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THURSDAY, JANUARY 7, 2016 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS pivotal role in s preading Newtonian physics in Italy and in pioneering research on elec- tricity. Natural born scientist Born in Bologn a in 1711, Bas s i s how ed s ign s of great intelligence and curiosity early on. When she was 13, physician Gaetano Tacconi, who was the Bassi family doctor and a profes- sor of medicine and philosophy at the University of Bologna, took charge of her education, getting permission from her par- ents to teach her the same sub- jects - logic, metaphysics, natural philos ophy and elements of Greek - that her male peers were studying in colleges and univer- sities. In 1731, Tacconi, eager to promote her talent, invited the archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal P ros pero Lambertini, and philosophers from the university to examine Laura's progress. They were all very impressed by the young lady's intelligence and competence and Lambertini him- self encouraged her scientific work, eventually becoming her most influential patron. The following year, 1732, has been described as Bassi's annus mirabilis: after publicly defend- ing her philosophy thesis in the tow n hall rather than in the churches as it was customary, at the age of 21, she obtained the degree of doctor of philosophy, thus becomin g the s econd woman in Europe to receive a degree from a university, after another Italian, Elena Cornaro P is copia in 16 78; s he w as appointed profes s or at the University of Bologna, a quite radical step at the time; she w as als o admitted to the city's Academy of the Institute for S ciences as an honorary member – the academy's first female member; in December, she held her first lecture at the Archiginnasio, the official seat of the University of Bologna. A groundbreaking career By then, Laura had become famous and res pected in Bologna: a collection of poetry, in Italian, Latin and Bolognese dialect, was published and a medal coined in her honor; her accomplishments were celebrat- ed during public events. She s oon became k now n beyond Bologna and throughout Europe: a female graduate and professor was unprecedented news. In 1738, oblivious to the criti- cism of those who maintained that studies and marriage were incompatible for a woman, she married G ius eppe V eratti, a physician and also a professor at the university, with whom she had twelve children. Because it was still deemed improper for a woman to teach a room full of male students, Bassi mostly lectured from home. She w as mainly interes ted in Newtonian physics and was instrumental in introducing this subject in the university curricu- lum. She taught courses on it for almost 30 years and authored 28 papers, the majority on physics and hydraulics. She was respon- sible for introducing Newton's ideas of physics and natural phi- losophy to Italy. She also carried out experiments of her own in all aspects of physics and was able to get several salary raises from the University so she could buy her own equipment. In 1745, Lambertini, who had become P ope Benedict X IV , reorganized the Bologna Academy of Sciences to create an elite group of 25 scientists, called the Benedettini, who were expected to regularly present their research. Bassi lobbied Benedict XIV to be admitted to the group. For a woman to be awarded such an honor was espe- cially controversial, so Benedict XIV compromised and accepted Bassi into the group, but without the same voting privileges as the other 24. In the 1760s, Bassi began per- forming experiments on possible medical applications of electrici- ty with her husband. This even- tually led her to being appointed to the chair of experimental phys ics at the U nivers ity of Bologna in 1776, with Veratti as her assistant. Bassi thus became the first woman named to a chair of physics at a university. Role model Bassi was considered by her contemporaries a w oman of exceptional talent, equally versed in Latin, logic, physics, natural philosophy, math, Greek, French. She maintained ties with the most prominent scholars of her time, from Volta to Voltaire, and many illustrious people passing through Bologna were eager to meet her. Her lifelong scientific career inspired and attracted much talent to the University of Bologna, had a profound influ- ence on Italian science in the 18th century, and paved the way for w omen to acquire more prominent roles in the academic world. Continued from page 1 Laura Bassi: Paving the Way for Female Academics

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