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List of Italian inventions and discoveries

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Italian inventions and discoveries are objects, processes or techniques invented, innovated or discovered, partially or entirely, by Italians. Italian means by definition a native or inhabitant of Italy or a person of Italian descent.[1]

Italian people -living in the Italic peninsula or abroad- have been throughout history the source of important inventions and innovations in the fields of writing,[2][3] calendar,[4] mechanical[5] and civil engineering,[6][7][8][9] musical notation,[10] celestial observation,[11] perspective,[12] warfare,[13][14][15][16] long distance communication,[17][18][19] storage[20] and production[21][22] of energy, modern medicine,[23] polymerization[24][25] and information technology.[26][27]

Italians also contributed in theorizing civil law,[28][29] scientific method (particularly in the fields of physics and astronomy),[30] double-entry bookkeeping,[31] mathematical algebra[32] and analysis,[33][34] classical and celestial mechanics.[35][36] Often, things discovered for the first time are also called inventions and in many cases, there is no clear line between the two.

The following is a list of inventions, innovations or discoveries known or generally recognized to be Italian.

Alphabetical list of Italian Inventions




  • Calderara biplane: the world's first airplane having the propeller on the front (first flight on 11 March 1909). At the time, it was the fastest airplane in existence. Later, this solution became the most common type of biplane used in the First World War.[59]
  • Dipped candle: Romans made candles using rendered animal fat (called tallow), beginning around 500 BC.[60]
  • Antonio Meucci Candle, made of stearic acid, successive to introduction of paraffin wax candles.
  • Caprotti valve gear, a valve design that found significant application in steam locomotives.
  • Carbon paper, invented by Pellegrino Turri in 1806[61]
  • Casino: the first public, legal and government-owned casino was a Venetian four-story gambling house called "Ridotto", opened in 1638.[62]
  • Julian calendar, later perfected by Luigi Lilio becoming the Gregorian calendar,[4] which is today's internationally accepted civil calendar, also known as the Western or Christian calendar.[63]
  • Cardan suspension of a gimbal, named after the Italian inventor Gerolamo Cardano (1501–1576), who described the device in detail. This device made inertial navigation possible.
  • Cello, with 'The King Violoncello' by Andrea Amati being the earliest known bass instrument of the violin family to survive.[64]
  • Centrifugal Pump: the first machine that could be characterized as a centrifugal pump was a mud lifting machine that appeared as early as 1475 in a treatise by the Italian Renaissance engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini.[65]
  • Mechanical clock (partially innovated): "Italy played a key role in the development of early clocks and in advancing their technological and aesthetic possibilities" -R.C.Morris on NYTimes.[66] Mechanical clocks appeared in medieval Europe (in particular France and Italy) thanks to an organic development rather than a single inventor.
  • Codex: is the precursor of modern books, having defined the reference format of virtually all the books of Western civilization. Invented during Roman times, its adoption was later spread by Christianity.[67][2]
  • (Modern Diesel) Common Rail designed by researcher Mario Ricco of the FIAT Group.[68][69]
  • Nautical compass (partially innovated): compass is one of the four great Chinese inventions and was used since the 4th century AD, becoming later perfected by the Amalfitan sailors between 1100 and 1200.[70] Further developing stages achieved by Italian sailors included the introduction of glass shelters to prevent the float from being influenced by the wind, the suspension of the magnet above a tip (mid 14th century) and the eventual superimposition of a wind rose on the magnet.[71]
  • Roman concrete: for edification purposes, more resilient than modern concrete.[6][72][73]
  • Confetti: initially meaning a type of sweet, then used for analogy to indicate little chalk balls used in Italy during carnival festivities. Mangilli di Crescenzago (Milan) is credited as an early inventor of paper confetti.[74]
  • Connecting rod, a device invented by Roman engineers to transform circular motion into linear motion.


  • Dentures: the first dentures were developed by the Etruscans in 700 BC[75]
  • Desktop computer: the Programma 101, which some consider the first Desktop computer, was designed by a small team led by Pier Giorgio Perotto of Olivetti, between 1962 and 1964 and launched in 1965[76][77]
  • Dipleidoscope: invented by Giovan Battista Amici.[78]
  • Dollying: to move a camera on a dolly, esp. toward or away from the subject being filmed or televised. Giovanni Pastrone first used this method in 1914.
  • Doppio Borgato, a musical instrument which is a variation of the piano[79]
  • Double-entry bookkeeping system (for accounting),[31] developed in the mercantile city-states of medieval Italy and first documented by Lucas de Burgo in Venice. Perfected by Amatino Mannucci in the 14th century.[80] The actual invention could have been Roman or Asiatic. Anyway, the system reached a huge diffusion as a consequence of Italian use and theorisation, with Summa de Arithmetica containing the rules of double-entry, the first example of calculating a neperian logarithm as well as early examples of probability calculus.[81]
  • Doxorubicin, a chemotherapy agent invented by Farmitalia Spa in the 1950s.[82]
  • Dynamo: direct current generator that enabled the use of electric energy on an industrial scale. Its inventor, Antonio Pacinotti, intuited it could also be used as an electrical engine. In 1865 he unsuccessfully tried to sell the production rights of the device to the French company Froment, where Z. T. Gramme supposedly worked. In 1869 Z. T. Gramme patented a very similar dynamo.[83][84]
  • D-Shape, a new 3D printer capable of printing entire buildings invented in 2004 by Enrico Dini.[85]


  • Eau de Cologne: perfume developed by Johann Maria Farina in 1709.[86]
  • Electroplating, a manufacturing technique invented by Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli in 1805.[87] He pioneered galvanoplastic experiments, introducing the technique of electroplating. His acquaintance with A. Volta played an important role in his scientific career. He hypothesized that in the chemical pile there was also a transport of atoms, obtaining experimental evidence of this. He discovered the properties of coal cathodes as electrical conductors and succeeded in covering them with a metallic layer. He sensed the possible applications in the industrial field, sharing this procedure with a Pavese goldsmith, who used it.[88]
  • Encyclopedia: from the Greek enkýklios paidèia, meaning a set of doctrines constituting a complete education. The comprehensive works of Aristotle can be considered encyclopedic (covering politics, rhetoric, ethic, aesthetic, psychology, biology, math). The first Latin encyclopedia was written by Cato the Elder in an attempt to mitigate the influence of Greek culture. He wrote for his son an "encyclopedia" of what he believed to be the necessary subjects for the Roman citizen: agriculture, rhetoric, medicine, law and warfare. Marcus T. Varro wrote a second, more complete and systematic encyclopedia, covering nine disciplines: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, musical theory, medicine, and architecture. Plinius the Elder wrote Historia naturalis, the first encyclopedia to survive as a complete work. Marziano F. Capella wrote an allegoric encyclopedia in prose and verses, De nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae[89]. These encyclopedias, along with the works of Cassiodorus and Boethius, paved the way for the medieval seven liberal arts.[90]
  • Epidemiology (innovated): Roman scholar Marcus Varro mentioned microorganisms as a possible causal agent of diseases. Girolamo Fracastoro, in the mid 16th century, was the first one to scientifically state the real nature of germs, infection, and contagious ways of disease transmission.[91] He attributed the causes of diseases to very small living particles, invisible to the eye. They were considered vulnerable to fire, capable of self multiplying as well as spreading by air.[92]
  • Espresso machine
    • first prototype invented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884 in Turin.[93]
    • (piston driven model) invented by Achille Gaggia in 1945.[94]
  • Eudiometer, invented by Alessandro Volta[95] and Marsilio Landriani. Thanks to this instrument Lavoisier discovered the chemical composition of water.[96]
  • Eyeglasses: originating from Italy, the eyeglasses were perhaps the invention of an unidentified Venetian glassmaker of the 13th century. The research of Roger Bacon on magnifying glasses probably aided their future development.[97]


  • Fairchild 3708: Federico Faggin designed the world's first commercial integrated circuit using Silicon Gate Technology with self aligned MOSFET transistors.[98]
  • Film festival: founded as Esposizione d’Arte Cinematografica, the Venice Film Festival was established in 1932.[99]
  • Forlanini helicopter, first engine-powered helicopter. A steam powered helicopter which first flew in 1877, designed by Enrico Forlanini in Milan. This has represented the first heavier-than-air aircraft lifting from the ground with autonomous means.[100] Italian engineering will further develop the helicopter: on 7 April 1925 Corradino d'Ascanio patented the helicopter with two coaxial propellers.[101] Other patents and inventions related to the aeronautical world followed.[102][103]


  • Galilean telescope (for the observation of celestial bodies). Although magnifying spyglasses of Dutch origin were already known, Galilei enhanced the magnification of the lenses from 2x-3x to 20x-30x, thus the telescope became a "galilean" instrument.[11]
  • Galleon (origins): historical evidence suggests that this iconic type of ship was pioneered by the early 16th century Venetians and later spread to Iberian Peninsula, where it became widely adopted and further developed.[104]
  • Gas lamplighter: Alessandro Volta invented the hydrogen electric lighter in the late 1770s. This can be considered the first electric household appliance.[105][106][107][108][109] Moreover, Volta wrote a letter proposing the use of gas instead of oil as fuel for lamps.[110]
  • Gelato: the Renaissance alchemist Cosimo Ruggieri created the first gelato flavor at the Medici's court, in Florence: the 'fior di latte'. The architect Bernardo Buontalenti invented the 'egg cream' gelato.[111] In 1903 Italo Marchioni patended a machine for producing the gelato cone.[112]
  • (Modern) giro system: a payment transfer from one bank account to another bank account initiated by the payer, not the payee.[113][114] The first occurrences of book money can be traced back in Northern Italy and, in particular, in Venice.[115]
  • Gondola, a typical venetian boat.[116]


  • Herbarium, intended as a collection of plants classified under scientific methods, was first established in Bologna in 1534 by Luca Ghini.[117]
  • Hospital: the Roman Christians inaugurated the hospital in the modern sense of the word. In Rome itself, the first hospital was built in the 4th century AD by a wealthy widow, Fabiola. During the early Middle Ages, the infirmary became an established part of every monastery under the influence of the Benedictine Order. Starting with the 10th century, monastic infirmaries continued to expand and further public hospitals were opened. These facilities were financed by City authorities, the Church, and privately.[118]
  • Hydrofoil, a lifting surface that operates in water: Enrico Forlanini developed and patented around 1900 a "ladder" foil system.
  • Hyper Search: a type of web search engine based on link analysis invented in 1997 by Massimo Marchiori, whose alghoritm played an important role in the development of Google page ranking.[119][120]




  • Lagrangian mechanics - Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia.
  • LARES, a satellite developed in Italy and launched in 2012.
  • Launeddas (or Sardinian triple clarinet), typical Sardinian woodwind instrument composed by three pipes.[140]
  • Lazaret (quarantine station), the first was founded by the Republic of Venice in 1403, on a small island in the Venetian lagoon.
  • Light bulb (partially innovated): Alessandro Cruto built the first light bulb having a carbon filament treated with ethylene. The filament, under high pressure and temperature, acquires a positive resistance coefficient (when temperature increases, resistance increases as well). Cruto's bulb was officially lit 5 months after Edison bulb (on 4 March 1880). Cruto's filament improved the durability of the bulb from Edison's 40 hours to 500 hours of lighting.[141]







  • Radio: developed, successfully tested in 1895 by Guglielmo Marconi[19] and produced on industrial scale as a long-distance communication medium. Marconi partially relied on similar technologies developed by the Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. Both inventors have always had an independent interest in wireless technology and patents issued and reversed suited the economical needs of the time.[167]
  • Reggio Emilia approach, an educational method to be applied in preschooling.


  • San Marco 1, a satellite of historical relevance: Italy was the third country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to successfully launch a satellite, in 1964.
  • School (partially innovated): at the height of the Roman Republic (and later during the Empire) parents were expected to have their children alphabetized and educated (albeit with partial gender discrimination on the specific subjects),[168] especially in order to enter a political career. Formal schools were established and arranged in progressive and meritocratic tiers. In the words of Quintilian, a teacher in the 1st Century AD: "Some boys are lazy, unless forced to work; others do not like being controlled; some will respond to fear but others are paralyzed by it. Give me a boy who is encouraged by praise, delighted by success and ready to weep over failure." The rigorous educational method and curriculum used in Rome was copied in its provinces, providing a basis for education systems throughout later Western civilization.[169][170]
  • Science academy: the first scientific society was the Academia Secretorum Naturae founded in Naples in 1560 by the polymath Giambattista della Porta.[171]
  • Seawalls, ancient Rome pioneered concrete sea walls.[72]
  • Secchi disk, created by Angelo Secchi used to measure water transparency or turbidity in bodies of water
  • (Modern) electromagnetic seismograph: in 1855 Luigi Palmieri realizes a seismograph consisting of U-shaped tubes oriented on the different cardinal directions, filling them with mercury. When an earthquake shakes the ground, the motion of the mercury produces an electrical contact that stops a clock and at the same time starts a recording drum registering the motion of a float on the surface of mercury. Results are: time of occurrence, relative intensity and duration. In 1875 Filippo Cecchi introduces the first pendulum seismograph in which the relative motion of the pendulums (with respect to ground motions) is recorded as a function of time.[172][173]
  • Roman Senate: a deliberative assembly of the Romans, lasting from the 8th century BC to at least the 7th century AD. The term senate comes from the Latin senatus or "Assembly of Elders". Previous councils of elders are known in Greece and in the Greek cities of Hellenistic and Roman ages; there was also a similar organism in Carthage. Rome established the senate as one of the fundamental institutions of the state and, for a long time, the main responsible for both domestic and foreign policy. Until the 15th century, the magistracy of the (roman) senator appointed by the Pope, along with magistrates of popular nomination (i.e. tribunes, reformers, conservatories), retained real authority, lasting with a symbolic role until the 19th century.[174]
  • Shopping Center: the earliest example of public shopping mall was the Trajan's Market in Ancient Rome built around 100-110 AD by Apollodorus of Damascus.
  • Sphygmomanometer (partially innovated): invented by the Austrian Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch, Scipione Riva Rocci added to the design a key element: a cuff encircling the arm. Previous designs had used rubber bulbs filled with water or air to manually compress the artery or other technically complicated ways of pressure measurement.[175]
  • Star fort (or Italian outline ), with the first examples located in Italy, built towards the mid-15th century.[176] The bastioned trace was originally developed by Italian architects (e.g Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Giuliano Giamberti da Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti),[177][178] with experimentations of shapes continuing during the 16th century (see, for instance, castle of Copertino[179])
  • Stiletto, a type of narrow dagger appearing in Italy during the Middle Ages.
  • Stock Exchange (origins): the underlying principles of stock exchange were introduced by Italian merchants in Bruges (Belgium);[180] an early example of stock exchange dates back to around 1309 in an inn called "Huis ter Beurze". The inn belonged to the Ter Bourse family, merchants of possible Venetian origin (della Borsa) who had a warehouse in Bruges and conducted transactions at the inn.[181][182][183] The term 'beurs' derives from the name of this inn, spreading to other European countries and evolving into 'bourse', 'borsa', 'bolsa', 'börse', etc. In England the term ‘bourse’ was used between 1550 and 1775, eventually giving way to the term ‘royal exchange'.[184]


  • Teatro Olimpico, designed in 1580 by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and located in Vicenza for the local Accademia Olimpica, is the first and oldest covered stable theatre of the modern era. Since 1994, the Teatro Olimpico, together with other Palladian buildings in and around Vicenza, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.
  • Telephone (originally named "telettrofono"). The Italian Antonio Meucci patented what became later known as the telephone. Official recognition arrived only after 113 years from his death. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone after Meucci's patent had expired due to his poor economical condition and inability to renew the aforementioned patent.[17][18]
  • Television (partially innovated): the Italian-American Augusto Bissiri was an early pioneer of the transmission of pictures, and is credited as an inventor of the television[185]. His first short-distance transmission occurred in 1906, while his first intercontinental one dates 1917. In 1922 a system composed by disks[186], cathode-ray tube and screen is filed for patent[187]; other improvements followed[188]. Among other inventions, he developed a railway safety system and the Lettera Disco (lit. letter-disk), a voice recording device[189]. In 1927 Philo Farnsworth performed the first transmission of a fully electronic image. Later, a legal battle broke out between him and V. Zworykin.
  • Galileo thermometer, invented by Galileo Galilei in 1593.
  • Toffoli gate, a universal reversible logic gate invented by Tommaso Toffoli.
  • Public toilets: latrines were part of the sanitation system of ancient Rome, placed near or as part of public baths (thermae).[190][191] During the Middle Ages sanitation partially regressed, to be reintroduced in Europe by Britain (WC or water-closet)[192] and France.
  • Tontine, a form of life insurance developed by Lorenzo De Tonti in 1653.
  • Torpedo, invented by the Italian G. B. Luppis and perfected by the English R. Whitehead[193]
  • Touchpad (co-invented): Federico Faggin has been co-founder and CEO of Synaptics. He co-invented many patents assigned to Synaptics,[194] which produced and commercialized the first touch-pad and the earliest touchscreens. In an interview, Faggin stated that Apple had been the first company to be truly interested on Synaptics' touchscreens, asking for the exclusive on the technology. The offer was declined; nonetheless the later success of iPhones and iPads opened a huge market for Synaptics.[195]
  • Trimprob: used for the electromagnetic detection of cancerous tissue, was developed in 1992 by Italian engineer Clarbruno Vedruccio.
  • Triumphal Arch, the first recorded triumphal arches were set up in the time of the Roman Republic.[196]
  • Typewriter - in 1575 the venetian printer and bookseller Francesco Rampazetto[197] created the first prototype of a machine that could impress letters on a piece of paper by means of "tactile writing".[198][199] In 1714 the English engineer Henry Mill patented a typewriter without fabricating it.[199] Early versions of the typewriter are reported in Austria in 1779[199] and Italy just after 1800 by Pellegrino Turri and Pietro Conti di Cilavegna.[200] In 1855 Novara lawyer Giuseppe Ravizza built and patented the Cembalo scrivano or macchina da scrivere a tasti (lit. "key based typing machine"), modeling its keyboard design on the keys of pianoforte. The Cembalo Scrivano is recognized as the most advanced typing machine until the invention of Remington. Cembalo scrivano was also capable of printing upper and lower cases that didn't exist yet in the first Remington typewriter machine[citation needed].


  • Unibody of Lancia Lambda, a car designed by Vincenzo Lancia and presented between 1921-'22. The vehicle introduced the fusion between chassis and bodywork, halving the weight compared to similar displacement cars and providing much higher resistance to impact in respect to traditional structures.[201] Other new features included independent front suspension, allowing better safety, and a V-shaped overhead four cylinder engine.[202][203][204][205]
  • University: the term comes from the Latin "universus", meaning "the whole / the universe", indicating a community of masters and scholars focused on higher learning[206] concerning all - both secular and religious - human knowledge known to that date, namely Jurisprudence, Medicine, Philosophy and Theology. European academics attending the universities were expected to have already mastered the seven liberal arts, spanning from grammar to music and astronomy. The University of Bologna (founded around 1088 AD) is, by these standards, the first university of the world and, as its motto goes, 'Nourishing Mother of the Studies'.[207][208] Many other universities started flourishing in Italy from the 13th century onward. Previous higher educational institutions existed during the Islamic Golden Age (the first one being the University of Karueein in 859 AD), focusing mainly on Islam (religion and laws) and only later obtaining the status of Universities. European universities themselves have, in part, religious origins, rooted in medieval Christian monastic schools and other institutions teaching theology.[209] Finally, academies developed well before the Roman empire, with the most famous being depicted almost two millenniums later by Raphael: the school of Athens. Medieval universities are distinguished from the academies of the classical age by the particular legal recognition (i.e degree) they granted to those who completed the studies.[210]


  • Vault (partially innovated): the firsts vaults were either built underground or required continuous walls of great thickness to resist their thrust. Romans perfected the statics of the intersecting barrel vault, overcoming these limitations and pioneering the use of vaults over halls of great dimensions.[211]
  • Vega (rocket): Italy had the lead in this program (65%), which produced an extremely fast vector to bring light payloads into orbit. First Launch was in 2012.
  • Venetian Carnival: carnival is an annual festival held in different places around the world, with an early example dating back in Venice to at least 1268. The most peculiar feature of Venice's celebration has laid in the extensive use of masks.[212] The rite of Carneval has obscure origins, possibly Roman.[213][214]
  • Vespa: in 1946 the Italian vehicle manufacturer Piaggio patented a "motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part". This design became one of the most popular scooters worldwide and is still in production.[215]
  • Vibram - Vitale Bramani is credited with inventing the first rubber lug soles for shoes in 1937.
  • Vibram FiveFingers a type of shoe invented in 1999 by Robert Fliri.
  • Violin, four stringed, the name of the inventor is unknown, but the instrument appeared in renaissance Italy.[216]
  • Viola (partially innovated): slightly larger than violin, is characterized by lower and deeper sound. Known fabrication started in northern Italy between 1530 and 1550.[217] It is speculated that the 'Viola da gamba' was invented in Valencia, Spain, to be later introduced in Italy during Renaissance: a valencian painting representing a viola dates back to 1475.[218] However, the viola is the oldest arched instrument, dating back, in different forms, to at least the 9th century.[219] Ascribing the true origin of this instrument to specific geographical locations leads to questionable results.[220]


  • Watermark: this medieval innovation was first introduced in Fabriano, Italy, in 1282.
  • Welfare: the earliest form of welfare was the lex frumentaria instituted by the tribune Gaius Gracchus dating back to 122 B.C., a law that ordered Rome’s government to supply its citizens with allotments of cheaply priced grain.
  • Galileo Hydrostatic Weighing Scale, a weight measuring device that uses hydraulic counter-force of a liquid, usually water or oil, to determine weight of an object under Archimedes' principle. Nowadays is mainly used in hydraulic types of weighbridges. Its functioning principles were first described by Galileo Galilei in 1586.


Medical Discoveries and Techniques

  • Antibiotics,[223] in 1895 the italian Vincenzo Tiberio was the first one to observe, scientifically reproduce and write a research on the antibiotic effect of "cellular products, soluble in water" extracted from Penicillium glaucum, Mucor mucedo and Aspergillus flavescens[23][224] and sterilized in the experimentation[225] (both in vitro and in vivo[226]). It can't be ruled out the possibility of his findings to have been taken as a starting point for later European researches.[227]
    • Rifampicin, an antibacterial drug discovered by a team led by Prof. Piero Sensi at Lepetit Pharmaceuticals in 1957 in Milan, Italy.
    • Cephalosporins antibiotics. Discovered by Giuseppe Brotzu in 1948.[228]
  • Artificial insemination, although previously theorized, only in 1784 the first artificial insemination in an animal was officially performed and reported by the Italian physiologist Lazzaro Spallanzani.[229]
  • Black reaction: a silver staining technique which was first performed by Camillo Golgi. It helped the study of the nerve cells.[230]
  • Blood circulation: since Galen times it was believed that the internal human body circulation was separated in two different circuits: veins system, carrying food to the body, and arteries system, responsible for the flowing pneuma or “circulating air” in the body that was necessary to vital functions. Although many beliefs of Galen have been disproved by many Italian anatomists during Renaissance, the first who guessed blood did not mix in the heart and, instead, formed a single circulating system passing through the lungs, was the Spanish physician Miguel Serveto. However, his works were largely unknown for a long time as he was burned at the stake with his books for heresy by order of the city's governing council of Geneva, and it was an Italian anatomy professor, Realdo Colombo, who validated the intuitions of Servetus, proving that cardiac septum is impermeable to blood. He also spoke correctly about the existence of pulmonary circulation. Girolamo Fabrizi d’Acquapendente (1537-1619) was the first to study the valves of the veins, but it was Andrea Cesalpino the one who described the circulation of blood in the body. Cesalpino showed that the heart, not the liver, is the engine that physically pumps the blood into the vessels: starting from the arteries to capillaries, blood reaches the whole body, then it returns through the veins up to the heart. He used for the first time the term blood circulation and he demonstrated that in veins and arteries flows only blood, not pneuma, and that the passage of blood from arteries to veins through capillaries is due to difference of pressure. It remains famous his experiment of ligature of veins then resumed by William Harvey in order to prove the blood flow course in veins. Finally, Marcello Malpighi gave with his microscope observational proof of the exchange of blood from arteries to veins in capillaries.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid: the physician Domenico Cotugno is credited with the discovery of this fluid in 1774.
  • Gastric digestion: Spallanzani was the first to interpret the process of digestion not simply as a mechanical process, but as one of actual solution, mediated by the gastric juice of the stomach.[231]
  • Eustachian tube: Bartolomeo Eustachi extended the knowledge of the internal ear by rediscovering and describing correctly the tube that bears his name. He is the first who described the internal and anterior muscles of the malleus and the stapedius, and the complicated figure of the cochlea.
  • Fallopian tube: Gabriele Falloppio studied the reproductive organs in both sexes, and described the tube, which leads from the ovary to the uterus and now bears his name. He was the first to describe a condom (in his writings, a linen sheath wrapped around the penis), and he advocated the use of such sheaths to prevent syphilis.
  • Germ theory of disease (as a scientific theory):[91] physician Girolamo Fracastoro, scholar and poet, in 1546 was the first proposing that epidemic diseases are caused by transferable tiny particles or "spores" that could transmit infection by direct or indirect contact or even without contact over long distances. In his idea the "spores" of diseases may refer to either chemicals or living entities. He appears to have first used the Latin word fomes, meaning tinder, in the sense of infectious agent. He was the one to christen the syphilis disease with this name, from the name of a young boy Syphilius in Greek mythology, who was punished with an horrible disease for he had offended Apollo. Fracastoro also gave the first scientific description of typhus. The lunar crater Fracastorius is named after him.
  • Golgi apparatus, an organelle of the eukaryotic cell, discovered by Camillo Golgi in 1897.[232]
  • HIV Virus (co-discovered): the French Luc Montagnier and the Italian American[233][234] Robert Charles Gallo (US-born) are credited with discovering the virus causing the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • Human Genome Diversity Project (or HGDP): a research project started by Stanford University's Morrison Institute in 1990s along with collaboration of scientists around the world.[235] It has been the result of many years of work by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza.
  • Insulin, artificial synthesis (contribution in discovery): the Italian Roberto Crea was part of a team of ten Genentech scientists publishing in 1979 a research that described the solution for synthetic insulin,[236] obtained through genes (coding the protein insulin A and B) that were inserted in Escherichia coli bacteria.[237] This technique made possible the mass production of insulin without relying on extraction from animals sources.
  • Liposuction, medical procedure invented by Dr Giorgio Fischer in 1974.
  • Malaria transmission, discovered by Amico Bignami to be originated by mosquitoes as infecting vectors.[238]
  • NGF or nerve growth factor, a protein involved primarily in the growth, as well as the maintenance, proliferation, and survival of nerve cells, whose absence leads to various diseases. Co-discovered in the early 1950s by Rita Levi-Montalcini in collaboration with Stanley Cohen. Today, NGF and its relatives are collectively designated as neurotrophins and are extensively studied for their role in mediating multiple biological phenomena.[239]
  • Octopamine, discovered by Vittorio Erspamer.[240][241]
  • Oncovirus, type of virus capable of causing cancers. The experiments led by Italian-American Renato Dulbecco and his group demonstrated that the genes of the reverse transcribing viruses infecting the cells, are inoculated into their chromosomes, with a behavior that alternates phases of inactivity and activity, linked to the formation of tumors[242]. Nobel price was awarded to Renato Dulbecco, David Baltimore and Howard Temin[243]. In 1986 R. Dulbecco proposed the Human Genome Project to the international community[244], with the subsequent project initiation by the Italian CNR (National Research Council).[245][246]
  • Piezoelectric surgery, a surgery technique developed by Tomaso Vercellotti.[247]
  • Ricordi Chamber: doctor Camillo Ricordi -director of Diabetes Research Center (DRI), and Cell Transplant Center of University of Miami- became one of highest authorities in the cure of diabetes disease; he developed the first device able to isolate large quantities of insulin-producing cells from the human pancreas and to have successfully conducted the first series of pancreatic islets transplants capable of treating diabetes. His procedures have been used worldwide.
  • Sarcoptes scabiei: discovered by Giacinto Cestoni and Giovanni Cosimo Bonomo (in 1687) and identified as the disease-causing agent of scabies. Bonomo also developed the cure: bathing in antiseptic.[248] Parasitology had other fundamental advancements thanks to the research of Francesco Redi,[248] pioneering the subsequent invalidation of spontaneous generation.[249]
  • SARS virus, an infectious disease discovered by Carlo Urbani; having being infected, he didn't live long enough to see how effective his early detection and intervention was in buying time and saving lives.[250]
  • Serotonin, discovered and synthesized by Italian chemist and pharmacologist Vittorio Erspamer.[251][252]
  • (Spinal) biomechanics: Giovanni A. Borelli is often considered father of biomechanics[253][254], having calculated the forces necessary in the human body for reaching the equilibrium in the joints, long before the publishing of the Newtonian Laws. Borelli first understood that it is the motion to be magnified by the locomotor system's levers rather than force and consequently motion-producing muscles have to explicate greater force compared to the motion-resisting entities[254].
  • Stem cells as vectors for Gene Therapy: in 1992 doctor Claudio Bordignon, working at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, performed the first procedure of gene therapy using hematopoietic stem cells as vectors delivering genes intended to correct hereditary diseases.[255] He is known for having validated many successful gene therapy protocols targeting genetic and acquired disorders, such as leukaemias.[256]
  • Striated muscles, first differentiated from smooth muscles by Giorgio Baglivi in his monograph De fibra motrice. An exponent of iatrophysics, he isolated muscle fibers and studied them using a compound microscope, outlining the fundamental role played by the fiber as a structure. He also concluded that the heart muscle had spontaneous contraction, independent from other innervations.[257] His depiction of pulmonary edema is credited as its first proper clinical description. In addition, he proposed the introduction of specialized medical degrees.[257]
  • Strimvelis: the first ex-vivo stem cell gene therapy to treat patients with a very rare disease called ADA-SCID. The treatment was developed at San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (SR-Tiget), in Milan. Strimvelis has been approved in Europe for the treatment of human patients.
  • Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), with the first recorded clinical application by Giovanni Aldini in 1803.[258][259]
  • Rappuoli (innovated) vaccines, covering more than 150 patent families that have been registered since the mid-1990s by Rino Rappuoli, radically changing the vaccine production procedures used to immunize millions of people.[41]
    • Reverse vaccinology, a new method for making vaccines using the pathogen's sequenced genome, pioneered by R. Rappuoli[260] and the J. Craig Venter Institute[261]. Rappuoli has continued researching for even more advanced techniques[262].
    • Recombinant pertussis vaccine (1992), with genetic editing and inactivation of the toxic gene in the chromosome of Pertussis bacterium, so that a non-toxic molecule is produced instead. The immune response was reported to improve compared to previous conventional technologies[263][264].
  • CAd3-ZEBOV: an experimental Ebola virus vaccine developed by Swiss-Italian biotechnology company Okairos under the leadership of Dr Riccardo Cortese, in collaboration with American Nih. Okairos was later incorporated into GlaxoSmithKline.[265][266][267]
  • Trotula: Trota De Ruggiero (or Trocta) was a medical practitioner, probably a regular physician and university Professor who lived in the early 12th century in Salerno, near Naples. It seems she was daughter of one of the private Professors of the Schola Medica Salernitana, following her father's steps as a physician and teacher of medicine, and whose progeny continued this tradition as well. It is uncertain whether she was the first woman of the Medieval age to become a graduated physician in the Western World, but it is well known from various sources that at least 24 women practiced surgery in Neapolitan Area during Middle Ages[citation needed]. Trota left a collection of writings about the cure of women illnesses in a codex named after her, Trotula. It consists of three manuscripts, of which only the book called De curis mulierum (lit. "On Treatments for Women") is attributed to her, while the other two are works of different authors. The fact she wrote such an organic collection of remedies and cures is one of the evidences suggesting she was a regular graduate and not a simple practitioner.
  • VEGF: Napoleone Ferrara isolated and cloned the 'vascular endothelial growth factor' in 1989, while working at Genentech.[268][269][270] He is credited with developing a whole new class of anti-VEGF drugs for cancer treatment. He had a leading role in the development of ranibizumab, a drug intended for macular degeneration.[271]

Law, Philosophy and Humanities

  • Colony, from the Latin "colonia", indicating a Roman outpost established to secure conquered territory (sometimes situated near previous settlements[272]) and built for retired Roman legionaries. Colonies have been part of a Roman policy "whose wisdom only the future could fully reveal"-(Cedric A. Yeo,The Classical World).[273] Eventually the term denoted the highest status of a Roman city.[274] Many colonies survived the fall of Rome, with some becoming seminal European cities (e.g London, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt).[275][276] The map of Roman infrastructures manifests a remarkable pattern similarity with European road density today: ancient cities and roads might have set the template for the next two thousand years of economic development.[277]
  • Cosmology of Giordano Bruno: he expanded the relatively new Copernican theory proposing for the first time the idea that the stars were distant suns (as bodies emitting energy) surrounded by their own planets (as bodies receiving and reflecting energy) orbiting around.[278][279][280] According to Steven Soter "[this] is arguably the greatest idea in the history of astronomy".[280] Giordano raised the possibility that these planets might foster life of their own, a philosophical position known as cosmic pluralism; he also claimed the universe is infinite and could have no "center". Barely suffering any form of religious authority, he was excommunicated by three different Christian cults: Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. In his positions Bruno identified God as a God-Nature, as a reality that in itself subsists immanent in the guise of the Infinite, since infinity is the fundamental characteristic of the divine.[281] For this reason and other beliefs considered heretic by the Catholic Church, such as negating Holy Trinity, he was dragged into court in Venice by local Inquisition, where he skillfully tried to defend himself stating that philosophers in their course of thoughts, according to "the natural light of intellect", can come to conflicting conclusions with the matters of faith, without having to be considered heretics. Roman Inquisition asked for his extradition to Rome, that was exceptionally granted by the Venetian Senate, and in Rome Bruno decided to not defend himself anymore and instead openly declare his beliefs. Found guilty of heresy, he was burned at the stake.[279]
  • Doctoral degree for women: Elena Cornaro Piscopia was a Venetian noble woman, and scholar who in 1678 became the first woman in modern history to receive an official academic degree from a university, and the first to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Laura Bassi was the second woman to achieve such a degree, and Cristina Roccati the third one.
  • Fascism: illiberal political movement characterized as a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism, created by politician and then dictator Benito Mussolini.
  • Futurism: an artistic and social movement born in Italy in the early 20th century, that glorified modernity, emphasized speed, technology, youth, impetuosity, and iconic objects of modernity and speed such as internal combustion engines, the car and the airplane as a form of art, an ideal of beauty and trendy absolute ambition for manly boldness. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was the most prominent figure of the movement.
  • Humanism: a broad concept present in different cultures, derives its term from the Latin "humanitas", developed during Roman times (see Aulus Gellius).[282]
  • Latin alphabet, derived from the Greek alphabet; became the foundation of many languages worldwide, e.g. Neo-Latin languages. Currently more than 4.9 billion people rely on this alphabet.[3]
  • Machiavellianism: term related to a controversial interpretation of the political philosophy of Machiavelli,[283] especially regarding his most famous work, Il Principe, or The Prince. The book advocated realpolitik and a consequentialist approach to political action, recommending rulers to be ready to act in deceitful ways, such as resorting to fraud, treachery and elimination of political opponents, and to use fear as a means of controlling subjects, in order to retain a ruler's power and grant the security of the state.[284][285]
  • Renaissance humanism: a cultural movement of rebirth in the study of classical antiquity, originating in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe (around 1300-1500). Humanists perceived themselves as a different kind of men opposed to those who lived in medieval age and who had another vision of the world, science and literature, rougher and incomplete if compared to the humanistic rediscovery of ancient classics, new perception of nature of things, and a new way of conceiving arts and beauty.[286]
  • Roman Law: together with the Napoleonic Law[287][288], represents the foundation for the Civil Law,[29] now adopted by 150 countries.[28] Ancient Roman Law influenced to some extent the following medieval Common Law.[289]
    • Adoption, as legal process of parenting another person and permanently transferring all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation and full rights for the adopted of inheriting family name and family legacies. Institution of adoption was widely used by Roman Emperors to grant themselves an heir of male gender.
    • Habeas Corpus's origins, which can be traced back to the Roman Law.[290][291]
    • Marriage as a legal transaction between two peoples as stated by Roman law, sometimes involving the adoption of a prenuptial agreement.
    • Municipium, a social contract between municipes, the "duty holders," or citizens of the town: the munera were a communal obligation of the municipes in exchange for privileges and protections of citizenship.[292] The continuation in the Middle Ages of municipal institutes of Roman derivation constituted, together with the feudal fragmentation and the mechanisms of association of bourgeois origin, one of the determining factors for the formation of the communes. They developed as autonomous and recognized forms of city government, of an economic nature and, particularly in Italy, political.[293][294]
  • Runic alphabet: the runic alphabet was based on Old Italic script.
  • Sonnet: type of poetry originating in Italy and highly developed by Francesco Petrarca.[295]
  • Scholasticism
    • (as a philosophy): a school of thought that employed a critical method of analysis and tried to reconcile the Christian faith with a system of rational thought (mainly derived from Greek philosophy), integrating classical philosophy as anticipating Christian theology. The intent of the scholastics was to develop a harmonious knowledge, integrating the Christian revelation with the philosophical systems of the Greek-Hellenistic world, as they were convinced of their compatibility, and to seek in the knowledge of the classics (mainly from great thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) a route able to raise the acceptance of Catholic dogmas. Scholasticism started developing from the works of the Roman Boethius[296] at the very onset of the Middle Ages.
    • (as a method of organizing studies): an organization of higher education present in ancient schools and universities. Clergymen and secular literates usually started their cursus studiorum in capitular schools enclosed by abbeys and monasteries, learning the arts of Trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) and then proceeding in the arts of Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). King Lothair I of Italy, nephew of emperor Charlemagne, created a system of high schools in strategic cities of his reign (Pavia, Ivrea, Turin, Cremona, Florence, Fermo, Verona, Vicenza, Forlì) in order to train skilled officials and bureaucrats. Italian merchant cities enhanced the schooling system by creating, around 1100, the "Scuole d'Abaco" (abacus learning schools) as professional institutes intended for the preparation of accountants, clerks, and any sort of trading specialists.

Math and Physical Sciences

Theories, Methods and Models


Astronomical Discoveries

Military Innovations

Strategies and operations

  • Air supremacy theorized in 1921 by general Giulio Douhet with the book "The Command of the Air", ("Il Dominio dell'Aria").
  • Fabian strategy, a guerrilla-warfare strategy first implemented by Quintus Fabius Maximus "Cunctator" in 217 BC.[376]
  • Italian fencing style: towards the end of '500, the Italian style, putting an emphasis on skills and speed instead of force, spread across Europe, with fencing being instituted as an art. Italians used a lighter weapon, the rapier, finely balanced and fabulous for attack, together with a style of fencing that was, at the same time, simple, controlled and agile. Italians discovered that using the point of the sword was more effective than relying on its edge. The early English fencing style was substituted by the continental one.[377]


  • Frogmen: the first modern frogmen were the World War II Italian commando frogmen.
  • Marine infantry -as modern concept of armed troops for defending ships in combat, repel mutinies, and perform organized military landings- were created in vice-realm of Naples in 1537, by Spain King Carlos I, Compañías Viejas del Mar de Nápoles, and subsequently in Republic of Venice, Fanti da mar in 1550. Their heritage is keep by Italian elite troops San Marco Regiment.
  • Alpini: modern special forces intended for mountain warfare, created in 1872. The first 15 Alpini companies were officially established by Kingdom of Italy on the 15th of October.[378] The Italian example was soon followed by other countries having mountainous areas and thus France formed the Chasseurs des Alpes, in Germany the Alpenkorps were born, in Austro-Hungarian Empire the Landwehr and the Tyrolean hunters (Kaiserjäger); similar troops appeared in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Switzerland and Spain.[379] During WWI the Alps have been the major theater of mountain warfare (also called Alpine warfare).

Contributions to Music

Notation and performance


Contributions to Sport

  • Bocce, a boules-type game dating back to Roman times[383] and later developed in Italy;[384] bocce volo as a variant. The game was spread across Europe by the Romans and is closely related to the later British bowls and French boules.[383]
  • Calcio Fiorentino or historic football.[385]
  • Cassina Movements 1 and 2, in artistic gymnastics horizontal bar competition, are a couple of movements consisting in a giant Kovacs straight with 1/1 turn (also known as a Kõlman in the straight position), created and performed for the first time by gymnast and Olympic Games Gold Medalist Igor Cassina and named after him by the International Gymnastics Federation in 2002.
  • In game of Chess the Sicilian Defence is an opening move that has been created in Italy around 16th century and described for the first time in a Chess theory book of 1594 by Chess Master Giulio Cesare Polerio.
  • In road cycling a Gran Fondo is a type of long-distance ride dating back to the first Gran Fondo from Milan to Turin in 1894, and roughly translates into English as "Big Ride". Italian Gran Fondos are officially defined and certified by the Italian Cycling Federation as a bicycle event at least 120 kilometres (75 mi) long, and are individually chip-timed (start to finish) races with prizes for the fastest riders in each category.
  • Five-pins billiard game.
  • Goriziana pin billiard game.
  • Italian Circuit Tournament, a system of matching adopted at first in Italian football tournament cups, is a particular formula of competitions with more than two participants, which involves not only the holding of direct matches between all the participant teams in all possible combinations, but also a second series of matches or second round. The first direct match is played at the home stadium of one of the two teams, and the second direct match is performed at the stadium of the other team, in order to minimize the advantage for the home team to play on well known grounds, with incitement of local supporters. A competition of this type can also be called an Italian tournament, opposed to American or knockout tournaments common in Tennis and other sports. The formula, common especially in team sports, refers to the concept of a double round-robin tournament[citation needed].
  • Italian playing cards and related games, such as Scopa, Scopone scientifico, Tressette, Asso pigliatutto, Briscola.
  • Palio: initially used to indicate speed competitions, usually with horses, it later embraced many other peculiarities, evolving into a group of typical manifestations dating back to various Italian medieval cities.[386]

Geographical Discoveries

The following is an extract of the most noteworthy geographical discoveries, partially or totally Italian:

See also

External links


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