The voice of scientists

Appeal to the President of the Republic in favor of science and scientific culture – The 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy represents the ideal occasion to recall the important role played by scientists. This recollection cannot be simply commemorative since a profound and expert knowledge of reality and its languages has become and will continue to be the most important driving force for growth in Italy as well as in all developed countries. Everybody has to be aware that science is the major investment for an advanced national community. Italian scientists have achieved a cultural unity much before the political unification of the country. Indeed in 1782, Lorgna named ‘Italian Society’ the future Academy of the XL to stress that it ‘belonged to the whole of Italy, not just to a single city’.

This idea was reinforced in 1839 by the Pisa Meeting which was so clearly ‘national’ to be a matter of concern for the local rulers: Austrians in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, the Church hierarchy in Central Italy and Rome, Bourbons in the Two Sicilies Kingdom. The choice of Pisa was due to the foresight of the Tuscany Grand Duke Leopold II, and to the genuine and passionate dedication of Carlo Luciano Bonaparte, who had recognized in the Freiburg im Breisgau meeting of German naturalists a model that would allow a closer collaboration among those Italian scientists who were courageous enough to cross the narrow boundaries of the existing statelets. Despite the fears of the local governments, the occasion recurred in the following years over the whole peninsula, in Turin (1840) and in Naples (1845).  It was resumed in the 1907 Parma meeting, with Italy united by the time, and generated the proposal by Vito Volterra of an Italian national science center which was realized in 1923 with the birth of the National Research Council, CNR.

The shadow and the image of Galileo Galilei, the creator of contemporary scientific thought, have accompanied this very special unification, and made people think that the scientific community has no boundaries and may be able to unite all intelligences in the world.

Beyond any doubt, science has made enormous progress in the knowledge of reality; however, we have to ask ourselves whether the national Italian community, which did not lack great intelligences and successes even in harder years than the present ones, is continuing the effort that progress requires. On this matter, doubt is reasonable. In school, where young minds are molded, sciences are marginalized and weighed down educationally. History of science is essentially absent in the school programs, both from the science and even more from the history side, precisely during the training phase when cultural improvement is most relevant. Youngsters are not encouraged to share the enthusiasm that many of us have had when solving rationally problems posed by reality. Scientific research, rather than being considered as the most advisable investment, is considered a mere expense both in the private and in the public sector. The space devoted to science in media information is minimal and scarcely incisive. Public opinion is often distracted by news of deplorably low cultural quality that foster the unrealistic desire to appear rather than to be. Some people accuse the scientific community of ‘scientism’, ‘coldness’, ‘absurdity’, even of carrying danger; at times the suspicion is put forward that scientific progress is not pursued for the good of humanity, but in order to defend academic positions.

United, and in the name of a community without boundaries and differences, we want this state of affairs to end. We want the Country to pay attention to the intelligences looking for a due place in society. To this end we endorse this celebration and turn it into an appeal, in the hope that people in power will adopt it and take it over. First among all the President of the Republic. We all, joined together in such an engaging commemoration, are committed to do our best to get out of addiction and resignation.

National Academy of Sciences called of the XL

Italian Society of History of Science

Centro Pristem – Bocconi

National Group of Fundaments and History of Chemistry