Gianfranco Pacchioni#

From materials science to nanotechnology#

Gianfranco Pacchioni
Dipartimento di Scienza dei Materiali, Università degli Studi Milano Bicocca

At the end of last century, the following question was posed to many scientists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals: “which is, in your opinion, the most important discovery or invention of the last 1000 years?”. If you think at the possible answers to this simple question you could figure out a variety of things which had an enormous impact on our life: progresses in surgery and medicine, cars, television, airplanes, electricity, or even basic scientific theories like those of evolution, relativity, genetics, etc. Well, none of these discoveries of the last millennium was selected as the most important one. Rather, most of the people interviewed agreed that the invention that has contributed most to change our life is due to a German librarian who was active in Mainz in the 15th century: Johannes Gutenberg. In 1455 Gutenberg invented the print process with mobile characters. With this seemingly simple system Gutenberg started a real revolution: the free circulation of ideas and knowledge. Until the time of Gutenberg books were hand-written (the famous incunaboli) and were extremely costly and preserved in monasteries, but they were not accessible to normal people. It has been estimated that only a 20-30.000 books were existing all over the world at the time of Gutenberg, and most of them were Bibles. Just 50 years after the introduction of the print process, more than 30.000 different titles had been published for a total of 12 million copies. The cost of books dropped, and knowledge and culture started to spread over larger and larger portions of the population. This lead as a consequence to an increasingly rapid development of science and technology, and to the growth of human culture as we know it nowadays.

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Prof. Gianfranco Pacchioni with his group from the Università di Milano-Bicocca

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