Le lettere di Felice Giordano a Quintino Sella. Parte seconda (7.1859-3.5.1875) - The Correspondence between Felice Giordano and Quintino Sella. Second Part (7.1859-3.5.1875)

  • Giorgio Vittorio Dal Piaz
  • Roberto Scoth
Parole chiave: Felice Giordano, Quintino Sella, Correspondence, Royal Corps of Mines and Geological Service, Mountaineering, Journey around the world


Felice Giordano (1825-1892), a piedmontese hydraulic engineer and mining specialist, was a fellow student and a faithful friend of Quintino Sella (1827-1884), both graduated at the University of Turin, upgraded at the École des Mines in Paris and were then recruited by the Royal Corps of Mines of the Sardinia Kingdom. Giordano's life, free of family ties, was devoted full time to institutions, field research, mountaineering and adventure, with a view to implementing the projects and requests of Quintino unable to share field work, burdened as he was by his high political and ministerial role. The correspondence sent by Felice Giordano to Quintino Sella covers a period of 37 years, from 1847 to 1884. A first group of 81 letters have been transcribed, commented and published within a project promoted by the History Studies Center of the University of Turin, mainly referring to Giordano’s stay in Sardinia as director of the local mining district. Back to Turin and promoted to chief engineer, Giordano was in charge of the Inspectorate of the Italian Royal Corps of Mines, first in Turin until 1868, then in Florence, the temporary capital, and from 1871 definitively in Rome, where he subsequently became director of the Geological Survey: the newly founded Servizio Geologico d’Italia” aimed at creaing the geological map of Italy, the “great enterprise” conceived by Quintino Sella. The present study deals with a second group of 71 letters exchanged by Giordano and Sella between 1859 and 1875. These letters besides attesting the strong friendship that bound Felice and Quintino, not only in the professional field, but also in the sphere of personal events and affections, deal with two main themes: i) the onerous duties of office, carried out either at headquarters or with frequent missions to evaluate the mining and industrial activities of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, from the Alps to Sicily, and to point out functions, problems and needs of the Royal Corps of Mines; ii) the mountaineering feats, from the ascent of Mont Blanc (1864) to the lost competition for the conquest of the Matterhorn (1865), followed by an epic assault failed due to bad weather (1866), up to the “revenge” of the personal ascent (1868) performed with the main objective of describing step-bystep the geology of the Gran Becca. The last five letters refer to the adventurous journey around the world that Giordano made from 1872 to 1876 on confidential assignment to explore the ‘Far East’ and to look for suitable places to establish penitential colonies and activate new commercial relationships, concluding with a negative evaluation. These amazing activities were always carried out with strictness, the technical competence of the engineer-geologist, the curiosity of the scientist and the spirit of service that distinguished his entire life. All that with his unassuming way – belittling his successes – that Quintino friendly reproached.

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