Orto Botanico ed Erbario – Università di Bologna

Federico Delpino

Federico Delpino (1833-1905) prefetto dal 1884 al 1893

Federico Delpino (1833-1905) director from 1884 to 1893

Federico Delpino was born in Chiavari, in the province of Genova, on 27 December 1833.
He begun his studies at the Genova’s University, but after the first year he left.
He was then employed at the Ministry of Finance firstly in Turin, then in Florence when the Capital moved there. In Florence he started to hang out at the Botanic Garden and Museum and in 1867 he was offered an Assistant Professor post by Filippo Parlatore, Professor of Botany.
Subsequently, in 1871, he was appointed as Professor of Natural Science. During this period, Delpino embarked on the warship Garibaldi as Naturalist, during a study travel of Prince Thomas of Savoy, visiting the Brazilian costal area. In 1875 he was appointed as Full Professor of Botany at the University of Genoa; in 1844 he moved to the University of Bologna where he stayed for 10 years; afterwards he went to Naples where he taught till the end of his academic career and where he died on 14 May 1905. Delpino remains were interred in Poggioreale Cemetery in the “Quadrato degli uomini Illustri” (Quadrangle for illustrious men) area.

He strongly believed in Darwin theories and refused the exclusively descriptive approach to Natural Sciences. His continuos effort was towards the formulation of general theories and the exchange of ideas with other naturalists. He published in Bologna some essays where he is concerned in reconstruct some parts of the Natural System in the light of the new evolutionist point of view, with very interesting contributions – subsequently confirmed by the modern systematics – that make Delpino one of the first Italian Botanic Systematic in the modern meaning.

Sebastiano Sani in Bologna di Ieri (Arnaldo Forni Editore, Bologna, 1922) describes Delpino in this way: «Alone, forgotten and unknown […] the deepest Botanic of the second half of the past century lived and taught at the Athenaeum: Professor Delpino, the thinnest man in Bologna at that time, poor as Job, very odd in dressing and living. In the classroom, he was used to be very passionate in teaching, jumping on the desks, gesticulating like a dramatic actor during the end of the act, drawing diagrams and formulas over two or three chalkboards then over the walls, surrounded by a continuos noise of bursts of laughter and squalls.»

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