L'Istituto Tecnico Toscano: The Tuscan Technical Institute

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ORIGINS

A decree of the Prefect of the District of the Arno dated 16 October 1809 inaugurated the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts as a part of the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1813 the new Statute of the Academy distinguished three specific classes: the first was that of the Arts of Design, the second, of Musical and Dramatic Arts, and the third, of Arts and Craftsmanship. On 14 January 1850, Grand Duke Leopoldo II established – by means of two decrees – that the Technical Schools of the Arts and Crafstmanship be separated from the Academy and that Professor Filippo Corridi be appointed Director of both of these.

The new school took its inspiration from the ancient experimental-practical vocation of Tuscan science (Leonardo, Galileo, the Accademia del Cimento), and should have had the task of providing a solid scientific-technical preparation to new professional figures who were essential to the constant development of agriculture, arts and crafts, and to emerging industry.

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THE NEW SCHOOL

During the 1850s the Istituto became an important centre of comparison and exchange with European scientific and industrial cultures, thanks above all to the enlightened and tireless work of Professor Corridi who, having been directly appointed by the Grand Duke, organised important exhibits of natural and industrial products that were destined to represent Tuscany at the World Universal Exhibition in London (1851) and Paris (1855).

On these occasions, the collections of the Istituto were enriched by machinery, models of machines, scientific and teaching apparatus , and publications coming from various European countries: in particular, from France, England, Germany and Austria. The donations from famous Florentine families (Bardi, Guicciardini, Ginori, Ridolfi), manufacturers, scientists, and the said Grand Duke, together with the first important acquisitions and exchanges between Italian and foreign institutes of scientific instruments, naturalistic collections, and of manufactured products as well as publications coming from every country, constituted the bases of the Institute's scientific endowments.

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THE ISTITUTO TECNICO

It was in fact during this period that a new decree, enacted in 1853, regulated teaching in the new Technical Schools. Six chairs were instituted: Descriptive Geometry and Design, Technological Physics, Experimental Mechanics, Applied Chemistry, Natural History, and Metallurgy. For the first time, the Scuole Tecniche with their new endowments, taken as a whole, assumed the name of the Istituto Tecnico Toscano.

Classes began in February 1857 in the presence of Leopoldo II, with an inaugural speech by Professor Corridi and a demonstration lesson by Gilberto Govi, a Physics instructor. The Istituto was definitively organised into:

  • technical schools, with two sections: Physics-Chemistry and Physics-Mechanics
  • physics, chemistry and mechanics laboratories
  • an Academy of Arts and Craftsmanship
  • a Technological Museum
  • a mechanics and carpentry workshop
  • a library

The seat of the Istituto was located in the ancient convent of the Cavalieresse di Malta, in Via San Gallo.

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FILIPPO CORRIDI

The figure of Corridi (1806-1877, mathematician), who was to remain as its Director until 1859, was decisive in its importance: in addition to having founded the Institute, he was responsible for the inception of that fundamental operation of acquisition, recovery and exchange of materials that constitutes the basis of the current collection of scientific and librarianship materials. When Corridi left the Istituto, the Museo Tecnologico boasted more than 16,000 examples of organic and inorganic, raw and worked materials, machined and instruments. The chemistry and physics laboratories were furnished with numerous pieces of modern equipment, and the mechanics workshop was working at full capacity, with machines imported from France, England, the German state of Baden, and Holland. The Library's inventory amounted to more than 2000 works.

ANNUARIO  

THE FLORENCE POLYTECHNIC

Even after the end of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Istituto – thanks to the constant interest of the Province and the Municipality of Florence – maintained at length its own autonomy and its own priority role in the field of scientific and technical instruction.

From 1st January 1870 to 1888, the Istituto was totally dependent on the Province, which requested it on purpose from the national government in order to make it into a modern polytechnic school at the basis of a complex reorganisation of all teaching in Florence. It then provided for important and systematic acquisitions of instruments, naturalistic collections, industrial products, and books until it came to constitute a patrimony that was unique in Italy.

The success of this strict and efficient polytechnic school, which in 1883 was named for Galileo Galilei, was due to the high quality of its teaching. Prestigious teachers who answered to the names of Adolfo and Antonio Targioni Tozzetti, Gilberto Govi, Damiano Casanti, Niccola Collignon, Emilio Bechi, Dino Carina, Ignazio Porro, Silvestro Gherardi, Giuseppe Erede, Guido Falorsi, Emilio Villari, Antonio Roiti, Vito Volterra, Giacomo Bellacchi, Giulio Bellotti, Pietro Marchi, Decio Bocci, Giacomo Trabucco, Adolfo Bartoli, Diego Garoglio, Giovanni Sansone, Lino Vaccari, Enrico D'Inca Levis, and Luigi Fallacara, alternated in its classrooms.

Thanks to the success of the said teaching, the number of students continued to increase. It was then that the Municipality of Florence built a new seat for the Istituto in Via del Mandorlo, today Via Giusti, where it still remains today.

Over the years, more and more schools were added to the Istituto: from 1857 on, the Surveyors-Land Surveyors section; in 1859, the elementary Schools of Design; in 1863, the Commerce and Administration section, the School of Mines, and the Cascine dell'Isola agricultural holding; and in 1910, the Artistic-Physics section.

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THE TECHNICAL-COMMERCIAL INSTITUTE FOR SURVEYORS

In 1923, following the so-called Gentile reform, part of the patrimony – together with the old Mechanics-Physics section – went into making up the new Liceo Scientifico, secondary school of Florence. The junior courses were appended to the Istituto, and in fact it took on the characteristics of a commercial technical institute for surveyors, a title that it would assume in 1933. The Istituto – universally known as the "Galilei" – was a determining presence for the life of the city for more than one century, as testified to above all by the generations of students who later became involved in important work activities in the professions and in civilian life, thus leaving a positive mark on the city's economic and social fabric. It progressively modified its functions and activity: the laboratories, the science cabinets , and the library abandoned their original role as fundamental instruments for teaching in order to take on a new and prestigious historic and documentary value.

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