Famous Italian Physicists

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Italy has given the world some of the best-known physicists – their revolutionary work greatly contributing to the physical phenomenon or natural science involving the study of matter and related concepts. Galileo Galilee was a famous Italian physicist whose achievements include improvising the telescope. He was also responsible for some radical astronomical observation which is why he is often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Physics’. The Avogadro number or Avogadro law or Avogadro principle that we study today is the result of the study and research of Amedeo Avogadro and his contribution to molecular theory. He was also an Italian by origin. Forty-three years prior to being granted an American citizenship, Enrico Fermi had his roots well laid in the Italian soil. The famous physicists started his journey for the love of physics in Italy. He is considered one of the greatest 20th century Italian physicists. He is responsible for developing the first nuclear reactor. Also, his contribution to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics and statistical mechanics is magnanimous. These are just a handful of the bucket-load of supremely talented Italian physicists that the world takes pride in. Check this section to get an overview of the life, works and contributions made by some of the greatest Italian physicists.
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 1 
Galileo Galilei
(Known as “Father” of Observational Astronomy who Invented the ‘Thermoscope’ and Various Military Compasses)
Galileo Galilei
22
Birthdate: February 15, 1564
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pisa, Italy
Died: January 8, 1642

An Italian astronomer, engineer, and physicist, Galileo Galilei is widely regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of the scientific method, the father of modern physics, and the father of modern science. He is credited with popularizing the telescope, which changed the course of history.

 2 
Archimedes
(One of the Leading Scientists in Classical Antiquity and the Greatest Mathematician of Ancient History)
Archimedes
10
Birthdate: 0287 AD
Birthplace: Syracuse, Italy
Died: 0212 AD
Greek mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Archimedes is remembered for his contribution to mathematics, especially geometry. He laid down theorems related to the area of a circle, and the area and volume of a sphere, and reached an accurate value of pi. He also invented machines such as the screw pump.
 3 
Enrico Fermi
(Italian Physicist, Nobel Laureate and Creator of the World's First Nuclear Reactor)
Enrico Fermi
4
Birthdate: September 29, 1901
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 28, 1954
Italian physicist Enrico Fermi created the Chicago Pile-1, the world's first nuclear reactor. Known widely as the "architect of the atomic bomb," he was equally proficient in theoretical and experimental physics, and won the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on radioactivity and for discovering transuranium elements.
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 4 
Guglielmo Marconi
(Inventor of 'Radio' and Winner of 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics)
Guglielmo Marconi
5
Birthdate: April 25, 1874
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: July 20, 1937

Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian electrical engineer and inventor best remembered for his work on long-distance radio transmission. Marconi, who is credited with inventing the radio, was honored with the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the field of wireless telegraphy. Also a businessman, Marconi founded the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in 1897. 

 5 
Count Alessandro Volta
(Physicist, Chemist)
Count Alessandro Volta
7
Birthdate: February 18, 1745
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Como, Duchy of Milan, Italy
Died: March 5, 1827
While Alessandro Volta was a count by birth and was supposed to become a lawyer or a priest, he became a scientist instead. His invention of the battery led to the SI unit of electric potential being named volt. He was also the first to isolate methane gas.
 6 
Amedeo Avogadro
(Chemist and Physicist)
Amedeo Avogadro
4
Birthdate: August 9, 1776
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: July 9, 1856

Son of a reputed senator and lawyer in Italy, Amedeo Avogadro was himself a qualified lawyer. However, he later delved into research as a mathematical physicist and is best remembered for laying down the Avogadro’s law, contributing to the molecular theory of gases. The Avogadro constant is named after him.

 7 
Evangelista Torricelli
3
Birthdate: October 15, 1608
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Faenza
Died: October 25, 1647

Evangelista Torricelli, a student of Galileo, later made a name for himself as a physicist and a mathematician with his invention of the barometer. He also laid down the Torricelli’s theorem and discovered the Torricellian vacuum. The torr, a unit of pressure, bears his name.

 8 
Luigi Galvani
(Anatomist, Physicist, Physician, University teacher)
Luigi Galvani
4
Birthdate: September 9, 1737
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bologna
Died: December 4, 1798

Luigi Galvani was an Italian physician, biologist, physicist, and philosopher. He is credited with the discovery of animal electricity and is considered a pioneer of bioelectromagnetics. He and his wife made one of the first forays into the study of bioelectricity when they discovered that the muscles of dead frogs' legs twitched when struck by an electrical spark.  

 9 
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. 

 10 
Ettore Majorana
(Physicist)
Ettore Majorana
5
Birthdate: August 5, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Catania

Ettore Majorana was immensely talented in math and grew up to be a theoretical physics professor. He also worked on neutrino masses but abruptly disappeared while on a ship from Palermo to Naples. People have come up with theories such as suicide and murder to explain his disappearance.

 11 
Laura Bassi
(Physicist)
Laura Bassi
3
Birthdate: October 29, 1711
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: February 20, 1778

Known as Bolognese Minerva, Laura Bassi became the first woman physics professor to have taught at a European university, when she started teaching at the University of Bologna. A child prodigy, she excelled in Latin and math at age 5. She was also the first lady with a doctorate in science.

 12 
Fabiola Gianotti
(Physicist known for ATLAS experiment, First female CERN Director-General, Higgs boson discovery)
Fabiola Gianotti
3
Birthdate: October 29, 1960
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Fabiola Gianotti made headlines when she became the first woman director-general at CERN. The daughter of a geologist father, she gained an interest in science after reading about Marie Curie. The Italian particle physicist, who played a major role in the Higgs boson discovery, is also a trained ballerina.

 13 
Emilio Segrè
(Physicist)
Emilio Segrè
2
Birthdate: January 30, 1905
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tivoli, Italy
Died: April 22, 1989

Emilio Segrè was an Italian-American physicist who is credited with discovering a subatomic antiparticle called antiproton, for which he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1959. He is also credited with discovering the elements astatine and technetium. Also a prolific photographer, Emilio Segrè documented people and events which are preserved at the American Institute of Physics.

 14 
Chiara Nappi
(Physicist)
Chiara Nappi
2
Birthplace: Italy

Chiara Nappi is an Italian physicist with research experience in the areas of mathematical physics, particle physics, and string theory. After receiving a degree in physics from the University of Naples, she moved to US to carry out academic research. She has been a professor of physics in multiple institutions. Besides scientific research, she often writes on women in science. 

 15 
Bruno Pontecorvo
(Physicist, Nuclear scientist)
Bruno Pontecorvo
2
Birthdate: August 22, 1913
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pisa
Died: September 24, 1993

Bruno Pontecorvo was an Italian and Soviet nuclear physicist. He was an early assistant to the physicist Enrico Fermi. He studied physics at the University of Rome La Sapienza under Fermi and participated in Fermi's experiment showing the properties of slow neutrons. This experiment eventually led the way to the discovery of nuclear fission.  

 16 
Carlo Rubbia
(Physicist)
Carlo Rubbia
2
Birthdate: March 31, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

Carlo Rubbia is an Italian inventor and particle physicist who helped discover the W and Z particles. His work earned him the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shared with Simon van der Meer. Rubbia has received many awards, including 27 honorary degrees. In 1984, he was honored by the American Academy of Achievement with the Golden Plate Award.

 17 
Galileo Ferraris
(Former Physicist, known for alternating current, Rotating magnetic field)
Galileo Ferraris
2
Birthdate: October 31, 1847
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Livorno Ferraris, Italy
Died: February 7, 1897

Galileo Ferraris was an Italian university professor, physicist, and electrical engineer. He was one of the pioneers of AC power system. He is also credited to be the inventor of the three-phase induction motor although he never patented his work. He worked at the Italian Industrial Institution and later at the Italian Electrotechnical Association.

 18 
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli
(Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Historian of mathematics, Entomologist)
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli
2
Birthdate: January 28, 1608
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Naples
Died: December 31, 1679

While he matriculated in math and taught the subject later, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli also made pioneering discoveries as a physicist and physiologist. With works such as De Motu Animalium, he revolutionized the field of biomechanics, explaining muscular movements with the help of statics and dynamics.

 19 
Ugo Fano
(Physicist)
Ugo Fano
1
Birthdate: July 28, 1912
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: February 13, 2001

Ugo Fano was an Italian-American physicist who made notable contributions to theoretical physics. He earned his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Turin and proceeded to work with physicist Enrico Fermi in Rome. He later moved to US due to increasing antisemitism in Italy and joined the staff of the National Bureau of Standards as a theoretical physicist. 

 20 
Giovanni Giorgi
(Italian Physicist and Electrical Engineer Who Proposed the 'Giorgi System of Measurement')
Giovanni Giorgi
1
Birthdate: November 27, 1871
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lucca, Italy
Died: August 19, 1950

Giovanni Giorgi was an Italian physicist and electrical engineer known for proposing the Giorgi system of measurement, the precursor to the International System of Units (SI). He worked as the director of the Technology Office of Rome and also taught at the University of Rome. He was an invited speaker at the International Conference of Mathematicians on three occasions.  

 21 
Niccolò Leoniceno
0
Birthdate: 1428 AD
Birthplace: Lonigo, Italy
Died: June 9, 1524
 22 
Niccolò Zucchi
(Italian Astronomer and Physicist Who Designed One of the Earliest Reflecting Telescopes)
Niccolò Zucchi
0
Birthdate: December 6, 1586
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Parma, Italy
Died: May 21, 1670

Italian Jesuit, astronomer, and physicist Niccolò Zucchi, who reported spots on Mars, may have been, along with fellow Jesuit Daniello Bartoli, the first who spotted belts on planet Jupiter. Zucchi showed that phosphors generate rather than store light in his book Optica philosophia experimentis et ratione a fundamentis constituta, which includes probably the earliest known elucidation of a reflecting telescope.