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Book Chapter

Giovanni Gentile Junior: Physics as an Intellectual and Spiritual Adventure


Bonolis,  Luisa
Department Structural Changes in Systems of Knowledge, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Max Planck Society;

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Bonolis, L. (2022). Giovanni Gentile Junior: Physics as an Intellectual and Spiritual Adventure. In L. Gariboldi, L. Bonolis, & T. Antonella (Eds.), The Milan Institute of Physics: A Research Institute from Fascism to the Reconstruction (pp. 87-116). Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-99516-4_4.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-AEB9-2
In 1936, the arrival of the young theoretical physicist Giovanni Gentile Jr.
at the Institute of Physics of Milan University directed by Giovanni Polvani, opened
novel horizons both in terms of the choice of research topics in the field of modern
physics and of modernization of teaching. Gentile’s solid education at the Pisan
school of physics and mathematics in the 1920s and his relationships with Fermi’s
school in Rome and later with the great German school of theoretical physics through
Schrödinger, London, Heisenberg and Sommerfeld, as well as his special friendship
with Ettore Majorana, became the premises on which to build a stimulating research
environment with the consequent formation of a new generation of theorists in contact
with the international scientific community. The unique partnership between Polvani
and Gentile, rooted in a deep human, cultural and scientific affinity, immediately
resulted in an effective revitalizing impulse both for the Milan Institute of Physics
and for Gentile Jr.’s personal research path. Despite his brief passage in Milan—
barely five years before his premature death in 1942—Gentile planted a few seeds of
renewal that flourished after the war, contributing to the rebirth and revival of Italian
physics almost destroyed by Mussolini’s racial laws and the dramatic consequences
of the war.