to professor Pasquon from Franca and Giuseppe Natta
The gathering all the works of an
author is well known to be a very complex activity, that
can be described with the Latin expression opera omnia.
What professor Italo Pasquon has done is something more,
it is the gathering of a large part of what has to do
with the life of the professor Giulio Natta, that I would
describe with the probable neologism omnia vitae. As scientific
observation cannot set aside the link between the observed
phenomenon and the observer, the narration of the life
of professor Natta done by professor Pasquon, with the
use of relevant documents, results in being particularly
vivid because of his familiarity with professor Natta
that derived from years of work together.
We have used the word 'familiarity' to illustrate
the way in which professor Pasquon, like all the other
assistants of professor Natta, had become part of our
family. Professor Pasquon was gifted with particular kindness
and gentleness, endowments that would make him the favourite
of our mother and our grandmother who used to think that
his distinction was related to his French origin.
I do not know anyone, other than professor Pasquon,
who would be able to both approach and complete with the
same excellence this methodical task that does not only
means the gathering of the scientific writings and the
patents of professor Natta, but also the narration of
a life, of a period, an insight of the university and
of industry in post-war time.
We already new professor Pasquon as an important
industrial Chemist and reputable legal Chemist, this collection
of documents of the life of professor Natta, together
with his set of seven books about the methods and the
processes of classic chemistry proves that he is also
a meticulous and communicative chemistry Historian.
It is with great affection
that we thank him for this impressive work that will be
available to those who research about professor Natta
and his scientific activity as the most valid and exhaustive
Franca e Giuseppe Natta
From a first examination of the documents which were kept
at the Dipartimento di Chimica Industriale del Politecnico
di Milano (Industrial Chemistry Department of the Milan
Polytechnic) it resulted that 601 scientific publications
and educational papers, along with 120 binders (each one
of which would contain an average of 500 pages) and 43
folders (about 1,000 pages) with an assortment of miscellaneous
documents (copies of patents, correspondence) were available.
Once it had been established that the
collection was incomplete, a thorough Internet research
took place and offices and employees of different roles
of the Milan Polytechnic and Turin Polytechnic, 4 National
Libraries, the Camera di Commercio di Milano (Chamber
of Commerce of Milan), 4 patent offices and 4 national
firms were contacted. At the end or the search the complete
work of Giulio Natta turned out to be composed of 617
publications and scientific monographs, more than 333
groups of patents that had generated 4,000 foreign patents.
The whole of this was computerized.
The content of the 163 binders and folders
was also computerized with the exception of
- sensitive documents, that were nevertheless illustrated;
- part of the correspondence about the patents, that was
nevertheless explained and illustrated;
- the copies of many Montecatini patents that had been
sent to Giulio Natta to be viewed;
- some other material that was not relevant.
In total about 45,000 pages were
computerized. 50 people contributed towards the gathering,
the presentation and the computerization of the Archive.
The work was carried out in nearly two years.
OF THE ARCHIVE
In mid-2007, Natta's
son Giuseppe and daughter Franca announced their wish
and their intention to assemble and computerize their
father's archive in order to better conserve - and increase
the awareness of - his memory.
A starting point was provided by the
material left by Prof. Natta at the Institute of Industrial
Chemistry at the Polytechnic of Milan, at the time meticulously
catalogued by his secretary Rossana Lamma Fontana and,
with the aid of a colleague Prof. Lido Porri, preserved
as carefully as possible. Using this material, Prof. Andrea
Silvestri at the Centro per la Storia dell'Ateneo (CESA
- dedicated to gathering historical documentation about
the Polytechnic) then had a record made by Raffaella Gobbo
of the correspondence.
After consulting with the Chancellor Prof. Giulio Ballio,
the Legal Department, the Archive Department and the Head
of the Department of Chemistry, Materials Science and
Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta" of the Polytechnic
of Milan, it was decided to complete, organize and (where
possible) computerize the archive by collecting together:
- all the works of Giulio Natta (scientific publications,
educational texts, scientific essays and other writings);
- photographic documentation and other family papers;
- industrial patents;
- miscellaneous correspondence and papers.
The sheer bulk of material amassed
made it advisable to subdivide the archive into three
parts, titled as follows:
I Giulio Natta: the works,
the scientist, the man
II The inventions of Giulio Natta: 4000 patents,
classified into 333 families
III Giulio Natta and the scientific, academic and
Giulio Natta: the
works, the scientist, the man
A list of his scientific publications and educational
texts (610 items) had been available since the 1980s:
we decided to begin by checking its completeness. An Internet
search, made with the assistance of Prof. Cinzia Cristiani,
revealed that 7 titles (comprising forewords and introductions
to books by others and the inaugural lecture given at
the beginning of the academic year 1957/58 of the Polytechnic
of Milan) had not been included.
A search was then begun for all the texts, drawing on
the collection of scientific publications which had been
made (in just a few copies), again in the 1980s. One of
these copies had been earmarked for Villa Nobel in Sanremo,
another had been requested by Prof. Rolando Rigamonti
(a former collaborator of Giulio Natta who went on to
become Chancellor of the Polytechnic of Turin). A third
copy had remained at the Institute of Industrial Chemistry
of the Polytechnic of Milan. However, owing to various
moves occasioned by rebuilding works at the Institute,
this copy lacked some of the later publications. These
it was possible to recover thanks to the help of Professors
Lido Porri, Mario Pegoraro and Giuseppe Allegra. The educational
texts dating back to before the 1950s and a number of
scientific books were still missing.
The material that had been sent to Prof. Rigamonti was
no longer to be found at the Polytechnic of Turin. The
material kept at Villa Nobel was made available for our
inspection, but apart from making some photocopies, despite
the co-operation and kindness of the Director Ms Rebaudo
and Mr Alberto Guglielmini, it was not possible to recover
it materially: the President of the Province of Imperia
kindly informed us that Villa Nobel was not in a position
to return to the Polytechnic documentation which had,
at the time, been donated to them.
With the assistance of Cinzia Cristiani, Gabriella Di
Marzio and Roberto Pasquon (commissioned by Giuseppe Natta
to co-ordinate this activity) all the missing material
was nonetheless recovered. A copy of one educational text
was sent to us by the National Library in Florence. Another
text was provided by Prof. Riccarda Rigamonti. A number
of scientific texts, published in French, English, German,
Czech and Japanese were found at the home of Franca Natta
Pesenti in Bergamo and at that of Giuseppe Natta in Cassinazza
di Baselica in Giussago. A further two volumes were made
available by Ms Farina (wife of the late Prof. Mario Farina,
a close and expert collaborator of Prof. Natta); other
texts came from myself. Further material was retrieved
from the Sormani Library and from a local public library
in Milan and - via Ms Cesarina Bonfanti - the library
of the company ENI.
A list of the principal sectors of scientific
activity elaborated by Giulio Natta from 1923 to 1970,
with the names of his collaborators, was already available.
There is a fine collection of photographs
in the volume "Giulio Natta the man and the scientist",
edited in 1998 by Lido Porri, Luisa Vaccaroni, Renato
Del Rosso and Antonio Giarrusso, published by AIDIC (Italian
Association of Chemical Engineering) with financial assistance
from Tecnimont S.p.A. and reprinted in 2003 by Basell
Poliolefine Italia S.p.A. Other photographic material
was provided by Franca Natta Pesenti, together with a
delightful diary of Giulio Natta's schooldays, and by
Prof. Riccarda Rigamonti. I personally had some sheets
of handwritten notes which the Professor would prepare
before giving his lectures to the chemical engineering
students at the Polytechnic. There was even a sheet of
the commemorative postage stamps issued in 1994, with
the cover presentation.
The distinctions and numerous prizes
awarded to Giulio Natta, the originals of which are kept
in Villa Nobel in Sanremo and at the home of Franca Natta
in Bergamo, were reproduced photographically by Mauro
The material cited above, together with
a presentation of the Professor's character, comprises
the first part of the archive, was computerized by Italarchivi
S.r.l. under the supervision of, and with invaluable suggestions
from, Rosa Grazia Setola and Laura Fumagalli.
The inventions of Giulio Natta: 4000 patents, classified
into 333 families
A complete list of Giulio Natta's patents had never previously
been drawn up: before we could go on to collect the texts
we needed to compile that list.
Our first line of approach was to consult
Chemical Abstract which, historically, contains reviews
of scientific publications and patents, together with
their summaries. This publication does in fact mention
295 patents (on 118 pages) bearing the name of Giulio
Natta, but there are several repetitions regarding the
extension abroad of a number of Italian priority patents.
What is more, a check through the citations revealed that
several of Giulio Natta's patents are not even mentioned
in Chemical Abstract.
In 1987 Montedison prepared a bulky
and indispensable list containing the data (number and
date of filing and granting in Italy and abroad, names
of the authors) for all the "cases" (families)
of patents by Natta-Montecatini (or Montecatini-Edison
). One copy of the list had been sent to Villa Nobel in
Sanremo, another to Professor Rolando Rigamonti in Turin
and a third had remained at the Institute of Industrial
Chemistry of the Polytechnic of Milan. This last copy
could no longer be found. The visit to Sanremo also proved
fruitless. Not even Edison (the present-day company) was
able to recover it. The last hope was Prof. Rigamonti
(born in 1909), but I had had no news of him for some
years: I did not even dare to approach his sister, Matelda
(in her nineties), with whom I had kept in touch through
yearly Christmas greetings, but who had recently been
admitted into a nursing home in Milan.
The "Rigamonti channel" was by a lucky chance
reopened following a fortuitous meeting with Ms Pina Morelli
(ex-secretary at the Institute of Industrial Chemistry).
After paying a visit to Matelda, Ms Morelli supplied me
with the phone numbers of Prof. Rigamonti's daughter,
Riccarda, a Professor at the Polytechnic of Turin. Prof.
Riccarda succeeded in to unearthing the famous "Montecatini
List" (103 pages), together with a brief list of
some other patents, an educational text book from 1934
and a number of photographs. But all this was still not
enough to enable us to complete the list of Giulio Natta's
patents with those filed before the 1950s. Nor did we
manage to turn up anything on the Internet, where we found
several foreign patents, but no Italian ones. Together
with Roberto Pasquon we decided to search for mentions
of patents cited in Giulio Natta's scientific publications,
but came across a number of inaccuracies (patent numbers
which subsequently proved to be incorrect).
Throughout the 1930s a list of the patents
granted in Italy in the field of chemistry was published
monthly in a separate pamphlet of the Giornale di Chimica
Industriale e Applicata (which became in 1934 La Chimica
e L'industria), but this source still did not enable us
to complete the list.
With the kindly assistance of Pasqualino Marturano from
the patents office at Barzanò & Zanardo in
Milan, of Paolo Rambelli from the firm Jacobacci &
Partners in Turin, of Luca Castiglioni from the Chamber
of Commerce Industry Crafts and Agriculture in Milano,
and of the patents office at the De Nora Group, we were
finally able to complete our research.
We were thus able to identify 333 "families"
of patents, from which we compiled a list of 333 patents
(one per family) arranged according to the date of filing,
- inventors' names;
- date of filing;
- number of patent grant;
- numbers of filings abroad (around 4000 patents granted);
- patent holder;
- number of the corresponding Montecatini/Montecatini-Edison"case";
- notes (any citations in Chemical Abstract and cross-references
to other patents in the same family).
We then moved on to the more arduous
task of tracking down the 333 patents included in our
list. A good number of the Natta/Montecatin Italian patents
were retrieved from Giuseppe Natta in Cassinazza, with
the help of Gabriella Di Marzio. Some copies were recovered
from the material archived at the Polytechnic. Other patents
were provided by Paolo Rambelli and the Chamber of Commerce
in Milan. The search of the Natta-Montecatini/Montecatini-Edison
patents (which were subsequently donated by Edison S.p.A.
to the Polytechnic of Milan) was conducted at Edison's
archive in Corsico thanks to Pier Giuseppe Biandrino,
Guido Santi and Giuseppe Del Carlo of the Edison company,
and with the invaluable assistance of Nicola La Grazia,
and was completed - for the Italian patents - with the
help of Claudio Serracane and Giovanni Giunti at Edison.
For the patents only filed abroad, Cinzia Cristiani and
Renato Del Rosso provided Roberto Pasquon with the information
necessary to retrieve them from the Internet.
We were still missing 13 Italian patents
(among the first filed by Giulio Natta between 1927 and
1942), which were retrieved by Massimo Barbieri of the
Area for Research and Technology Transfer of the Polytechnic
All the material collected in this way
was transferred to computer together with - as an example
- the documents which led to the granting of the patent
on isotactic polypropylene in the USA (about 1000 pages
recovered at the Polytechnic of Milan and from Edison's
archive in Corsico). We also added an example of one of
the notices of the granting abroad of a patent chosen
from among those of Natta-Montecatini.
Giulio Natta and the
scientific, academic and industrial world
In addition to the
scientific publications and a part of the patents, the
documents kept at the Institute of Industrial Chemistry
at the Polytechnic (now a division of the Department of
Chemistry, Materials Science and Chemical Engineering
"Giulio Natta") were contained in 120 binders/files
and 43 folders.
After thoroughly examining the material, we proceeded
to render it into an organized presentation (only part
of which was computerized, by Italarchivi) as described
in detail in Part III of the archive.
The whole of the "Giulio Natta
Archive" thus created is preserved at the Polytechnic
Professor Emeritus of the
Polytechnic of Milan
Milan, December 2008