The Decision. Edoardo Amaldi and science without borders

February 13, Thursday - 18:00 Room HG E 1.1

ETH Zurich Rämistrasse 101, 8092 Zürich


The Decision. Edoardo Amaldi and science without borders

Directed by Enrico Agapito

Written by Adele La Rana

Historical and scientific advisors: Giovanni Battimelli and Adele La Rana

After its successful screening at CERN last December, the docufilm recounting the life of the physicist Edoardo Amaldi arrives in Zurich. Close collaborator of Enrico Fermi in Rome in the 30s, Amaldi became a key figure in rebuilding Italian and European science after WWII: founding father of CERN and of ESA, pioneer in the search for gravitational waves, active supporter of nuclear desarmament.

Prof. Ugo Amaldi and the physics historian Adele La Rana, author of the docufilm, will chair the event. A buffet offered by the Italian Cultural Institute in Zurich will follow.

The initiative is coordinated by ZIGSS (Zurich Italian Graduate Student Society).

Duration of the docufilm: 64 min


The docufilm describes Amaldi’s life through many original interviews, archive repertoires and specially created historical reconstructions. It took over three years of work to collect around 30 illustrious interviews (for a total of over 30 hours of oral history) and a thorough study of archival materials, which are partly unpublished.

The actions of Edoardo Amaldi (1908-1989), his vision of international scientific cooperation and his extraordinary far-sightedness marked the most important events in the development of Italian and European scientific institutions from the post-war period until the eighties. During the period of post-war reconstruction, he had a leading role in the establishment of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics and the first National Laboratories in Italy. At the international level, his contribution was decisive in the foundation of CERN, the great European laboratory for elementary particle physics - of which he was the first General Secretary - and in the design of ESA, the European Space Agency, institutions that constitute today the greatest monuments to Amaldi's work, according to the words of Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia. Starting from Amaldi’s education as a young scientist, in the group directed by Enrico Fermi at the Royal Physics Institute of via Panisperna in Rome, the documentary film ranges from the years of birth of nuclear physics up to the post-war research on cosmic rays and to the following promotion of pioneering experimental activities, such as the search for gravitational waves. In parallel with his scientific activity, the docufilm describes how Edoardo Amaldi matured his sense of civil responsibility and his Europeanism during the dramatic period of World War II, becoming afterwards a statesman of science who put all his effort in promoting scientific cooperation among European countries and the peaceful use of nuclear physics. First Italian to participate in the Pugwash Movement, in 1962 he gave birth together with his young colleague Carlo Schaerf to the first international school devoted to nuclear disarmament topics: ISODARCO. Edoardo's ability in looking at the far future, his Europeanism and his civil committment, against any personal interest, are today more than ever a concrete example of how the will and clarity of intent can give good and lasting fruits, a precious message of optimism especially for young people who approach scientific, social and political studies.

The documentary is a production of Enrico Agapito Realizzazioni AudioVisive, co-financed by Zanichelli publishing house and TERA Foundation, accomplished with the support of the INFN (Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics), the contribution of the Department of Physics - Sapienza University of Rome, the patronage of the Edoardo Amaldi Foundation - ASI (Italian Space Agency) and Hypatia Consortium, and of the Italian Society for the History of Physics and Astronomy.