Famous Italian Intellectuals & Academics

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If you thought Italy was all about Venice’s heavenly scenery, Milan’s state-of-art fashion, Florence’s Renaissance treasure or Rome’s historic landmark and art, think more. For those who have figured out, good, but for the rest, here we spill the beans – Italy is home to some of the world’s greatest intellectuals and academicians who, through their body of work, have greatly influenced the life of many across the globe. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Dante Alighieri, Petrarca, Galileo Galilee, Saint Francesco of Assisi and Marco Polo are some of the most renowned Italian names while talking about intellectuals and academicians. Italian intellectuals and academicians have made important contribution to mankind, most notably in the field of literature, architecture, science, technology, philosophy, engineering, politics, medicine, mathematics, visual art and music. Through their exemplary work, they have created a niche for Italy and helped it stand-out from other European nations. Also, they have played a critical role in the development of their country and the world. Read this section and absorb some quick facts about the life and works of famous Italian intellectuals and academics.
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 1 
Marcus Aurelius
(Philosopher)
Marcus Aurelius
6
Birthdate: April 26, 0121
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 17, 0180

Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.

 2 
Niccolò Machiavelli
(Diplomat & Philosopher Best Known for His Political Treatise 'The Prince')
Niccolò Machiavelli
20
Birthdate: May 3, 1469
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: June 22, 1527
Italian Renaissance philosopher, diplomat, and author Niccolò Machiavelli is remembered for his work The Prince. He believed that the end or the intention behind any action justifies the action. He gave rise to the term Machiavellianism, which signifies the use of deceit and treachery to achieve one’s goals. 
 3 
Thomas Aquinas
(Italian Theologian & Philosopher)
Thomas Aquinas
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1225
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Roccasecca, Italy
Died: March 7, 1274
Dominican friar and Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas was also a Doctor of the Church. He tried to mingle Aristotelian philosophy and Christianity. His works, including Summa Theologica and Disputed Questions on Truth, and his views on the Scriptures have been studied as prominent texts on theology, philosophy, and canon law.
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 4 
Dante Alighieri
(Italian Writer and Philosopher Best Known for His Poem ‘Divine Comedy’)
Dante Alighieri
4
Birthdate: 1265 AD
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: September 14, 1321

Dante Alighieri was an Italian writer, poet, and philosopher. His work Divine Comedy is widely regarded as the greatest literary work ever produced in the Italian language and the most prominent poem of the Middle Ages. Often referred to as the father of the Italian language, Dante Alighieri played a crucial role in establishing the Italian literature.

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 5 
Umberto Eco
(Medievalist, Philosopher and Author of 'The Name of the Rose' and 'Foucault's Pendulum')
Umberto Eco
7
Birthdate: January 5, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Alessandria, Italy
Died: February 19, 2016

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. He also taught at the University of Bologna and had released quite a few children’s books and translations. He was also known for his work on semiotics and medieval studies.

 6 
St Francis of Assisi
(Founder of the Franciscans and One of the Most Venerated Figures in Christianity)
St Francis of Assisi
5
Birthdate: 1181 AD
Birthplace: Assisi, Italy
Died: October 3, 1226

An Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic, and preacher, St Francis of Assisi was the founder of the men's Order of Friars Minor and the women's Order of Saint Clare. He arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene in 1223. Also known as Francesco, he is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity.

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 7 
Antonio Gramsci
(Italian Philosopher Best Known for His Theory of 'Cultural Hegemony')
Antonio Gramsci
7
Birthdate: January 22, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ales, Italy
Died: April 27, 1937

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian politician, journalist, philosopher, linguist, and writer. A founding member of the Communist Party of Italy, Gramsci went on to serve as the leader of the party before he was arrested by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Since his death, Antonio Gramsci has been the subject of several plays and films.

 8 
Pier Paolo Pasolini
(Italian Filmmaker Known for His Radical Methods, Overtly Political and Often Scandalous Content)
Pier Paolo Pasolini
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: November 2, 1975

Noted film director and actor Pier Paolo Pasolini had already gained fame as a poet and author before stepping into the entertainment industry. The openly gay filmmaker was known for his usage of non-professional actors and themes of sexuality. His brutal murder remains to be a controversial topic.

 9 
Giordano Bruno
(Philosopher & Mathematician Known For His Cosmological Theories)
Giordano Bruno
4
Birthdate: 1548
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nola, Italy
Died: February 17, 1600

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.

 10 
Vilfredo Pareto
(Economist, Writer, Philosopher, Sociologist, University teacher)
Vilfredo Pareto
4
Birthdate: July 15, 1848
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 19, 1923

A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.

 11 
Anselm of Canterbury
(Benedictine Monk, Philosopher and Archbishop of Canterbury (1093 - 1109))
Anselm of Canterbury
6
Birthdate: 1033 AD
Birthplace: Aosta, Italy
Died: April 21, 1109

Owing to his quality classical education, Anselm of Canterbury became one of the finest Latinists of his time. As Archbishop of Canterbury, he resisted the English kings and was exiled. He is now remembered as a significant figure in the Investiture Controversy, which pitted the king against the pope.

 12 
Mario Draghi
(Economist, Banker, University teacher)
Mario Draghi
6
Birthdate: September 3, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome

The son of a banker father, Italian economist Mario Draghi initially served as the president of the European Central Bank and the Bank of Italy governor, and is the current prime minister of Italy. The media named him Super Mario for efficiently handling the Eurozone debt crisis.

 13 
Julius Evola
(Philosopher)
Julius Evola
4
Birthdate: May 19, 1898
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: June 11, 1974

Julius Evola was an Italian poet, philosopher, painter, esotericist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and occultist. Evola is extremely popular in fringe circles due to his supernatural, magical, and metaphysical beliefs. Due to his traditionalist views on gender, which advocated a purely patriarchal society, Evola is regarded as one of Italy’s most influential fascist racists of all time.

 14 
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
(Roman Senator, Magister Officiorum, Historian and Philosopher)
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
4
Birthdate: 0477 AD
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: October 23, 0524

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was a Roman senator, consul, and philosopher of the early 6th century. He worked under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and killed him. In jail, Boethius wrote his Consolation of Philosophy, which is considered a seminal treatise on death, fortune, and other issues. He also translated the works of Plato and Aristotle.  

 15 
Pierluigi Collina
(Association football referee, Writer, Economist)
Pierluigi Collina
4
Birthdate: February 13, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bologna

Named "Best Referee of the Year" by FIFA for six consecutive times, Pierluigi Collina has a degree in economics from University of Bologne. His aptitude for the job was discovered when at seventeen he took up a course in refereeing and shortly began officiating in numerous high profile matches. Although retired, he is still involved with football in various capacities.

 16 
Ambrose
(Ancient Bishop of Milan Who Also Contributed to Music and Literature)
Ambrose
4
Birthdate: 0339 AD
Birthplace: Trier, Germany
Died: April 4, 0397

A 4th-century bishop of Milan, Aurelius Ambrosius was a strong supporter of the Latin church and a vocal opponent of Arianism and paganism. He also converted St. Augustine of Hippo. He is also remembered as an important literary figure and also composed several hymns.

 17 
Suetonius
(Secretary, historian)
Suetonius
5
Birthdate: 0069 AD
Birthplace: Rome
Died: 0122 AD

Suetonius was a Roman historian who lived and worked during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. Many of his works have been lost, and the most important of his surviving works is a set of biographies of 12 successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian. He was a close friend of senator Pliny the Younger.

 18 
Giorgio Agamben
(Philosopher)
Giorgio Agamben
8
Birthdate: April 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
 19 
Diodorus Siculus
(Historian)
Diodorus Siculus
3
Birthdate: 0090 BC
Birthplace: Agira
Died: 0030 BC

Diodorus Siculus was an ancient Greek historian known for writing the monumental universal history, Bibliotheca Historica. The original series consisted of 40 books, out of which 15 survive intact. In his own work, it is mentioned that he was born in Agyrium in Sicily. Exact details about his personal life are not available.  

 20 
Gregory of Nazianzus
(Theologian and the Most Accomplished Rhetorical Stylist of the Patristic Age)
Gregory of Nazianzus
3
Birthdate: 0329 AD
Birthplace: Nazianzus, Cappadocia, Turkey
Died: January 24, 0390

Gregory of Nazianzus was a theologian and Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely regarded as the most renowned and talented rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. Much of Gregory of Nazianzus' theological work continues to have a significant impact on modern theologians. 

 21 
Giorgio Vasari
(Artist and Author Best Known for His Biographies of Italian Artists)
Giorgio Vasari
4
Birthdate: July 30, 1511
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Arezzo, Italy
Died: June 27, 1574

Giorgio Vasari was an Italian architect, painter, writer, engineer, and historian. He is best remembered for his work The Lives, a series of artist biographies, which is regarded as the art-historical writing's ideological foundation. Vasari is also credited with the formulation of the term Renaissance as it was first suggested by Jules Michelet based on Giorgio Vasari's text.

 22 
Zeno of Elea
(Philosopher)
Zeno of Elea
4
Birthdate: 0495 AD
Birthplace: Velia, Italy
Died: 0430 AD
 23 
Cesare Beccaria
(One of the Greatest Thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment Known for His Treatise 'On Crimes and Punishments')
Cesare Beccaria
4
Birthdate: March 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: November 28, 1794

Cesare Beccaria was an 18th-century Italian criminologist, philosopher, jurist, and politician. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is still remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), a pioneering work in the field of penology. He is considered the father of modern criminal law. 

 24 
Cesare Lombroso
(Criminologist, Phrenologist, Physician)
Cesare Lombroso
4
Birthdate: November 6, 1835
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Verona, Italy
Died: October 19, 1909

Cesare Lombroso was an Italian criminologist, phrenologist, and physician. He founded the Italian School of Positivist Criminology at the end of the 19th century. Initially an army surgeon, he later became a professor of forensic medicine and hygiene. His works drew from the concepts of physiognomy, degeneration theory, and psychiatry. Later in life, be became interested in spirituality.

 25 
Christine de Pizan
(Italian Poet and Court Writer for King Charles VI of France)
Christine de Pizan
3
Birthdate: 1364 AD
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: 1430 AD
Christine de Pizan took up writing at 25, primarily to support her three children following her husband’s death. Starting with ballads, she later narrated the heroics of women in masterpieces such as The Book of the City of Ladies. She was also a court poet of French king Charles VI.
 26 
Giovanni Gentile
(Philosopher)
Giovanni Gentile
3
Birthdate: May 30, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Castelvetrano, Italy
Died: April 15, 1944
 27 
Sallust
(Historian, Politician)
Sallust
3
Birthdate: 0086 BC
Birthplace: Amiternum, Italy
Died: 0035 BC

Sallust was a Roman historian and politician who hailed from an Italian plebeian family.  He was a popularis and a vehement opponent of the old Roman aristocracy. Later in his career, he became a partisan of Julius Caesar. He is considered the earliest known Latin-language Roman historian with surviving works to his name. 

 28 
Giambattista Vico
(Italian Philosopher Best Known for His 'Verum Factum' Principle)
Giambattista Vico
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1668
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Naples, Italy
Died: January 23, 1744

Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico is regarded as a pioneer of what is now known as cultural anthropology, or ethnology. He brought together history and the social sciences in his work Scienza nuova. A poor bookseller’s son, he studied by candlelight but grew up to be a major Counter-Enlightenment figure.

 29 
Giacomo Leopardi
(One of the Most Radical and Challenging Thinkers of the 19th Century)
Giacomo Leopardi
3
Birthdate: June 29, 1798
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Recanati, Italy
Died: June 14, 1837

Giacomo Leopardi was one of the greatest lyric poets of the 19th century. Born into a noble family, he mastered several languages and wrote many works by 16, in spite of suffering from a cerebrospinal ailment. Remembered for his iconic works such as A Silvia, he died during a cholera epidemic.

 30 
Catherine of Siena
(Mystic, Author)
Catherine of Siena
4
Birthdate: March 25, 1347
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Siena, Italy
Died: April 29, 1380

Catherine of Siena was a mystic, author, and activist. Thanks to her influence over Pope Gregory XI, Catherine is widely regarded as a prominent figure of medieval Catholicism. She also had a strong influence on the Catholic Church and Italian literature. Canonized in 1461, Catherine of Siena was declared the patron saint of Italy in 1939.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
3
Birthdate: February 24, 1463
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mirandola, Italy
Died: November 17, 1494
 32 
Bonaventure
(Italian Catholic Franciscan, Bishop, Theologian and Philosopher)
Bonaventure
3
Birthdate: 1221 AD
Birthplace: Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
Died: July 15, 1274

Bonaventure was an Italian philosopher, scholastic theologian, and Franciscan. A prominent philosopher, Bonaventure wrote on various subjects and his writings are considered substantial. Bonaventure, who served as the Cardinal Bishop of Albano, was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV on 14 April 1482.

 33 
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
(Italian Classical Archaeologist, Architect, and Artist)
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
3
Birthdate: October 4, 1720
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: November 9, 1778

Italian architect, artist, and archaeologist Giovanni Battista Piranesi is best known for his 16-print series name The Prisons. His remarkable etchings of the famous landmarks of Rome exhibited his unique etching technique, which involved contrasts of light and shade. He made about 2,000 plates throughout his life.

 34 
Carlo Rovelli
(Physicist, Writer)
Carlo Rovelli
3
Birthdate: May 3, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Verona

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and writer. He is active mainly in the field of quantum gravity and is a founder of loop quantum gravity theory. He also has experience working in the history and philosophy of science. His popular science book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, has sold over a million copies worldwide. 

 35 
Mario Monti
(Prime minister of Italy (2011–13))
Mario Monti
3
Birthdate: March 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Varese, Italy

Born to a banker, it was no surprise that Mario Monti would choose economics and management as his university majors. The Yale alumnus later gained fame as an academic and an economist and also became the prime minister of Italy, leading his nation through the Italian debt crisis.

 36 
Gabriele Amorth
(Catholic priest, Writer, Theologian)
Gabriele Amorth
4
Birthdate: May 1, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Modena
Died: September 16, 2016

Exorcist and Catholic priest Gabriele Amorth had been in charge of countless exorcisms in his career of over 6 decades. The founder-president of the International Association of Exorcists, he had also penned a few books on his experiences as an exorcist and had been part of World War II, too.

 37 
Romano Prodi
(Economist, Politician, University teacher)
Romano Prodi
3
Birthdate: August 9, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Scandiano

Former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi is also known as “The Professor,” having served as an economics professor at the University of Bologna. The Olive Tree Coalition leader has also previously worked with Goldman Sachs. He has also led the European Commission of the EU.

 38 
Hippolytus of Rome
(Theologian, Martyr and Bishop of Pontus)
Hippolytus of Rome
3
Birthdate: 0170 AD
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: 0235 AD

Remembered as the first antipope, Hippolytus of Rome is believed to have gone against the Roman popes and led a group against the bishop of Rome. Before dying as a martyr, though, he reconciled with Pontian and called out to his supporters to reunite with Rome.

 39 
Robert Bellarmine
(Italian Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church)
Robert Bellarmine
3
Birthdate: October 4, 1542
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montepulciano, Italy
Died: September 17, 1621

Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church. One of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation, he has been named a Doctor of the Church. He has also been canonized as a saint. He was a  professor of theology at the Roman College and later became its rector. He became Archbishop of Capua in 1602. 

 40 
Benedetto Croce
(Philosopher, Politician, Art historian, Writer, Literary critic)
Benedetto Croce
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1866
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pescasseroli
Died: November 20, 1952
 41 
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
(First Woman to Write a Mathematics Handbook and the First Woman Appointed as a University Mathematics Professor)
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
3
Birthdate: May 16, 1718
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: January 9, 1799

Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, daughter of an affluent silk trader, was well-versed in a number of languages as a child. Most of her work was regarding algebra, calculus, and the Witch of Agnesi. She was also the first female academic to write a math book and to teach math.

 42 
Antonio Negri
(Philosopher, Politician, Professor, Economist)
Antonio Negri
3
Birthdate: August 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Padua

Italian philosopher Antonio Negri has donned many hats, from teaching law at the University of Padua to being part of the Italian parliament. An Autonomism leader, he was accused of being part of the left-wing militant organization Red Brigades and later fled to Paris. Empire is one of his best works.

 43 
Elena Cornaro Piscopia
4
Birthdate: June 5, 1646
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: July 26, 1684
 44 
Nicholas of Cusa
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Nicholas of Cusa
3
Birthdate: 1401 AD
Birthplace: Bernkastel-Kues, Germany
Died: August 11, 1464

Nicholas of Cusa was a German mathematician, astronomer, jurist, theologian, and philosopher. One of the first supporters of Renaissance humanism in Germany, Nicholas of Cusa made significant political and spiritual contributions in European history. He is remembered for his efforts to reform the universal and Roman Church.

 45 
Giovanni Battista Belzoni
(Explorer, Antiquarian, Egyptologist, Archaeologist, Novelist, Travel writer)
Giovanni Battista Belzoni
3
Birthdate: November 5, 1778
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Padua
Died: December 3, 1823

Giovanni Battista Belzoni was an Italian explorer and archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities. A pioneer in the field of Egyptian archaeology, Belzoni was the first person to enter the famous Pyramid of Khafre. Belzoni is also credited with unblocking the entrance of the temple at Abu Simbel and discovering the tomb of Seti I, which is referred to as Belzoni's Tomb. 

 46 
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
(Economist, Politician, Banker)
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
3
Birthdate: December 9, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Livorno
Died: September 16, 2016

Former Italian president and prime minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi had a major role in introducing Italy to the euro. He had been the governor of the Bank of Italy for 14 years and had held several portfolios, including the ministry of treasury. He was also a World War II veteran.

 47 
Franco Modigliani
(Italian-American economist and the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.)
Franco Modigliani
3
Birthdate: June 10, 1918
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: September 25, 2003

Best known for co-developing the Modigliani–Miller theorem, Nobel Prize-winning economist Franco Modigliani initially studied law. Son of a Jewish physician in Italy, he fled the fascist rule of his country and moved to the U.S., and later served MIT as a professor. He also laid down the life-cycle hypothesis.

 48 
Hippasus
(Philosopher)
Hippasus
3
Birthdate: 0500 BC
Birthplace: Metapontum, Italy
Died: 0450 BC
 49 
Mariana Mazzucato
3
Birthdate: June 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Award-winning economist and University College London professor Mariana Mazzucato was born to a physicist father in Italy. She has also held academic posts at institutes such as the University of Sussex. She is best known for her research on economic innovation and has penned books such as The Entrepreneurial State.

 50 
Marsilio Ficino
(Philosopher, Writer, Cleric, Astrologer, Poet)
Marsilio Ficino
3
Birthdate: October 19, 1433
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Figline Valdarno
Died: October 1, 1499