmortem examinations and comparative studies of criminals, the mentally disturbed and normal non-criminal individuals, Lombroso formed the belief that ‘born criminals’ could be identified by such features as the angle of their forehead, the size of their ears, a lack of symmetry in the face or even arms of excessive length. He even argued that certain characteristics – he called them “stigmata” – were common to particular types of offenders.

He also believed that criminals had less sensitivity to pain, sharper vision, a lack of normal morals, were more vain, vindictive and cruel, although he did not suggest that there was no prospect of anyone born with “stigmata” leading a blameless life.

Lombroso at work at the University of Pavia
Lombroso at work at the University of Pavia
Indeed, he proposed reforms to the Italian penal system that included more humane and constructive treatment of convicts through the use of work programmes intended to make them more productive members of society.

Lombroso’s theories were initially widely influential in Europe and the United States, even though over time the idea that criminal behaviour had hereditary causes was largely rejected in favour of environmental factors, and the idea that someone could be born a criminal was established as implausible.

At the time, however, Lambroso was a respected figure. Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Verona, descended from a long line of rabbis, Lombroso studied at the universities of Padua, Vienna, and Paris.

From 1862 until 1876 he was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pavia and of forensic medicine and hygiene (1876), psychiatry (1896) and criminal anthropology (1906) at the University of Turin. He was also the director of a mental asylum in Pesaro. 

The monument to Lombroso in his home town of Verona
The monument to Lombroso in his home town of Verona
He published books entitled L’uomo delinquente (The Criminal Man; 1876) and Le Crime, causes et remèdes (Crime, Its Causes and Remedies; 1899).

In addition to his work in the field of criminology, Lambroso devoted much time to studying his belief that genius was closely related to madness.  He wrote a book in 1889, The Man of Genius, in which he argued that artistic genius was a form of hereditary insanity and in which he claimed that, in his exploration of geniuses descending into madness, he could find only six men who exhibited no tendencies towards madness - Galileo, Da Vinci, Voltaire, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Darwin – but that Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Mozart and Dante all displayed what he called "degenerate symptoms".

The Roman amphitheatre in Verona
The Roman amphitheatre in Verona
Travel tip:

Verona, Lombroso’s home town – under Austrian rule at the time of his birth – is now the third largest city in the northeast of Italy, with a population across its whole urban area of more than 700,000. Famous now for its wealth of tourist attractions, of which the Roman amphitheatre known the world over as L’Arena di Verona is just one, the city was also the setting for three plays by Shakespeare – one of those geniuses Lambroso believed sat on the cusp of madness.  Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew all had Verona as their backdrop, although it is unknown whether the English playwright ever actually set foot in the city.  There is a monument to Cesare Lombroso in a park also named after him on the banks of the Adige river opposite the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare.

The Courtyard of the Statues inside the University of Pavia
The Courtyard of the Statues inside the University of Pavia
Travel tip:

Situated only 35km (22 miles) from Milan, Pavia has the advantages of close proximity to all the services and opportunities on offer in northern Italy’s principal city yet itself offers a calmer way of life amid its ancient streets and elegant buildings, which remain as a legacy of its stature as the one-time capital of the Lombardy region. It is a city of rich cultural heritage with 19 museums, four public libraries, four cinemas and theatres, two schools of music arts and a music conservatory. Its university, home to 24,000 students, was founded in 1361 and now has 13 faculties.