Italy, inventions for the human kind

Plenty of important inventions and discoveries for the history of human kind are of Italian origin. In fact, the stereotyped idea of “Italy, land of saints, poets and sailors” is inadequate. It seems that around eight hundred Italian scientists have contributed to the development of human kind: many of them are famous and other are not but they all share an outstanding role in their fields.

Let’s start with one of the most famous, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the Italian genius who invented the parachute and the flying machine, the military machines, the bicycle, the helicopter, the submarine. Then let’s mention Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the father of modern science, physicist, astronomer and mathematician who invented the thermometer, the pendulum clock, the telescope, the thermoscope and the proportional compass. Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), the Italian physicist and inventor is known above all for the invention of the first generator of electric power, the battery and the discovery of methane. Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) invented the radio, the radar and the wireless telegraphy while Antonio Meucci (1808-1889) is famous mainly for his invention of the telephone. Federico Faggin (born in 1941) is the inventor of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, he studied the design and the building and he was also the founder of ZiLOG, where he designed the Z80. Luigi Galvani (1737 –1798), the Italian physicist and anatomist is remembered for the discovery of biologic electricity and other applications of electricity such as the electro-chemical cell, the galvanometer and the galvanization. Ascanio Sobrero (1812-1888),  an Italian chemist and doctor invented the nytroglicerin and studied its explosive and vasodilating properties while Enrico Forlanini (1848-1930) is remembered as the inventor of hydrofoil and for his pioneering activity in the aeronautical field, specifically regarding the helicopters and airships.
Now, let’s talk about less starlight names – and leave the Italian Nobel prizes to a dedicated link – starting in alphabetical order with Antonio Abetti, (1846-1928), who used the spectroscopy to study the moving of planets before the solar disk for the first time. Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799), linguist, phylosopher and mathematician who wrote the first book about the differential calculation and Amedeo Avogadro (1776-1856) who wrote an “essay” where he formulated the hypothesis that is known today as the “Avogadro Law”: one of the most interesting contributions provided by Avogadro was the separation of atoms from molecules. Eugenio Barsanti (1821-1864) is the inventor of the first internal combustion engine and Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608 –1679) is considered the father of iatromechanics. Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli (1761-1818), one of Alessandro Volta’s personal friends – went to Paris with him in 1801 to introduce the invention of the battery - in 1802 he successfully performed the first experiments of gold-plating by means of the electro-plating and he’s considered the true inventor of this technique. Ambrogio Calepino (1435-1511) wrote the first dictionary in 1502 and the word “calepino” still means dictionary in the Italian language while Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576) is known for his contributions to algebra. Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1732) who invented the “gravicembalo” a musical instrument that produced the soft and loud and was afterwards called the piano. Jacopo Berengario da Carpi (1466-1530), a physician who is considered the father of the modern brain surgery and Mondino de Liuzzi  (1275-1326) who was the first physicist to perform dissections of human bodies. He wrote “Anothomia”, a book used by many generations of students. Bartolomeo Eustachi (1500 o 1514-1574) studied the right internal ear tube, known as the “Eustachian tube”. He also discovered the coronary arteries, he studied the structure of a number of brain bones and tried to understand the structure of kidneys and teeth. Gabriele Falloppi (1523 ca. –1562) discovered a number of important anatomical parts and gave important contributions in the field of osteology, myology and splancnology. In his anatomical studies he described the structure of uterus tubes, afterwards called Fallopian tubes. Camillo Golgi (1843-1926) who discovered the central nervous system that was afterwards called the Golgi apparatus or Golgy complex, one of the main components of cells, this discovery happened fifty years before the coming of the electronic microscope that fully stated his beliefs. According to many people this discovery would deserve the Nobel prize.

Luigi Lilio (1510-1574) was one of the inventors, together with his brother Antonio – of the reform of the Gregorian Calendar while the fame of Macedonio Melloni (1798-1854)is concerned with his studies about infra-red radiation that he started in 1831 with Leopoldo Nobili. He invented the "thermomultiplier" that is a combination of thermopile and galvanometer. He proved that heat has the same properties of light and studied the reflection and polarization phenomena. Luigi Palmieri (1807-1896) invented the electromagnetic seismograph and contributed to develop the knowledge of seismic phenomena. Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647)
Invented the mercurial barometer in 1644 by building a device that was called the “Torricelli’s tube”. Finally, a special mention must be assigned to Pellegrino Turri, who invented the first typing machine in 1808!

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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