Thank you, Italians!

L’Italia ha dato i natali a numerosi scienziati, scopritori, artisti, politici e visionari che hanno notevolmente contribuito a caratterizzare o contribuire al corso della storia. Molti storici ritengono che le parole di Filippo Mazzei, per esempio, abbiano ispirato Thomas Jefferson ad includere la frase Tutti gli uomini sono creati uguali nella Dichiarazione di Indipendenza; il  fisico Enrico Fermi ha inventato il primo reattore nucleare del mondo; Guglielmo Marconi ha aperto la strada alle comunicazioni a lunga distanza senza fili ed all’invenzione della radio, della TV e dei cellulari; l’astronomo Giovanni Riccioli ha mappato la superficie della Luna, battezzando circa 200 dei suoi crateri. E non potrebbe che essere italiana la Vespa, dal 1946 un’icona di stile tricolore esportata ed amata in tutto il mondo!  

Many historians believe that Filippo Mazzei’s words inspired Thomas Jefferson  to include the phrase, “All men are created equal,” when he composed the “Declaration of Independence.” Benjamin Franklin introduced Mazzei to Jefferson who was a longtime admirer of everything Italian and it was Jefferson who persuaded Mazzei to plant an Italian-style vineyard in Virginia. A man of many talents, Mazzei was a physician, writer, exporter, agronomist, and diplomat and, as an envoy for the U.S., Mazzei promoted America’s economic and political position in his worldwide travels.

Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, who was born in Rome, created the world’s first nuclear reactor. Labeled the “Architect of the Nuclear Age,” Fermi worked on the Manhattan Project in the bowels of Stagg Stadium (now Soldier’s Field) in Chicago to develop the first atomic bomb. He was joined with fellow physicists in condemning the prospective bomb as a weapon “which in practical effect is almost one of genocide” and “an evil thing considered in any light.” Fermi and fellow scientists judged it “extremely probable that, in the future, nuclear weapons would be constructed by smaller nations or even groups.”

Born in Bologna, Italy, Guglielmo Marconi was an avid reader of physics and chemistry books and conducted experiments in his home laboratory. In 1901 he sent a wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean. His success paved the way for communication over great distances without wires and served as the foundation for radio, TV and cellular phones. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909.

In the aftermath of WWII, the Italian aircraft manufacturer Piaggio & C. SpA retooled its production and in April 1946 introduced the Vespa motor scooter. The entrepreneur was Enrico Piaggio and the designer, Corradino D’Ascanio. This affordable vehicle restarted Italy’s economic engine and became a national sensation and the most famous scooter on the planet. It was, originally, to be called Paperino (little duck) but Piaggio said it resembled a Vespa - wasp in English. Hollywood’s, “Roman Holiday” movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck glamourized the vehicle to Americans. The scooter could travel at a top speed of 37 mph. Vespa USA is America’s #1 scooter company.

Many of the craters on the moon are named after some of history’s most famous individuals. The International Astronomical Union gives approval to each crater’s name. Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli mapped out the surface of the moon in 1651 and about 200 of the names he chose still exist. The largest visible crater is Bailly and the deepest is Newton. There are 80 craters named for or by Italian scientists, engineers and mathematicians, 14 for poets and philosophers and 4 for Italian explorers.

In January 1944, an Italian firing squad executed Count Galeazzo Ciano. He was the one-time foreign minister of Italy. His father-in-law, Benito Mussolini issued the order. Ciano offered his diaries documenting “the madness of Hitler becoming the religion of his followers.” He made the offer to his interrogators in exchange for his family’s freedom. The deal was rejected. The diaries were published after the war.