Laura Bassi


Laura Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti was born in Bologna on 29th October 1711 under the Stato Pontificio. She was the daughter of Maria Rosa Cesari and Giuseppe Bassi, docton in Law, and for that she could have a private education. Gaetano Tacconi, her tutor, biologist, historian and doctor noticed her brilliant intellectual qualities and he asked her family to educate her in physics, metaphysics, logic and psychology; those disciplines that were precluded to women at that time.

On 12th May 1732 under the approbation of the academic senate and with the intermediation of the cardinal Prospero Lambertini (who then became Pope Bendict XIV), Laurea graduated in philosophy in the University of Bologna and obtained the permit of free teaching for that subject. On 29th October of the same year, she obtained the honorary chair in philosophy from the Senate, but with a salary of only 500 liras. As a woman, she was allowed to teach in special occasions only and with the consent of her superiors. In 1738 she married the doctor Giuseppe Veratti, not before swearing she wouldn’t have interfered with his studies. In 1745 she was appointed Benedictine academic with an additional post conferred directly by Pope Benedict XIV (the same one that allowed her to graduate).

In 1749 she started experimental physics courses in a laboratory set up in her house and managed with her husband. With it being the only experimental physics course in the city, it was attended mostly by university students and had a great success. So much that the Senate recognised its public use and decided to give her another salary of 1000 liras, one of the highest in the campus. In 1766 she started teaching experimental physics in the College of Montalto in the region of Marche. As a physics teacher, she was also a follower of Newtonian theories that she tried to apply especially in the field of electric physics. It was in this field that she became, together with her husband and friend Alessandro Volta, one of the reference figures of the time. Finally, she obtained the much coveted chair of experimental physics at the Institute of Sciences, without any limitations due to gender.

She died when she was 67 in Bologna in 1778. She was the fourth woman to graduate in the Italian peninsula, after Bettisia Gozzadini, Costanza Calenda and Elena Lucrezia Cornaro.

A crater on Venus was dedicated to her and, in 2019, the first Italian icebreaker for oceanographic research was named after her.

Translated by Francesca Cioffi

Original version by Fabio Di Gioia

The sources used to edit this article can be consulted freely:

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  • L'Autore

    Fabio Di Gioia

    Dottore in Scienze internazionali ed istituzioni europee, attualmente si sta specializzando nel corso di laurea magistrale in Relazioni Internazionali. È stato Presidente del Collegio dei Revisori dei Conti e co-ideatore del progetto TrattaMI Bene. È ora autore per la sezione Diritti Umani e nella sua rubrica Dŏmĭna.

    Doctor in International Sciences and European Institutions, he is currently specializing in the Master's degree program in International Relations. He has been President of the Board of Auditors and co-creator of the project TrattaMI Bene. He is now an author for the Human Rights section and in his column Dŏmĭna.



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