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Correspondances/Correspondences > Giuseppe Meneghini

Medical Doctor and algologist by training and passion, Giuseppe Meneghini (1811-1889) was appointed professor of Geology at Pisa in 1849, after the death of his predecessor, Leopoldo Pilla, in May 1848, fighting against the Austrian Army. Paolo Savi, ornithologist and geologist, had been teaching geological and mineralogical subjects at Pisa since the early 1830s. He had given up geology to Pilla in 1841¸ since the latter appeared better versed in the search for mineral ores and coal. After the death of Pilla, whom he never liked, Savi had his friend Meneghini appointed, and continued to run geological research at Pisa until his death in 1871. Meneghini acquired international reputation as palaeontologist, expert on the Silurian fauna of Sardinia. Savi, Pilla and Meneghini constitute the "Pisa school of Geology" : most of the geologists active in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the first decades of the twentieth, were direct pupils of the Pisa School.

A couple of scores of unprotected old folders (Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa) preserve what is left of the rich Meneghini correspondence, religiously collected and ordered by Mario Canavari, Meneghini's pupil and successor. Some of the folders are half empty, a probable indication of missing items. Thus, for instance, one of the folders labelled "S" could have hosted letters from Quintino Sella; letters from Giovanni Capellini, originally in the Pisa collection, are now kept at the Giovanni Capellini Foundation in La Spezia: we are grateful to the staff of the Foundation for having allowed a reproduction in photocopy of this important (250 letters) fragment of the original archive. The first batch of letters here reproduced is from Felice Giordano, long-life friend of Quintino Sella. Courageous mountaineer, inspector of Mines, and from 1878 until 1892 Director of the Italian Geological Survey, Giordano is a key figure in the early history of the geological map of Italy. He collaborated with Sella when the first embryo of the Survey was set up in Turin in 1862, under the directorship of Sella. Later on, during the late 1860s and early 1870s, he acted as liaison between the Comitato Geologico headed by Igino Cocchi and the Ministry of Agriculture. Giordano shrewdly manoeuvred Cocchi out of the project, waiting for Sella to take it up again after leaving active politics, in late 1873. Sella opted instead for the Presidency of the Accademia dei Lincei. The Geological Survey fell upon Giordano's shoulders in 1878, upon his return from a journey around the world. His headship of the Survey was characterized by a stern antagonism against academic geologists, though he needed big names, such as Meneghini's, to enhance the scientific credibility of the mining engineers in charge of field surveying. At the same time, it was one of Meneghini's pupils, Carlo de Stefani, who, together with Antonio Stoppani and Torquato Taramelli, led a violent campaign against the Geological Survey, and Giordano. The letters here reproduced for the first time tell this story from the point of view of an often embittered Giordano.

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Editeur/editor : Pietro CORSI, pietro.corsi@history.ox.ac.uk - Le site internet est hébergé sur la grille de services de la TGIR Huma-Num.