List of Italian geniuses

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This is a list of notable Italian geniuses, presented in chronological order by date of birth.

  • Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), was a great student and dedicated his life to preaching, study, lecturing and writing. He wrote many commentaries which help our understanding of the Bible and great works which explain something about the unfathomable depths of the Christian faith. He was a genius.[1]
  • Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321), was a genius as a philologist, theologian, philosopher[2] and an amazingly gifted poet. Many scholars consider The Divine Comedy a summary of medieval thought. Critics have praised it not only as magnificent poetry, but also for its wisdom and scholarly learning.
  • Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446), was a polymath, with interests in painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, and engineering. He designed and supervised the raising of the dome over the Cathedral of Florence. Furthermore, his interest in mathematics led to his invention of linear perspective,[3] a mathematical system for showing depth on a flat surface. Giorgio Vasari says Brunelleschi was a man of such exalted genius, that "we may truly declare him to have been given to us by Heaven."[4]
  • Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472), has been designated the "first universal genius of the Renaissance period" by Jacob Burckhardt.[5] He was a writer, humanist, and architect. Through his theoretical writings on painting, sculpture, and architecture, he raised them from the level of the mechanical arts to that of the liberal arts. In his personality, works, and breadth of learning, Alberti is considered the prototype of the Renaissance "universal man."[6]
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), was one of the greatest painters and perhaps the most versatile genius in history.[7] A prodigy in childhood, he had become a polymath as an adult, handling philosophy and mathematics and a dozen other disciplines with easy familiarity. He designed machines and drew plans for hundreds of inventions. Because Leonardo excelled in such an amazing number of areas of human knowledge, he is often called "the universal genius par excellence"[8] or, as Helen Gardner says "The scope and depth of his interests were without precedent... His mind and personality seem to us superhuman."[9]
  • Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494), was as much a child prodigy as Michelangelo. In addition to being blessed with great genius,[10] a gift for languages,[11] and an insatiable curiosity, Pico was the scion of a wealthy family of princes. His Oration on the Dignity of Man is better known than any other philosophical text of the 15th century.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527), was a statesman, writer, patriot, and thinker of genius[12] whom many people consider the father of modern political science. Machiavelli explained most of his ideas in The Prince. It is probably the best-known work in political theory of all time.
  • Michelangelo (1475 – 1564), is generally recognized to be one of the greatest artists of all time, a universal genius[13] in all fields of visual creativity — sculpture, painting, and architecture — as well as a widely admired poet and letter writer. He was one of the most famous people of his time and a great leader of the Italian Renaissance.
  • Raphael (1483 – 1520), was one of the greatest and most influential painters of the Italian Renaissance. Together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael personifies the genius of the Renaissance.[14] His graceful figures and skillful compositions influenced artists up to the early 1900s. Raphael was also an architect.
  • Gerolamo Cardano (1501 – 1576), was an example of a Renaissance man, working in the fields medicine, philosophy, astronomy, geology, and theology. He was best known for his genius in mathematics,[15] especially for his invention of probability theory. He was also the first to algebraically solve the cubic equation.[16]
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 1594), was one of the greatest composers of the Italian Renaissance. For the Roman Catholic Church, Palestrina wrote about 250 unaccompanied choral works called motets, and 93 masses. Two of his most famous works are the mass called Missa Papae Marcelli and his setting of the Stabat Mater. "He has been described as the first composer of genius, and he certainly conceived music as a living art, and not as a branch of mathematics."[17]
  • Torquato Tasso (1544 – 1595), was a poet of the late Renaissance period. The musicality of his language and his mournful moods are considered unsurpassed. He was a mentally unstable genius[18] whose fame rests largely on two major works: his delightful pastoral drama, Aminta; and his great epic poem, Jerusalem Delivered.
  • Paolo Sarpi (1552 – 1623), was one of the most remarkable figures in Europe at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century. Astronomer, historian, mathematician, linguist, lawyer and theologian,[19] who has been called "The greatest genius of his age,"[20] Sarpi is well known to historians of the Reformation for his History of the Council of Trent, but is seldom mentioned in histories of science and medicine. Yet Galileo Galilei described him as "my father and my master"[20] and wrote of him "No man in Europe surpasses Master Paolo Sarpi in his knowledge of the science of mathematics."[20] He carried on an extensive correspondence with the "father of modern algebra" and famous cryptographer, François Viète, and the Scottish mathematician, Alexander Anderson and was called upon to revise their works.[20] He communicated with William Gilbert on the magnet,[20] advised and assisted Sanctorius in his work on the measurement of metabolism.[20] Sir Henry Wotton, the British Ambassador to Venice who knew Sarpi well, commented not only on his mathematical ability, but added that he was "so expert in the history of plants, as if he had never perused any book but nature";[20] and Robert Sanderson, Bishop of Lincoln, lamented to Isaak Walton his regret at not accompanying Sir Henry as chaplain for he lost the opportunity of meeting "one of the late miracles of general learning, prudence and modesty..."[20]
  • Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), scientist and philosopher. He was a "true Renaissance man, excelling at many different endeavors, including lute playing and painting."[21] By his investigation of natural laws he laid foundations for modern experimental science. In physics, Galileo discovered the properties of the pendulum, invented the thermometer, and formulated the laws that govern the motion of falling bodies. In astronomy, Galileo was the first to use the telescope to make observations of the moon, sun, planets, and stars. Of Galileo's genius, Fray Paolo Sarpi, a Venetian polymath, said, "God and nature have joined hands and created the intellect of Galileo."[22]
  • Tommaso Campanella (1568 – 1639), was a philosopher and writer who sought to reconcile Renaissance humanism with Roman Catholic theology. His best-known work is the utopian treatise The City of the Sun; but, in reality, his thought was extremely complex and engaged with all fields of learning.[23] Henry Hallam says "The strength of Campanella's genius lay in his imagination."[24]
  • Metastasio (1698 – 1782), was a poet and great theatrical genius of his time,[26] whose original name was Pietro Trapassi.[26] A prodigy at poetic improvisation, he became court poet at Vienna in 1729.[26] He wrote melodious lyric verse; a masque, Gli orti esperidi; and librettos of many operas, including Didone abbandonata, Artaserse, La clemenza di Tito, and Il re pastore. His melodrama Attilio Regolo is generally considered his masterpiece.
  • Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736 – 1813), has been described as "perhaps the greatest mathematical genius since Archimedes."[27] He wrote on algebra, calculus, and number theory. His most famous work, Analytical mechanics, is a purely algebraic study of forces and motions, including the orbits of planets, the flow of liquids, and the vibration of strings.
  • Vittorio Alfieri (1749 – 1803), was a playwright and poet. Through his lyrics and dramas he helped to revive the national spirit of Italy and so earned the title of precursor of the Risorgimento. His best works include Filippo (1775), Oreste (1786), and Mirra (1786). Alfieri wrote many poems, a treatise in defense of liberty, and a lively two-part Autobiography (1790, 1803). He was a genius.[28]
  • Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822), was the greatest genius[29] of the neoclassicist movement in sculpture. An admirer of Napoleon, Canova executed a bust of the emperor from life and several other portraits, including two where Napoleon is represented nude in the guise of a Roman emperor. Canova's greatness lies in his ability to fill these forms from another time with a distinct grace and vitality. His ability to carve pure white Italian marble has seldom been equaled.
  • Giacomo Leopardi (1798 – 1837), Italy's first and greatest modern poet, was also an essayist, philosopher, and philologist. He was sickly and physically deformed, and felt lonely and unloved despite the brilliance of his career. Leopardi's genius,[31] his frustrated hopes, and his pain found their best outlet in his poetry, which is admired for its brilliance, intensity, and effortless musicality. Leopardi's verse collections include Idylls (1825) and Songs (1836). His other important work is Le operette morali (Moral Essays, 1824-1832).
  • Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923), was a sociologist and economist known chiefly for his theories on political behavior. Pareto also developed new ways to apply mathematics to economic problems. He has been described as "A man of genius, of the Latin, or better, of the classical, genius, for his thought turned back to Athens more willingly than to Rome."[33]
  • Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952), was a physician and professor of anthropology, used her genius[34] for observing children as they naturally learn. Her educational approach became known as the Montessori method. Montessori schools exist worldwide.
  • Guglielmo Marconi (1874 – 1937), was a genius physicist[35] who designed and constructed the first wireless telegraph,[35] or radio. For this work he received a Nobel Prize.
  • Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954), has been called "the last universal physicist in the tradition of the great men of the 19th century," and "the last person who knew all of the physics of his day."[36] In 1942, he built the world's first nuclear reactor and produced the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. At Los Alamos, Fermi worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938.
  • Ettore Majorana (1906 – 1938), was the youngest child prodigy of all time. At the age of four he could multiply two three-digit numbers and get correct result in seconds.[37][38] In time he became one of the greatest physicists of the first half of the last century. Enrico Fermi himself had so good an opinion of Majorana that, in a private conversation, he referred to him as a real genius at the same level as Galilei and Newton,[39] such that he could most probably have been, if he only had had a longer life to dedicate to physics.

See also



  1. Fox, Matthew. Christian Mystics: 376 Readings and Meditations. New World Library, 2011. p. 377. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  2. Jayapalan, N. Comprehensive History of Political Thought. Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2001. p. 63. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  3. Lindberg, David C. Theories of Vision from Al-kindi to Kepler. University of Chicago Press, 1981. p. 148. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  4. Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors, and architects. H.G. Bohn, 1850. p. 414. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  5. Davis, Thomas J. This Is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought. Baker Academic, 2008. p. 178. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  6. Leon Battista Alberti. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2014. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  7. Jacobsen, Aaron H. Leonardo da Vinci. Web. 03 Jan. 2014.
  8. Breverton, Terry. Breverton's Encyclopedia of Inventions: A Compendium of Technological Leaps, Groundbreaking Discoveries and Scientific Breakthroughs that Changed the World. Quercus, 2012. p. 62. Web. 03 Jan. 2014.
  9. Croix, Horst de la ; Tansey, Richard G. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. New York: Harcourt, Brace 84 World, Inc., 1970. pp. 450–451. Web. 03 Jan. 2014.
  10. More, Thomas. The Life of Pico. Scepter Publishers, 2010. p. 8. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  11. Pico could speak 22 languages at the age of 18.
    The Ladies' Repository. J.F. Wright and L. Swormstedt, 1868. p. 219. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  12. Sills, David L. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. MacMillan, 1968. p. 510. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
    "Although few would deny Machiavelli a foremost place among Western political thinkers... for centuries he has been vilified as devil's disciple and despots' tutor. More favorable appraisals have appeared in recent years: he is being discovered as the first political scientist, the first modern political theorist, or the first liberal. ...Bodin, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Hegel all recognized Machiavelli's genius."
  13. Néret, Gilles. Michelangelo 1475-1564: Universal Genius of the Renaissance. Taschen Benedikt Verlag Gmbh., 2010. Pages 96. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  14. Southwestern Company. Student handbook. Southwestern Co., 2005. p. 535. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
    The High Renaissance is a name given to a brief period (c. 1500-20) during which the ideals of the Renaissance are thought to have been given most complete expression in art. Towering over this period are three figures: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Their contemporaries regarded them with awe, and together they created the idea of the artist as an inspired genius rather than merely a skilled artisan. Subsequent generations thought they had brought art to a peak of balance and grace that could hardly be surpassed, and their work remained touchstones for centuries." [...]
  15. Smith, David Eugene. History of Mathematics. Courier Dover Publications, 1958. pp. 295-297. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  16. Dunham, William. Journey through genius: the great theorems of mathematics. Penguin Books, 1991. pp. 133-154. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  17. Pyne, Zoe Kendrick. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, his life and times. Books for Libraries Press, 1970. p. 21. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  18. Tasso, Torquato (1544–1595) - Biography, critical reception. Online 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  19. Wilson, Charles. The Transformation of Europe, 1558-1648. University of California Press, 1976. p. 195. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 Robertson, Alexander. Fra Paolo Sarpi, the Greatest of the Venetians. 1911. Reprint. Hong Kong: Forgotten Books, 2013. Print. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  21. Weisstein, Eric W. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). ScienceWorld - Wolfram Research. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  22. Porter, Neil A. Physicists in Conflict: From Antiquity to the New Millennium. CRC Press, 1998. p. 39. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  23. Tommaso Campanella. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005. Web. 05 Jan. 2014.
  24. Hallam, Henry. Introduction to the Literature of Europe: In the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. J. Murray, 1839. p. 146. Web. 05 Jan. 2014.
  25. Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Titans of History. Quercus, 2012. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Symonds, John Addington. Metastasio. 1902 Encyclopedia (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th and 10th Editions). Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  27. Ekeland, Ivar. The Best of All Possible Worlds: Mathematics and Destiny. University of Chicago Press, 2007. p. 81. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.
  28. Illustrations of the passion of love; bring a collection of anecdotes memoirs and curious traditions. Hunt & Clarke, 1829. p. 67. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
  29. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. p. 236. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  30. Matz, Carol ; Johnson, Bernadine. A night at the Opera: Stories of Great Operas with Early Intermediate to Intermediate Piano Arrangements. Alfred Music Publishing, 2005. p. 52. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  31. Giacomo Leopardi. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2014. Web. 04 Jan. 2014.
  32. Fisher, Burton D. A History of Opera: Milestones and Metamorphoses. Opera Journeys Publishing, 2005. p. 301. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  33. Wood, John Cunningham ; McLure, Michael. Vilfredo Pareto: Critical Assessments of Leading Economists. Taylor & Francis, 1999. p. 82. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.
  34. Lillard, Angeline Stoll. Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Oxford University Press, 2005. Pages 404. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Prochnow, Herbert Victor. Great stories from great lives: a gallery of portraits from famous biographies. Harper & Bros., 1944. p. 147. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
    "Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), inventor, electrical engineer, and winner of the Nobel prize for physics, was the first to perfect the devices used in space telegraphy. To his genius is due the great scientific triumph of wireless telegraphy. Orrin [Elmer] Dunlap states that he gives us the exciting story of how the first wireless signal was flashed across the Atlantic sky, because 'it is not only unforgettable, but one of the great climaxes in the history of wireless, and in Marconi's life'." [...]
  36. Holton, Gerald James. The Scientific Imagination: Case Studies. CUP Archive, 1978. p. 157. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
  37. Bergmann, Peter G. ; De Sabbata, Venzo. Advances in the Interplay Between Quantum and Gravity Physics. Springer, 2002. p. 436. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  38. Amaldi, Edoardo. 20th Century Physics: Essays and Recollections: a Selection of Historical Writings. World Scientific, 1998. p. 30. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
  39. The Michigan Alumnus. UM Libraries, 1991. p. 23. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.
    "In the world there are various categories of scientists," he remarked. "Persons of the second and third rank, who improve themselves but who do not go very far. Persons of the first rank, who arrive at a discovery of great importance, fundamental to the development of science. Then there are the geniuses, like Galileo and Newton. Well, Ettore Majorana was one of these."