History

Geosciences, in particular Geology, are organized as structured and indipendent scientific disciplines since the end of XVIII and the beginning of XIX century, after getting past several prejudices on the origin of fossils (evidences of the Universal Deluge? Lusus naturae? Remains of ancient and extinct organisms?)  and the evidence, suggested by geological phenomenons, of the immensity of Geologic Time, which clashed with the Biblical indications on the age of Earth, being the creation set 5000 years B.C.

It is noteworthy that the Veneto region is especially fortunate from a geological point of view, as it boasts a rich paleonthological heritage epitomized by the fossil lagerstätten in Bolca near Verona, documented and studied since the XVI century. It is thus not surprising that, in light of these geological assets and the freedom of thought advocated by both the Serenissima Republic of Venice and the University of Padova, “dangerous” ideas spread out.

Venetian scholars were especially keen to study the nature of fossils and the structure and dynamics of the Earth's surface, and ruled the scientific revolution to that eventually led to the emergence of modern Geology.

We need only recall Gerolamo Fracastoro from Verona, who already in the XVI century explained correctly the true nature of fossils; the famous naturalist Antonio Vallisneri, who at the beginning of XVIII century explained many geological phenomenons, and, above all, Giovanni Arduino from Verona, who in 1750 proposed a first rudimental classification of the Earth history into geological periods, introducing terms like Tertiary and Quaternary, which are still in use today.    

 

 Arduino

 

In this scientific context it was inevitable that the teaching of Geosciences at the University of Padova begun remarkably early. It can be dated back with precision to 1734, when Antonio Vallisneri junior (son of the aforementioned naturalist) gave as present to the Reformers Magistrate Office of Study of Padova the rich geological, zoological, paleontological and mineral collections owned by his late father, and was then put in charge to illustrate them to students. Thus, a course was established (“Special natural history”) in which geo-mineralogical and biological disciplines were taught.

For a long time, there was only a tenure linked to Vallisneri Museum. As summarized in the picture below, only in 1869 the tenure was split into a tenure in Zoology and Compared Anatomy (given to Giovanni Canestrini from Trento) and one in Mineralogy and Geology (given to Giovanni Omboni from Milano). The division of the tenure coincided quickly with a separation between the zoological and geo-mineralogic collections.  

The latter, hosted in the Bò building, in 1833 were further subdivided into a council and museum of Mineralogy (Director: Ruggero Panebianco) and a council and museum of Geology (Director: Giovanni Omboni).

 

Genealogia

 

The two Museums and the corresponding tenures (actually, two different institutes), were moved at the beginning of 1930’s to a new location, Palazzo Cavalli. This building served for ca. 80 years as headquarters for Geosciences research and teaching, i.e. until we moved to the present day location, and still hosts the Museum collections.

It’s beyond our scope to trace back the history of Geosciences of Padova. We only wish to stress an important step taken in the 1980’s, when the Government issued Law n.382 (1983) that decreed the transformation of Institutes (with just one tenure) into Departments (as in the USA). As a result, at the end of the 1980’s Geosciences in Padova were represented by three separated Departments, these being the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, the Department of Geology, Paleonthology and Geophysics (originated from the fusion of the former Institutes of Geology and Geodesy), and the Department of Geography “G.Morandini”.  

In 2007, the Departments of Mineralogy and Petrology and that of Geology, Paleonthology and Geophysiscs were merged to form the current Department of Geosciences.

Recently, for complying with the requirements posed by Law n.240, a number of colleagues from the former Department of Geography “G.Morandini” deliberated to join the Department of Geosciences beginning 2012, January 1st. .

 

Gruppo