Thanks 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 resource.

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.



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 industrial world

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 Garcia.

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, indicating:
- title;
- 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 of Milan.

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 of Milan.

Italo Pasquon
Professor Emeritus of the
Polytechnic of Milan

Milan, December 2008

Archivio Giulio Natta - © Copyright 2008