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Building the New Man

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Francesco Cassata

Chapter VI. Toward a new Eugenics

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  • 1 Giuseppe Montalenti and Alberto Chiarugi, eds., Atti del IX Congresso internazionale di genetica. (...)

1From 24 to 31 August 1953, the 9th International Congress of Genetics was held in Bellagio, on the banks of Lake Como. Some of the most important names of the discipline were present among the 863 participants, including Haldane, Penrose, Dobzhansky and Darlington. At the end of the Congress, two excursions offered participants the chance for an Italian summer trip: the first comprised visits to the scientific institutes and “main monuments” of Pavia, Milan, Bologna, Arezzo, Rome and Naples; the other, shorter trip visited the Gran Paradiso National Park, as well as Pavia, Milan and Turin.1

  • 2 Montalenti and Chiarugi, eds., Atti del IX Congresso internazionale di genetica 1, 1265–98
  • 3 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, ed., Symposium on Genetics of Population Structure. Pavia, Italy, August (...)

2Following this, a national symposium of genetics applied to zootechnics was held in Turin on 3 September 1953. This congress was organized by the Observatory of animal genetics founded three years previously by the Turin Chamber of Commerce, the Province and the Valle d’Aosta Region.2 Prior to this, Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, taking advantage of the presence of so many illustrious colleagues, on behalf of the Union internationale des sciences biologiques, organized another symposium on population genetics, with the participation of, among others, Dobzhansky, Fisher, Haldane, Mather, Mayr and Waddington.3

  • 4 Giuseppe Montalenti (1904–1990) studied with Grassi in Rome, as an internal student in the Laborat (...)

3In many ways the Bellagio Congress represented the expression and the product of the development which had occurred in Italian genetics from the second half of the 1940s. In fact, in March 1947, a Study Center for Genetic Cytology was established at the Italian National Research Council (CNR), under the direction of Giuseppe Montalenti, member of CNR’s National Consultancy Committee for Biology and Medicine (Comitato nazionale di consulenza per la biologia e la medicina), and the first professor of genetics in Italy.4

  • 5 Carlo Jucci (1897–1962) graduated in natural sciences in Rome in 1920, spending time in Giovan Bat (...)
  • 6 Student of Cesare Artom in Pavia, Claudio Barigozzi (1909–1996) from the start of the thirties stu (...)
  • 7 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso was born in Milan, the younger brother of the writer Dino Buzzati. In 193 (...)

4A few days later, on 25 March, a convention between CNR and the University of Pavia christened the birth of a Study Center for Genetics at the University Institute of Zoology and Genetics, directed by Carlo Jucci.5 Finally, in July 1947, at the Botanical Institute of the University of Pisa, a Study Center for Plant Cytogenetics was inaugurated, presided over by Alberto Chiarugi, while in December 1948 a Study Center for Biophysics began activities, at the Institute of Hydrobiology “Marco De Marchi,” in Verbania-Pallanza. 1948 was also the year in which two professorships of genetics were created, won by Claudio Barigozzi in Milan,6 and by Adriano Buzzati-Traverso in Pavia.7

5In this climate of rapid development of Italian genetics, eugenics went through a sort of no-man’s-land, particularly in the 1950s, in which tensions and oppositions were articulated on different levels. These various conflictual dynamics could be summarized as follows:

  1. institutional and academic conflict: between SIGE’s statisticians-demographers and the geneticists, who formed a new association (AGI) in 1953; and between the latter and physicians, who in their turn formed the Italian Society of Medical Genetics (Società italiana di genetica medica) in 1951;
  2. political conflict: between mainline, neo-fascist and racist eugenics (SIGE) and reform/new anti-fascist and anti-racist eugenics;
  3. ideological conflict: between catholic, familist and natalist eugenics, and secular, birth control-oriented eugenics.
  • 8 Diane B. Paul, The Politics of Heredity. Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature–Nurture D (...)

6In such a gladatorial context, in the 1950s and 1960s, the debate over so-called genetic counseling seemed to play a unifying role. In fact, applied medical genetics was generally presented as a sort of extension of “eugenics.” Genetic counseling was conceived as a worthy and modern form of eugenics, “even if its aim was relief of individual suffering rather than changes in differential birthrate or improvements in the genetic pool, and its means—provision of information to those who asked for it—were wholly voluntary.”8

1. SIGE Schisms: Genetics against Eugenics

  • 9 Giuseppe Montalenti, “L’VIII Congresso internazionale di Genetica (Stoccolma, 7–14 luglio 1948),” (...)

7In 1938, the Third congress of SIGE, presided over by Corrado Gini since 1924, included the participation—in the section dedicated to human genetics—of biologists Montalenti, Barigozzi and Buzzati-Traverso. Ten years later, in 1948, it was again Gini who led the Italian delegation at the 8th International Congress of Genetics in Stockholm, and who read, as representative, the communication that accepted the invite to host the next congress in Italy.9

  • 10 In the documents, the Provisory Committee was also defined as a Provisory Commission.
  • 11 On this trial, see: Francesco Cassata, “Cronaca di un’epurazione mancata (luglio 1944–dicembre 194 (...)

8It is not surprising therefore, that in January 1949, it was the General assembly of SIGE who nominated the Provisory committee10 to organize the Italian congress. A few months after the Swedish congress, Corrado Gini had resumed his role as Dean of the Faculty of Statistical, Demographic and Actuarial Sciences at the University of Rome, after having risked suspension from service during the post-fascist purging.11 Having regained his academic power, Gini began once again to draw together the threads of SIGE, which had almost vanished after the end of the war. On 31 December 1948, Gini sent a letter with five attachments to all the members of SIGE. At the heart of the document was the intention to reactivate the organization, recognizing the increasing specialization of genetics with respect to eugenics:

  • 12 Corrado Gini to members, 31 December 1948, Montalenti Papers (hereafter AM), b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

The President of the Italian Society of Genetics and Eugenics, now that the conditions of Italian academic and scientific life have assumed approximate normality, is about to reanimate the Society, which in the inauspicious wartime and post-war period was forcedly inactive.
His first act has been to contact the previous members and to find new supporters. To that end, he is approaching people who seem particularly suited to be part of the Society. […] As the number of new and old members is by now around a hundred, it seems opportune to proceed immediately to the reorganization of the Society, making it more fitted to the times and responding to the growing number of members, as well as to the specializations of the discipline of genetics on one hand, and eugenics on the other.12

9In view of an assembly of members, to be held on 15 January 1949, the attachments to the president’s letter aimed at the rapid resolution of several organizational questions that were still unclear. First of all, “members” would be defined as all those who, upon the invitation of SIGE, paid the annual society fee of 500 lire before 10 January 1949. Second, the members were asked to approve a new statute, with essentially two characteristics. Article 2 sanctioned the constitution of two “special sections” to distinguish between the spheres of genetics and eugenics within SIGE. The general frame of reference however remained that of racial eugenics, as seen in article I:

  • 13 Gini to members, 31 December 1948, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

The aim of the Italian Society of Genetics and Eugenics (SIGE) is to promote and support the studies, research and initiatives that seek to grow and perfect the knowledge of the laws of heredity and the improvement of the races, with particular attention to the human races.13

10The modified statute also consolidated the markedly presidential structure, above all concerning the positions of leadership and the organizational activities. This can be seen in the following articles:

  • 14 Gini to members, 31 December 1948, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

V. The president administers the society and provides for the inscription of new members. He has the capacity to constitute the committees of article II; and, on standard request by at least 10 members, the special sections of the same article. Every section or committee will have its own president and can have its own secretary;
VI. […] The vice secretary general and the treasurer are nominated by the president of the society, assisted by the office of the president.
The secretaries of the sections are nominated by the president of the society in accordance with the presidents of the respective sections […].
VII. The president calls the ordinary and special meetings of the society, seeking to schedule them concordantly with the meetings of the Italian Society for the Progress of Sciences. […]
VIII. The president organizes the national congresses called by the society, presides over them, and oversees the publication of the minutes.
IX. In governing the Society, the president is assisted by the office of the president.
Ex-presidents and ex-vice-presidents of the society, the presidents of the committees, the vice-secretary general, the treasurer and the secretaries of sections can be invited to the office of the president, in an advisory capacity.14

  • 15 Alfieri, Argenti, Armanini, Barberi, Barison, Benini, Bisceglie, Buonomini, Cattaneo, Caranti, Cas (...)
  • 16 Baldi, Bambacioni Mezzetti, Barajon, Barigozzi, Baschini Salvadori, Battaglia, Battistin, Beer, Be (...)

11The revised statute was accompanied by a questionnaire, which represented the basis of an internal referendum by SIGE on several aspects of general relevance. In particular: the approval of two distinct sections of genetics and eugenics; the declaration of membership of one or the other, or both, sections; the assignation of a secretary to both sections; eventual useful proposals for the organization of the 9th International Congress of Genetics in Italy (partners, contributions to expenses, etc.). A voting card followed, for the election of the president, vice-president and secretary general (already indicated in the respective persons of Corrado Gini, Ottavio Munerati—director of the sugar-beet Experimental Station in Rovigo—and Carlo Jucci) and for the nomination of three proposals for the presidency of the genetic and eugenics sections. A final attachment contained the list, in alphabetical order, of SIGE members as of 31 December 1948: a total of 99 names, of whom 52 were in the eugenics section15 and 47 in the genetics section.16

  • 17 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso and Claudio Barigozzi to Giuseppe Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, (...)

12Gini’s convocation, in strict continuity with the past, immediately aroused the opposition of the principal exponents of budding Italian genetics, particularly Adriano Buzzati-Traverso and Claudio Barigozzi. The nature of the clash was clearly expressed in a letter of 1 January 1949 sent by Buzzati-Traverso to Montalenti and also signed by Barigozzi.17 By hand, above the date, Buzzati-Traverso added these few, ironic accompanying lines:

  • 18 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

Dear Monti [Montalenti], before receiving your letter of the 30th, following that circular from the unmentionable one [Gini], I wrote this epic, with the intention of sending it to you, Barigozzi and Jucci. Bari [Barigozzi], as you see, has approved it. For the “strange man” [ Jucci] it is difficult to make predictions.
Read it and think about it. If you share the proposals, or if you have some modifications, let me know urgently, so that we can communicate the proposals and the lack of intention to participate in the statistician’s assembly, and inform those members who are friends of genetics before 12 January.18

13The main point of the document, underlined by Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi, was represented, in first place, by the necessity of abandoning any reference to eugenics:

  • 19 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

In its title, the society contains the two expressions of Genetics and Eugenics; this has a historical justification, insofar as the foundation of the society dates back to times in which eugenics was the more widely used term and was appreciated in a way it is not today, while genetics—at least in Italy—had not yet reached the same broad significance with which it is used in various languages. It is highly doubtful that today the two expressions can be used side by side. It is above all certain that, while the term eugenics is falling into disuse, the term genetics corresponds, with unanimous consensus, to a dominion of experimental and exact research that is identified with the most vital and functional part of current biological thinking.
There is little relevance in conserving a title for traditional reasons, if the structure and the style of the society becomes shaped by this situation. But, in the communication that we have received, there are several points which lead to the conclusion that new conditions have not been considered in the form planned for the functioning of the re-established society.19

14Another critical remark concerned the form adopted by Gini for the reactivation of SIGE: a hasty assembly, in which the members had only twelve days at their disposal for deciding on fundamental questions regarding the nature and scope of the association. This inexplicable haste risked excluding new members from SIGE who would better represent Italian genetics.

15Regarding this, Buzzati-Traverso listed several “facts,” dating from 1947 and 1948, which the new post-war SIGE could not ignore:

  • 20 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

1) The creation and coverage of two new university professorships for Genetics: Milan and Pavia, added to the existing chair in Naples; 2) the development of four Centers of Research of the National Council of Research for experimental activities in the field of genetics. These two facts demonstrate also in an official form that today in Italy an active nucleus of experimental geneticists exists, which can worthily represent our nation on an international level and which must be congruently represented in the heart of a society of genetics, and cooperate and guide the activities; 3) our Delegation to Stockholm has proposed that the next International Congress be held in Italy.20

16The designation of Italy as the seat of the next International Congress of Genetics decided in Stockholm in 1948, placed SIGE in a position of responsibility to the international scientific community and therefore did not allow a simple maintenance of the status quo:

  • 21 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

A very serious responsibility hangs over Italian geneticists and the institution that has assumed the role of representing and coordinating them, for the obvious reasons of prestige and to demonstrate the level and dignity that these studies and their environment have reached among us. This role must not be underestimated: transactions, compromises and accommodations that might be accepted—for lack of anything better—in our own home, could be severely judged on an international level, and must therefore be avoided.21

17In addition to these general considerations, Buzzati-Traverso added some accurate observations regarding the new SIGE statute proposed by Gini. Essentially he remarked on four defects: the draft, subjected to the vote of the members, gave excessive power to the president, conceding him the faculty of organizing congresses and deciding the admission of new members; it “armor-plated” the role of president, vice-president, section presidents and secretary general, by presenting just one name for each; it limited the elections to the meager number of old members, automatically excluding “a quite broad crowd of young experimental geneticists who certainly have the right to have their say”; and finally, it centralized the organization in Rome, without taking into account the “geographic distribution of genetic activities in Italy” concentrated prevalently in the north of the country.

18On the basis of the fundamental and formal problems pointed out, Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi proposed, first, that the convocation of the SIGE assembly be delayed to a commonly agreed upon date. Secondly, they suggested radical reforms to the SIGE statute: admission of new members before the voting; inclusion in the office of the president of the presidents of committees, the vice-secretary general, the treasurer and secretaries of the sections, with deliberative vote; ordinary and special meetings of the society and the sections; proposals from the outgoing office of the president of three names for each leadership position. The evident key to the revision of the statute was the strong restructuring of the role of the president in the name of a greater “democratization” of the society:

  • 22 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

The modification of the statute and an eventual internal regulation should occur in one of the following ways: a) the character of the society could be transformed from “presidential” to “parliamentary,” so that the president has a less prevalent function in the activities of the society, favoring the presidents of the sections and relative secretaries; in particular, the organizational activities of the International Congress of Genetics would be devolved to the president of the genetic section; or b) the “presidential” character could be maintained, but, in view of the Congress, the role of president must be given to a professional geneticist, who, above all on an international level, can more specifically represent Italian genetics.22

19Therefore, just a few days from the general assembly that was to have signaled the return of SIGE to the public scene, an internal fracture had occurred, as much scientific as it was ideological-political. On one side, the statisticians and demographers gathered around the figure of Corrado Gini and the University of Rome, compromised by their past commitment to fascist eugenics and supporters of a line of substantial continuity; on the other side was the “Lombardy” group, guided principally by Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi, expression of emerging Italian genetics, wanting to eliminate the eugenic past.

20The scission, which seemed imminent, was avoided due to mediation by Giuseppe Montalenti, whose strategy was founded on the following objectives: maintain the unity of SIGE under Gini’s presidency; give internal autonomy to the genetics section; and remove the organization of the future International Congress of Genetics from Gini’s control.

  • 23 Gini to members, 23 February 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

21Although Adriano Buzzati-Traverso refused to recognize the validity of the voting, nevertheless the general assembly on 15 January 1949 represented the success of Montalenti’s moderate line. Approving the draft proposed by Gini, the assembly elected the president (Gini), vice-president (Munerati), secretary general (Jucci), president of the genetics section (Montalenti) and eugenics (L’Eltore).23 As for the organization of the International Congress of Genetics, Montalenti successfully promoted the constitution of a provisory committee, presided over not by Gini, but by Alessandro Ghigi.

22It was Montalenti who informed Ghigi, clearly disclosing the meaning of his own mediation:

  • 24 Giuseppe Montalenti to Alessandro Ghigi, 19 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

After many discussions and objections on the part of the Lombardy geneticists, my criteria has prevailed, which was, to not schism and create another society on our account, but to group ourselves within the existing one, and bite the bullet of Gini’s presidency, at least for three years.
You have received the relative documents. We then reserve for the genetics section, which has been entrusted to me as president, the right to move with a certain autonomy.
[...] To avoid individual uncoordinated actions (such as have already been done, for example, by Jucci) regarding the international congress, it seemed necessary and urgent to me that the society nominate a provisory committee to take care of this important problem. The recent general assembly of members held in Rome on 15 January have accepted my proposal for the committee, and that is, to offer the presidency to you. I feel that this is a deserved homage to you on the part of Italian geneticists, and I am also certain that you are the most appropriate and able person for this important undertaking. [...]
I warmly urge you to accept this title. We did not propose you for the presidency of SIGE, as we had wished, for diplomatic reasons... In this moment it seemed important to revive the society as soon as possible, without creating a fracture, saving different options for a future election.24

23But the clash was merely delayed by a few months. A new casus belli occurred in April–May 1949, apparently deriving from a banal misunderstanding—an overlap between the date of the general meeting of SIGE and that of the genetics section. Between the lines however, it was possible to clearly read the incompatibility between Gini’s centralizing strategy and the system of autonomy pursued by Montalenti for his genetics section.

  • 25 Gini to members, 4 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

24At the beginning of April, a circular from Gini to the members announced the first scientific meeting of SIGE, to be held in June in Milan, on the occasion of the Congress of Experimental Biology.25 In the meantime, Montalenti and Buzzati-Traverso were organizing a meeting of the genetics section. On 21 April, in a letter to Gini, Claudio Barigozzi, charged with organizing SIGE’s scientific meeting, fixed the date of the genetics section’s meeting for 9 June. On 23 April, in a letter to Buzzati-Traverso, Montalenti already suggested the danger of an overlap, although he wasn’t concerned:

  • 26 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 23 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

It would be good to issue the invitations for the meeting in Milan, in agreement with Bari [Barigozzi], with whom I had a brief telephone conversation in Milan, so that people can prepare their presentations. With Bari, I’ve agreed that it would be good to open the meeting with a presentation, and I entrust this work to you, on a theme of your choice. I hope you accept. The moment you let me know, I will inform the president. Meanwhile, you tell Jucci, who I suppose will not object.
The problem is that, as I see from the circular from our president, the meeting in Milan will not be only of our section, but all of SIGE. However, given that we are more numerous, I don’t think it is worth opposing this.26

25On the same day, Montalenti officially named Buzzati-Traverso the secretary of the genetics section:

  • 27 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 23 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

I would be grateful to you if you would take on the job of secretary for our section. I am sure of your acceptance, and ask you to communicate the composition of the advisory board of the society to our sister societies in other countries, and in particular to the English Genetical [sic] Society, telling them to address correspondence to you or me, so that we can stay in contact.27

  • 28 Gini to Barigozzi, 5 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

26Several days later, Montalenti as president and Buzzati-Traverso as secretary sent a circular that called a meeting of the genetics section in Milan, on 9 June, and invited the members to send the title of their presentations to Barigozzi. On 5 May 1949, Gini wrote to Barigozzi fixing the meeting of SIGE for 7 June, and trusted in the “active participation of the northern geneticists.”28 The fuse was lit. Barigozzi, alarmed, called on Montalenti:

  • 29 Barigozzi to Montalenti, 18 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

I have received this amazing letter from Gini: I send it to you urgently, in order for you to respond. I will not respond to Gini, because I would more or less say: take it up with Montalenti.
It is obvious that a response of this type could create an unpleasant situation between the two of you. You probably have the possibility of diplomatically sorting things out.29

27Giovanni L’Eltore, president of the eugenics section, and Giuseppe Pompilj sent two incendiary letters to Barigozzi (with a copy to Gini, Jucci and Montalenti), crying conspiracy and sabotage. L’Eltore, on 16 May, declared:

  • 30 Giovanni L’Eltore to Claudio Barigozzi, with a copy to Giuseppe Montalenti, Corrado Gini and Carlo (...)

In consequence of this complex of facts that, I confess, I find very unpleasant, I must categorically protest against the methods followed, reserving the right to take this question to the office of the president, and eventually to the assembly, or, should it be the case, some other forum; I personally recognize, beyond the lack of regard for the president and the members, the manifest purpose of sabotaging the functioning of the society and damaging the good relationships between its members.30

28Pompilj reacted, on 19 May, in an even more dramatic tone:

  • 31 Giuseppe Pompilj to Claudio Barigozzi, with a copy to Giuseppe Montalenti, Giovanni L’Eltore, Corr (...)

I discovered in passing that the next 10 June [sic] in Milan a scientific meeting of only the genetics section of SIGE will be held, which, it seems, will substitute that of the whole society, decided on in our last general assembly and preannounced for early June in a circular from the president.
It was my intention to take part in this meeting [...]. Naturally now I no longer see fit to participate given that, by mysterious mutation, the scientific meeting of SIGE has been transformed into a meeting of only the genetics section, and not even all of this section, seeing that I have not received any notice, despite having requested a membership of both the genetics and eugenics sections. I write to you, distinguished Professor, because I see something very serious in these facts, that so strongly involve the general interests of science, and therefore, of our society.31

29In commenting on the last phrase, underlined, Montalenti added in pencil, ironically, “BAM!!” In the following lines, Pompilj interpreted the entire occurrence as the fruit of a clash between the geneticists, on one hand, and the statisticians and mathematicians, on the other:

  • 32 Pompilj to Barigozzi, 19 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

It is with painful surprise that I have to recognize in this small episode an evident attitude of hostility, if not even of provocation, of the biological geneticists toward the statisticians and mathematicians, whose work deals with the analysis and interpretation of data.
As collaboration between different categories of scholars is always fertile, with substantial results for Science, it is therefore desirable, and in the case of genetics such collaboration is indispensable, as the modern development of this science has proved. Why then do you wish to refuse such collaboration? [...] To this can be added that, on principle, I see this accentuation of the distinction between the two sections of genetics and eugenics as inopportune, all the more because, as things stand today, everything seems to me reduced to the distinction between genetics of the Drosophila and human genetics!32

30Montalenti replied to L’Eltore on 20 May 1949, rejecting the accusation of sabotage and emphasizing, on the contrary, his extensive mediation:

  • 33 Montalenti to L’Eltore, with a copy to Gini, Jucci and Barigozzi, 20 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf (...)

In judging the functioning of the society in the years between Liberation and the meeting of 15 January 1949, which I personally insisted on with Prof. Gini, you could not say that this functioning that we intended to sabotage has been very active.
Prof. Gini can bear witness to all my actions and efforts to reconstruct SIGE, so that it works, and to conciliate the opposing currents represented by those who wanted the society governed by professional geneticists and those that wished to continue the direction prevalently by statisticians, demographers and eugenicists. I worked in this way both out of deference to Prof. Gini, and in order to not divide our forces.33

31According to Montalenti, Gini was informed of the date of the meeting of the genetics section as early as February. It was therefore up to the president to fix the date of the scientific meeting of SIGE, pre-announced in the 4 April circular.

32Montalenti evidently had only just been informed about this development. On 8 June, he in fact wrote to Gini:

  • 34 Montalenti to Gini, 21 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

I received, from Barigozzi, in a letter dated 18 May, your letter to him dated 5 May, in which you propose a general meeting of SIGE the 7th of June.
This date is notably inconvenient because the Society for Experimental Biology will begin its meeting on the 8th and the major part of the members can not arrive in Milan a day earlier, without adding that the Milanese will be very busy with the preparations for the assembly of the next day.
Therefore, I believe it most opportune that the SIGE general meeting be held on the 8th, or the 10th or 11th, with the meeting of the genetics section on the 9th. Eventually, if the 9th is better, we could also hold the general meeting on the 9th and delay the genetics section’s to the 10th.34

33On 28 May, Corrado Gini answered Montalenti, in a lengthy letter that assumed the shape of a declaration of war. The attempt to find an agreement on the date was radically rejected:

  • 35 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

As for the date of the meeting (and I speak of the general meeting) I do not understand how you can propose the 10th or 11th when you already know that many from here will be busy in Rome on those days, or even the 8th, on which date the biology colleagues are evidently attending their congress, and even if they were interested in our meeting, could not participate, whilst many of our members may desire to assist in the work of the biology congress.35

34Leaving aside the calendar, the heart of the question was another entirely, and regarded the possible autonomy of the genetics section from the rest of SIGE:

  • 36 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8 [italics in the original].

Above all, I do not understand how you feel that there could be two distinct meetings, one of the entire society, and one of the genetics section. Evidently, if we hold a general meeting of the society, this must comprise both sections. It would be truly new if one section was in competition with the society it was a part of!36

35Gini’s argument culminated in a personal attack on Montalenti, in his role as president of the genetics section:

  • 37 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

Various members [...] have told me, now and on other occasions, the impression that you are not doing for the society that which would be hoped of a member of the office of the president. In particular: the lack of all collaboration with personnel during the period of the reconstruction of the society, the slowness of which you later complained; the lack of contribution from the National Research Council (CNR) at the Center of Theoretical Genetics requested by my Faculty; the lack of inclusion of the president of this society as a CNR delegate at the Congress in Stockholm; the lack of a meeting, already agreed upon at Stockholm, of Italian delegates on occasion of the 1948 Italian competition for a chair of genetics, which delayed the reorganization of SIGE, of which you then complained; the development of every activity concerning the next congress outside of the Society and not in your role as section president, sending, if anything, communication to the society only of things already done; of giving support, if only partial, to the objections recently raised by Prof. Buzzati-Traverso, both about the assembly of 15 January (that you urged) and the modifications of the statute (that were submitted to you as to every other member, without any observations from you) and the leadership positions (the nomination of which was completed after consulting you and without observations on your part); for not allowing the participation in the meetings, not even inviting or informing the society, the members or the president of the meetings pertaining more or less strictly to genetics, which will be held in Italy.37

36In this situation, any meeting of the genetics section in Milan would have been interpreted by the members “no long as a negative attitude, but as positively contrary to the interests of the society.” Further, there were the irritated sensibilities of the Roman SIGE members toward the “northern geneticists.” Gini continued:

  • 38 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

Keep in mind, regarding this, that the members resident in Rome intended to give proof of sympathy to their geneticist colleagues from the north by accepting their invitation to Milan and by putting themselves to the expense of the travel and stay, and that those that have been informed of this hitch have been strongly irritated by seeing the general meeting already announced in the circular of 4 April [...] substituted, in a unilateral initiative, by a meeting of only one section of the society.38

37In the face of these “irritated souls,” the only solution to “placate the discontent” appeared to Gini to be that of postponing the date and place of the meeting of the genetics section to one “possibly contemporaneous with a meeting of the eugenics section.”

38As for the violations of the statute, Gini substantially attributed two to Montalenti: first, the rules did not allow unilateral convocations of sections; secondly, the secretaries of the sections were nominated by the president of the society in accordance with the president of the sections, and consequently, Buzzati-Traverso’s appointment as secretary could not be considered valid.

39Giuseppe Pompilj also asked for clarification, writing an indignant letter to Barigozzi on 31 May (with a copy to Montalenti and Buzzati-Traverso). Pompilj’s letter faithfully followed Gini’s line:

  • 39 Pompilj to Barigozzi, 31 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

This unilateral action has not only undermined the foundations of our society, violating the statute, has not only created a situation of grave embarrassment between the members, certainly damaging a profitable collaboration, but it has also accentuated the separation between the sections of genetics and eugenics, with procedures that we absolutely can not permit.39

  • 40 Montalenti to Gini, 2 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; see also the circular from Montalenti to (...)

40On 2 June, Montalenti sent a technical communication, in which he postponed the meeting of the genetics section to an indefinite date, but possibly coinciding with the international conference on Rh groups of the Milan Serotherapeutic Institute. In the same letter he requested that Adriano Buzzati-Traverso be nominated secretary of the Genetics section.40 Montalenti’s personal response to Gini came several days later, on 6 June. Montalenti did not enter into the merits of the accusations, which he considered “miserable,” “inappropriate” and completely “alien to the activities of the society,” instead emphasizing his role in helping to reconstruct SIGE. However, the position in defense of Buzzati-Traverso was clear, almost a lesson of democracy inflicted on Gini’s autocratic methods:

  • 41 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

Particular attention however must be paid to one of your points, which has truly surprised me. You have accused me “of giving support, if only partial, to the objections recently raised by Prof. Buzzati-Traverso” etc. It would be truly strange if I could not, or rather must not, take into account the objections raised by a member, above all when I am persuaded of their complete or partial justice. I feel that in doing so, I would act against the interests of the society and against every principle of liberty.
I am sure that you agree with me that the office of the president must serve the society, and that the authority with which it is invested must come from the members, not be imposed on them from above.41

  • 42 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

41As for the presumed difficulty of movement deriving from the choice of Milan (and not Rome) as the location of the meeting, Montalenti declared: “There is no reason in the world that those in Rome should consider it a great condescension to move to Milan, and that it is a natural and dutiful thing that the Milan colleagues come to Rome. If things are put in these terms it will be difficult to agree.”42 To definitively close an “overly long, unpleasant and tiresome correspondence,” Montalenti confirmed the convocation in Milan of the genetics section, requesting the complete list of members in both sections and strongly claiming the need for autonomy of young Italian genetics:

  • 43 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

The situation in Italy has changed greatly from before the war: there are now many professors of genetics, each one with a group of young scholars. They are prevalently situated in the north. It is necessary that their opinions are heard and that they are left with a certain liberty of movement.43

42The best comment on the entire affair was, however, contained in the stinging letter sent by Adriano Buzzati-Traverso to Pompilj. With disarming lucidity and irony, Buzzati-Traverso collapsed Gini’s accusatory house of cards, retracing the stages of the clash:

  • 44 Buzzati-Traverso to Pompilj, 16 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

It seems to me that things went as follows: due to a series of circumstances [...] the president was informed too late that a meeting of the genetics section had been organized; he was not able to make the announcement himself, nor did he want to extend the meeting to the entire society. And so what did he do? He simply waited for several members to directly manifest their amazement and “righteous indignation” at Barigozzi and Montalenti, and then asked at the last moment that Prof. Montalenti postpone the meeting. It would have been greatly preferable if, due to these very exigencies of collaboration of which he speaks, the president, the moment he was informed of the affair on his return from Spain, had written to Montalenti something like this: Dear Montalenti, I have heard what has been done, and am very sorry that you have followed unorthodox practices, because you have erred in a, b, c; let us use every means to remedy this, immediately announcing a meeting also of the eugenics section, so that SIGE meets all together and in this way we have the chance of discussing together the problems of life and relations between the two sections. [...] Instead, we are still here, writing each other recriminating letters of various types truly constructive and essential for the future development of Italian genetics and SIGE in particular! That’s what I have to say regarding the past.44

43As for the future, Buzzati-Traverso underlined the necessity of separating the two sections of SIGE and making them independent. If this did not happen, it was not so bad. Italian genetics could even survive outside of SIGE:

  • 45 Buzzati-Traverso to Pompilj, 16 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

If this is not possible, I will console myself with the thought that fortunately, Italian genetics has came a long way and has also managed to gain a certain consideration abroad, thanks to the activities of several colleagues, even in the absence of a functioning society that unites all the experts in this subject; if this has happened in the recent past it could even happen in the future.45

44From these few lines the game in play is neatly visible: while, on one side, Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi advocated the necessity of creating an alternative association to SIGE, Montalenti still believed in the possibility of mediation. A solution was represented by the acceptance of Buzzati-Traverso as secretary of the genetics section. Montalenti clearly confirmed the relevance of this candidature, in a letter sent to Barigozzi, and copied to Alessandro Ghigi, on 29 October 1949:

  • 46 Montalenti to Barigozzi, with a copy to Ghigi, 29 October 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

My intentions are by now sufficiently clear to me: if Buzzati accepts and Gini nominates him secretary of my section, I will remain president. Otherwise, I will stand down (from presidency). I will wait and see what you do about the institution of a dissenting association. I confess that I do not much like the idea. I reserve every decision regarding my eventual participation in your movement: personally I would prefer to stay here tranquilly.46

  • 47 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 30 July 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.
  • 48 Giuseppe Montalenti, “Utopie,” Rivista di psicologia, 35 (1939):197–99.

45Already in the meeting of the office of the president on 25 July, Gini had declared himself against the admittance of Buzzati-Traverso, judging his position in January 1949 in contrast to the interests and aims of SIGE. Montalenti, on that occasion, had proposed delaying every decision to a general assembly, threatening to stand down if Buzzati-Traverso wasn’t nominated.47 In September, at a convention on Recent contributions of human genetics to medicine, organized by the Milan Serotherapeutic Institute “S. Belfanti,” Montalenti’s introduction, which reprised a 1939 article,48 implicitly contained a sense of distance on the part of Italian genetics from an embarrassing past, incarnated by the uncomfortable figure of Gini. In front of foreign guests of the caliber of Haldane and Fisher, the condemnation of racism could not have been more complete:

  • 49 Giuseppe Montalenti, “Genetica umana ed eugenica,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti cont (...)

All of us have noticed the enthusiasm that has accompanied the development of the first studies of human genetics, thanks to Galton in England, and which has produced the birth of eugenics. This discipline, of an eminently applicable character, drawing inspiration from the principles of genetics, was to have rendered man complete master of his destiny, allowing him to improve the species, which, among all the animal species, greatly needs it.
Following this early enthusiasm came a sense of discouragement and skepticism. I do not wish to analyze the causes of these two attitudes, which would carry me too far away. I will cite two recent works: one that mirrors hopeful enthusiasm, the other, jeering skepticism.
The first is a book by Hermann J. Muller, Out of the Night, the second, the novel by Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
If we wish to start to consider the negative side of eugenics—which suits my slightly pessimistic temperament—we cannot stay silent on a sad argument, the development of which has recently carried terror throughout the world: the question of race.
When lunatic legislators believe they can seize possession of the destiny of humanity for the advantage of a race that they consider superior, or for an idea that—in good or bad faith—is considered just, the consequences can be terrifying. It is not necessary to remind you of this, as all our hearts are still full of dismay.49

  • 50 Denmark was the second European country (after the Swiss Canton of Vaud in 1928) to adopt a eugeni (...)

46The specter of Nazism did not seem, however, to limit the possibility of a reform eugenics, based not on prejudice of race or class, but on irrefutable scientific knowledge, and above all, conducted with liberal, non coercive methods. In the section of the Milan Congress dedicated to the issue Hereditary illnesses and defects, the Danish eugenics model was illustrated by Tage Kemp, director of Copenhagen’s Institute of Human Genetics, founded in 1938 with a relevant contribution from the Rockefeller Foundation.50 Since 1938, Denmark had become the major human genetics laboratory in the world: several factors (complete civil records, stable and homogeneous population, small distances, advanced state of social health programs) had fostered the development of a national registration of hereditary diseases. After having presented the characteristics of this genetic registration project, and summarized the Danish eugenic legislation, Kemp defended the necessity of basing the negative eugenics method of sterilization on the consent of patients and on scientific prudence:

  • 51 Tage Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi d (...)

Experience demonstrates that the patients themselves, like their relatives, are almost always able to understand the value of the eugenic operations or precautions, and therefore do not object. Notwithstanding this, it is obvious that measures that interfere so radically with the destiny and the intimate life of man could cause friction or differences of opinion. Physicians and other authorities that have to do with eugenics cases are always very prudent and delicate in their research; the guiding principle must always be that too few eugenic operations are preferable to too many.51

  • 52 Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” 17
  • 53 Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” 17

47To avoid the risk of an uncontrollable excess of sterilizations, Kemp hoped that other nations would follow the Danish example, putting into place “eugenic registration based on records concerning all the patients in the country affected by any important hereditary disease, and also their families.”52 In Kemp’s view, only “intensive and close international scientific collaboration between medicine and genetics” could make eugenics effective: it would also be necessary that preventive or prophylactic medicine controlled the most important hereditary diseases in the same way in which it monitored and controlled epidemic diseases.53

  • 54 Piero Malcovati, “Discussione,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi della geneti (...)

48The Marxist biologist John B. S. Haldane was asked by Piero Malcovati, director of the Provincial Maternity Institute, to explain his views on the eugenic effectiveness of sterilization according to the “criteria explained by Prof. Kemp.”54 His response was to praise the Danish model, while specifically rejecting coercive methods:

  • 55 John B. S. Haldane, “La selezione naturale nell’uomo: Discussione,” in Atti del convegno dedicato (...)

I believe that sterilization could be recommended without reserve only if we could have the security that it would be applied in every country with the same humanity used in Denmark. Although we cannot eliminate the occurrence of hereditary diseases, we can greatly diminish their incidences. Disgracefully, sterilization can and has been used as a weapon of tyranny and, in the current state of human civilization, tyranny is certainly a greater danger than hereditary disease.
For this reason, I believe that before we make sterilization obligatory, we must use every way to attempt to convince the carriers of serious and dominant abnormalities to abstain from procreation.55

49Buzzati-Traverso agreed that the research of Tage Kemp reinforced the importance of reconstructing the human pedigree. Referring to the Congress of the Serotherapeutic Institute, in the pages of L’Europeo, the geneticist overturned the traditional resistance of Italian eugenics in applying the selective practices in use with other animal species to human beings:

  • 56 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano,” L’Europeo 5, no. 41 (9 October 1949).

A Danish man, Tage Kemp, had the idea of considering his country of only four million inhabitants as a huge experimental breeding ground, and to gather data on all the families that present any elements of interest. And like the breeder who knows that the offspring of the mare “Tromba” have the defect of biting, Professor Kemp knows that if Signorina Anderson marries, half her children may be deficient.56

50Buzzati-Traverso believed that the fact that the study of hereditary illness in Denmark was accompanied by the possibility of voluntary sterilization was reasonably positive:

  • 57 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

The number of individuals who request sterilization is gradually increasing year by year. It is calculated that today around half of the mentally defective are sterilized and that day in which the major part of hereditary defects have little probability of being diffused in the population is not far off.57

  • 58 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”
  • 59 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

51Nevertheless, this did not mean that “horrible malformations and illnesses” could be considered eradicated forever. The process of genetic mutation was always possible and according to Buzzati-Traverso, “one of the major dangers of the atomic bomb and nuclear energy is the fact that the radiation emitted in the process of nuclear disintegration greatly increases the normal rates of mutation, so increasing the probability that individuals with hereditary defects will be born.”58 Instead of giving in to fear, it would be better to convert to the progressive confirmation of a “new hygiene”: while in the past, bacteriology and pharmacology had won over a large series of infectious diseases, in the future, due to the development of genetics, “we will develop the ability to control hereditary diseases and deformations, habituating men to value their pedigree.”59 In this way it would be possible to avoid dangerous unions, render some marriages infertile, and cure carriers of hereditary defects with new medical procedures. Obviously the “non-worsening of the human type” should be based on “free choice” and on the “development of a biological responsibility of the citizens”:

  • 60 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

Some will object that the sanctity of the family and the mystery of procreation confer intrinsic value on the genetic phenomena of human beings, of a moral and religious order that cannot be cancelled by some scientific discovery. Even admitting this criticism, it is worth observing that the diffusion of practices for the improvement, or rather the non-worsening of the human race, must be achieved through free choice and not imposition. With the development of biological responsibility of the citizens we will entrench new persuasions similar to that of not marrying between siblings.60

52While, therefore, the Congress of the Serotherapeutic Institute was characterized, on one side, by the condemnation of racist eugenics, and on the other, by the sympathetic presentation of Danish reform eugenics, it is not surprising that the SIGE general assembly, following immediately, confirmed the fracture between Corrado Gini and Giuseppe Montalenti, which had by now become unavoidable. On 29 October 1949, Montalenti wrote to Gini:

  • 61 Montalenti to Gini, 29 October 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

As you were in a position to ascertain in Milan, a fracture can be seen in our society that I have always tried to avoid. If this happens, it is clear that I must stand down as president of the genetics section, because this signifies that my policy has completely failed.61

53Despite the attempts at mediation at the last moment by Carlo Jucci between December 1949 and January 1950, Montalenti’s resignation was irrevocably presented to Gini on 30 March 1950:

  • 62 Montalenti to Gini, 30 March 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

Mister President,
You are in full knowledge of the situation that has occurred in SIGE and it has been the subject of several discussions between yourself, me and other colleagues last September in Milan.
In particular, you did not wish to accept my proposal to nominate Prof. Adriano Buzzati-Traverso as secretary of the genetics section presided over by myself, making my position difficult and giving me no guarantees that I would be able to represent in good faith all the different currents of Italian genetics.
As you know, I continued attempts, after September, to allay the disagreement, with no success.
In these conditions, I do not feel I can continue as the genetics section president, and therefore pass into your hands, Mister President, my resignation.62

  • 63 Gini to members, 31 May 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

54In an internal referendum on 15 April 1950, Carlo Jucci and the statistician Gaetano Pietra were elected as, respectively, president of the SIGE section of applied genetics and president of the section of mathematical genetics. Even the four honorary foreign members nominated for the occasion reflected Gini’s personal scientific relationships: Felix Bernstein, Gunnar Dahlberg, Tage Kemp and René Sand.63 Ten days later, SIGE’s office of the president accepted Montalenti’s resignation, attempting to conceal the complete internal division behind the formal quibble of the impossibility of section secretaries—as in the case of Adriano Buzzati-Traverso—residing outside of Rome:

  • 64 Gini to Montalenti, 22 July 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

All the members of the office of the president have agreed that it is indispensable for the section secretaries to reside in Rome. Regarding this, Nora Federici has revealed the already onerous nature of the work of the central secretary, which would be made unsustainable if correspondence with section secretaries in other places was added.
As for me personally, you will recall that I clearly wrote in the circular of February 1948 issued to old and new members interested in reviving SIGE, that it was more convenient for the secretaries to reside in the region of the society, a convenience that I felt was agreed with, given that no one raised objections regarding this.64

55Montalenti’s mediation strategy had therefore failed, and Buzzati-Traverso’s and Barigozzi’s line had prevailed: to constitute an anti-SIGE association of genetics.

56And it was this precise intention to definitively distinguish genetics from Gini’s eugenics, heavily involved in the fascist past, which became the reason to form the Italian Genetics Association (Associazione Genetica Italiana), or AGI, founded in 1953.

2. From Premarital Examination to Genetic Counseling

  • 65 Luisa Gianferrari, “Il Centro di Studi di Genetica umana dell’Università di Milano ed i Consultori (...)
  • 66 Gianferrari, “Il Centro di Studi di Genetica umana dell’Università di Milano,” 76.

57After the Second World War, Milan became the new Italian capital of eugenics. In fact, in 1946, the first Italian genetic counseling center was based here, part of the Milan State University, as a direct emanation of the Study Center in Human Genetics, directed by Luisa Gianferrari. A few years later, in 1948, the first “municipal eugenic counseling” was founded, at the Milan Policlinic, also entrusted to Gianferrari’s Study Center. Individuals and organizations were eligible to approach the counseling center upon presentation of a medical certificate that “clearly specified the diagnosis of the form of illness of the proband, and as many members of the family as possible.”65 The activities of the two consultancy centers were principally concerned with premarital counseling for betrothed couples and counseling for maternal-foetal haematic group or transfusional incompatibility. The first kind of counseling included mental (psychosis, manic-depressiveness, paranoia, oligophrenia) and nervous diseases (spastic spinal paralysis, progressive muscular atrophy, Little’s disease, Huntington’s chorea); malformations (cleft lip, congenital dislocation of the hips, metatarsus varus); eye diseases (congenital glaucoma, congential cateracts, Retinitis pigmentosa, juvenile glaucoma, blepharoptosis), haemopathy (hemophilia). The second one was generic and was almost always requested for blood related marriages.66

  • 67 On the Istituto La Casa, see Don Paolo Liggeri, “A proposito di consultori prematrimoniali,” Rifle (...)

58In addition to the Study Center in Human Genetics, there were, in Milan, the premarital prophylactic counseling center of the Red Cross, opened in 1946 on the initiative of Giuseppe Leone Ronzoni, Piero Malcovati and Emilio Alfieri, and the Catholic counseling center Istituto La Casa (also called Opera Cardinal Ferrari), inaugurated in 1948 and presided over by Antonio Cazzaniga, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Milan.67

59It is not surprising therefore, that it was in Lombardy that the discussion of premarital eugenic examinations once again started up in 1946. The occasion was the Congress for Social Assistance and Welfare Studies (Convegno per gli studi di Assistenza Sociale), organized in Tremezzo (Como) from 16 September to 6 October 1946, by Michael Schapiro, director of the UNRRA Welfare Division for Lombardy, and by Francesco Vito, professor of political economics at the Catholic University of Milan. Just like thirty years earlier, the debate on the eugenic control of marriages was stimulated by the process of modernization of the welfare system, motivated by the dramatic consequences of the Second World War. In the section Social welfare and the legislation of work of the Tremezzo Congress, the presentation of Sergio Mantovani, director of the journal I problemi dell’assistenza sociale [The problems of social welfare], dealt directly with this question. In his contribution, Mantovani declared himself in favor of the introduction of compulsory premarital examinations, possibly with a prohibitory character:

  • 68 Atti del Convegno per studi di assistenza sociale (Milan: Marzorati, 1947), 169.

It would be easy to conclude the sanitary examination with the exhibition of a certificate of fitness to a public official or a priest, containing at worst, prudential advice. It would be more difficult to conclude with a prohibition, which implies inquiry, control and security measures. I believe that society has the right to take these preventive measures in its defense, even if this leads us to damage some of its members.68

60Eugenics was invoked in the name of civic education, hygienic awareness and the secular affirmation of the preservation of public health:

  • 69 Atti del Convegno per studi di assistenza sociale, 170.

I believe that the introduction of civil habits of control for those who are united in marriage could signal the start of a true, if still uncertain, hygienic conscience, very necessary for the moral and material well-being of all. If it is Christian to bear pain, I do not believe that ignorance or brutalization are Christian.69

  • 70 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale (problemi medico-sociali). Atti ufficiali del Convegno internazionale (...)

61A year later, on 20 and 21 September 1947, the International Congress for the Treatment of Medical and Social Problems of Premarital Prophylaxis (Convegno internazionale per la trattazione dei problemi medico-sociali di profilassi pre-matrimoniale) was held in Milan at the obstetrics and gynecology clinic of the State University, directed by Emilio Alfieri. The positions of the various participants—prevalently syphilographers and gynecologists—reflected the plurality of opinions which was typical of Italian eugenic debate. Piero Malcovati, director of the Provincial Maternity Institute and manager of the premarital prophylactic counseling service of the Red Cross, declared himself in favor of “optional premarital prophylactic consultancies, equipped for clinical and genealogical research and confidential individual counseling of an educational and informative character on the problems of eugenics and familial orthogenics.”70 If Italy was to introduce the principle of a sanitary premarital control into legislation, the ideal solution, according to Malcovati, could be that already adopted, for example, in the Soviet Union, based on the reciprocal exchange of information between the betrothed:

I believe that the State must, through the municipal hygiene office:

  1. quickly inform the future spouses in a simple and persuasive manner, of the main dangers that could beset the spouses and descendants (venereal infection, tuberculosis, hereditary illnesses), appealing to their senses of responsibility;
  2. then demand the declaration that the future spouse had reciprocally exchanged an explanatory medical certificate, which could eventually be filled in based on a specifically designed form or questionnaire, so that the physician (or consultant) must necessarily direct their attention to the individual fundamental points.71

62For Giuseppe Morganti, researcher at Gianferrari’s Study Center in Human Genetics, the preservation of public health and the reduction of the costs of the welfare system were more than sufficient reasons to justify the necessity of an effective prevention of hereditary diseases:

  • 72 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 186.

Each year considerable sums are spent with the intent, often, unfortunately, in vain, of bringing a physically or psychically abnormal person back to social life, when many times, the birth of this person could have been avoided if only we had informed the parents of the impending danger. Without counting that, if the most caring assistance is an unquestionable duty to this unhappy individual, reinserting him into the social life is often a biological absurdity, because every rehabilitated individual could represent the uncontrollable possibility of procreation of other unhappy people.72

  • 73 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 185.
  • 74 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 226.
  • 75 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 227.

63In particular, Morganti hoped for the development of a kind of genetic counseling service, with a purely informative character, and the constitution of a national genetic index, “in which, without exception, all the cases of illness of interest to genetics and eugenics should be obligatorily recorded, by all the organizations and people designated by appropriate laws (clinics, hospitals, special schools, physicians).”73 Carlo Armanini, head physician in obstetrics and gynecology of the Hospital Maggiore in Milan, was also completely opposed to any coercive measures: the prohibition of marriage could in fact carry with it “appalling consequences, such as the accentuation of Malthusian practices, the spread of illegitimate pregnancies, abortive practices and perhaps also sterilization.”74 Far from being compulsory, premarital examination had to be contained within “the limits of a strictly confidential counseling service of a prophylactic and hygienic kind, that allowed the future spouses for whom it is necessary to understand their situation and eventually put themselves in conditions in which they can spontaneously and freely postpone, or even definitively renounce, their marriage.”75

  • 76 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 35–36.
  • 77 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 123–60.
  • 78 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 199.
  • 79 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 199.

64Although foreign participants at the Milan congress described medical experiences, such as the premarital counseling in Switzerland76 or Britain’s Marriage Council,77 in which the “optional” character seemed dominant, voices in favor of eugenic coercive measures were not completely absent. For Sergio Mantovani, for example, premarital prophylaxis, in a country like Italy, “overpopulated, with eight million illiterate, with chronic alcoholism spread throughout the poorest classes, with two million unemployed,”78 represented an indispensable need for “hygiene” and “social education.” Mantovani’s sympathies lay in particular with the French legislative model of a compulsory premarital certificate, approved in 1942.79 Rosario Ruggeri, head physician in infant neuropsychiatry department of the Milan Psychiatric Hospital, also advocated the prohibition by law of marriages between “defective subjects”:

  • 80 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 216.

If I were to present those entire families in the psychiatric hospital, father, mother and many children, I am sure that even the fanatical defenders of liberty would be perplexed.
In these subjects, mental deficiency is clearly imprinted on their faces and it is certainly not necessary to be a physician to see it. Nevertheless, neither the municipal official, nor the parish priest has had the good sense to refuse to unite such people in marriage. [...]
I am convinced that in some cases coercive measures are necessary to prevent marriages from which we can presume defective subjects will issue.80

  • 81 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 211.
  • 82 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 238.

65Equally rigid and intransigent was the position of Cesare Ducrey, professor in Clinical Dermatology at the University of Milan and president of the Italian Society of Dermatology and Syphilography. His point of reference was the legislation of some States of the American confederation, with respect to the introduction of a compulsory premarital examination, with a prohibitory character.81 The congress closed by accepting Ducrey’s invitation to send the papers from the conference to the Parliamentary Medical Group “so that they can utilize them in the next reorganization of the services of hygienic-sanitary defense of our population.”82

  • 83 Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici (Roma, 24 settembre – 2 ottobre 1949) (R (...)
  • 84 Amadeo José Cicchitti (Cuyo, Argentina) was in favour of a obligatory premarital certificate but w (...)
  • 85 Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici, 103–04.

66In September–October 1949, the 4th International Congress of Catholic Physicians dedicated a specific session to “premarital eugenics.”83 In a context of complete refusal of any practice considered damaging to Christian morals, from sterilization to birth control, most of the speakers, predominantly Spanish, Portuguese and Latin-Americans, hoped for some form of non-obligatory, non-prohibitory eugenic counseling, accompanied by adequate hygienic education.84 This was the position of the two principal speakers, Joao Maria Porto, professor of therapeutic clinical medicine at the University of Coimbra, and Antonio Castillo de Lucas, professor of medical hydrology at the University of Madrid. The latter, in particular, believed that “eugamy”—that is, the biotypological selection of the betrothed—had to complement premarital eugenics. Next to organic treatments, a spiritual preparation for the spouses was also necessary, a sort of “eugenics of the soul.” In this sense, the premarital certificate could not help but be spontaneous, dictated by Christian medical conscience, while chastity remained the only permissible solution for the prevention of venereal illnesses.85

67At almost the same time as the Congress of Catholic Physicians, on 28 September 1949, the Christian Democrat senator Monaldi presented a bill, with the precise intention of providing some suitable prophylactic measures to combat the menace of venereal infection that would be the consequence of the approval and application of the Merlin law (this law, which in 1958 abolished the Italian system of legal brothels or “closed houses,” was already in discussion in 1949). Monaldi’s bill, in article seven, insisted on the mandatory nature of premarital visits and on a certificate that simply attested that an examination had occurred.

  • 86 Mimmo Franzinelli and Pier Paolo Poggio, Storia di un giudice italiano. Vita di Adolfo Beria di Ar (...)

68The Monaldi bill vividly interested the National Center for Prevention and Social Defense (Centro Nazionale di Prevenzione e Difesa Sociale, CNPDS), the prestigious Milan cultural institution founded in 1948 by the magistrate Adolfo Beria di Argentine to study the social effects of the process of modernization in post-war Italy.86 The CNPDS appointed a “Commission for legislation of matrimonial prevention” (Commissione per una legislazione di prevenzione matrimoniale), with the aim of deepening the study of article seven of Monaldi’s bill. At the end of the work, the commission published a document that briefly summarized the critical considerations of the experts who had participated.

  • 87 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale e introduzione di un certificato prematrimoniale obbligatorio nell (...)
  • 88 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 24.

69Many members of the medical section of the commission declared themselves in favor of examinations being non-obligatory, as an obligatory exam not only partly corroded individual freedom, but, in many cases, did not facilitate the individual’s collaboration in the genetic research, therefore compromising the eugenic prognosis. Luisa Gianferrari, in particular, pronounced herself in favor of non-obligatory visits that regarded not only venereal illnesses, but all hereditary diseases.87 According to Gianferrari, given the diagnostic difficulties, the coercive and unilateral character of the examination would certainly be counter-productive. Instead of enforced methods, a diffuse activity of education and “eugenic propaganda” was without any doubt preferable, in order to familiarize citizens with the existence and services of the counseling centers: “Therefore, only well-intended propaganda, that stimulates those interested in knowing their own specific risks and their own eventual descendency, together with an adequate genetic counseling, could achieve the aims.”88

  • 89 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 11–12.

70Agostino Crosti, director of the Dermo-Syphilopathic Clinic at the University of Milan, was also in favor of a purely consultative counseling function,89 as was Piero Malcovati, who particularly insisted on the importance of cultural propaganda:

  • 90 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 17.

The public appreciate the concept and the initiative and understand the problem; but due to a singular form of inertia, they need to be pushed by propaganda to go to the counseling. When the political papers or the weeklies speak of the possible dangers of marriage and the necessity to prevent them with a premarital examination, the counseling center has many patients for some months; no sooner has the propaganda slowed than the public also thins out.90

  • 91 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 22.
  • 92 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 13–16.

71Carlo Alberto Ragazzi, head of the medical staff of the municipality of Milan and responsible for hygiene at the Polytechnic of Milan, also considered “hygienic and moral propaganda” more effective for a “reawakening of awareness” than a legislative measure, which he judged “insufficient in its structure and social effects.”91 Instead, Ducrey found himself in an isolated position, advocating the adoption of a mandatory certificate with serological exams for syphilis for men only, and the extension to both sexes of radiological exams for tuberculosis.92

  • 93 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 25.

72In conclusion, the medical section of the CNPDS commission, presided over by Eugenio Medea, declared itself in favor of a premarital examination of a consultative-educational character—“it is a question of comprehension, of civil education, of sense of responsibility”—hoping for the broadening to all hereditary diseases, “above all mental and nervous.”93

  • 94 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 39.

73The juridical section of the commission however, faced a crucial argument: what would happen if the betrothed did not exhibit the certificate? The president of the section, Gaetano Scherillo, declared that introducing an obligatory sanitary measure without any kind of punitive mechanism ran “the risk of proclaiming a principle, but without any practical effect, not even that of [...] creating a new custom.”94 To resolve the problem, Domenico Medugno, president of the Milan Juvenile Court, and Mario Dondina, university lecturer on penal law and penal procedure at the Faculty of Law of the State University of Milan, supported the impeditive effectiveness of premarital examinations.

74However, Domenico Barbero, professor at the Faculty of Law of the Catholic University of Milan, and Antonio Donati, magistrate and judge for the Milan Civil Court, proposed that the lack of presentation of the premarital examination certificate be elevated to the level of prohibitive impediment, or in other terms, that the presentation of this certificate be necessary not for the validity, but for the regularity of marriage. This would necessitate the introduction therefore of a fine for any municipal official who celebrated a marriage without the registration of the premarital visit. This moderate line came to be the general position of the juridical section of the Commission, which, in its final resolution, interpreted an eventual compulsory premarital examination as the first step along a dangerous path that necessarily led to eugenic sterilization. Gaetano Scherillo concluded:

  • 95 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 40.

The concerns for sanitary protection and social defense are sacrosanct, but we must be careful, as it is the start of a path that leads to a consequence that no one wishes to see arrive in Italy: eugenic sterilization. If we commence with prohibiting marriages, step by step, that is where we will end. And perhaps we should not forget that man is man, and not a bovine or equine race to improve with progressive selection.95

75The moderate positions of the medical and juridical sections of the CNPDS commission were contrasted by the more radical one of the sociological section. The speakers of this section—Eugenio Pennati, professor of political sociology at the University of Pavia, and Mario Dal Prà, professor of history of ancient philosophy at Milan State University—supported the obligatoriness of the premarital visit, even if it would initially be without “impeditive effectiveness.” This was the case, for example, of the evolutionary and illuminist view of Mario Dal Prà:

  • 96 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 43.

Obstacles should be placed before a physically defective person who could compromise, through marriage, the possibility of physical and spiritual life of the children, impoverishing or compromising at the same time the general equilibrium of the life of society. [...] A sign of the moral poverty of a society is its arrest of its acquired forms of behavior, even when the critical and social senses have shown the need for change and progress toward new experiences. We can not claim that the old forms will mature by themselves into new experiences. Suitable legislative acts are needed to break the crust of tradition, and open it toward always deeper integration.96

76Finally, the sociological section, presided over by Antonio Banfi, senator of the Popular. Democratic Front and historian of philosophy, proposed these conclusive resolutions:

  1. the necessity of developing sexual education;
  2. the necessity of the diffusion and facilitation of syphilis diagnosis and cures with institutions adapted to the social environment;
  3. the necessity of a gradual development of legislation, in the sense that the legislator must not intervene only to sanction an ethical custom, but to provoke and confirm an ethical conscience, taking into account the conditions in which the action takes place;
  4. the recognition of the social problem that underlies all these particular problems of defense and prophylaxis, of ethical, juridical and sanitary education.97

77Considering the criticisms of the three different sections, the CNPDS commission agreed to propose to legislators the removal of article seven from Monaldi’s bill and suggested the formulation of another bill on premarital prophylaxis, which could acknowledge the conclusions reached by the commission.

78In December 1949, a bill written by Mary Tibaldi Chiesa referred to the analytical report of the CNPDS. Tibaldi Chiesa had been delegated by the Italian Republican Party (PRI) to study the problem of the institution of premarital consultancies. There were three “points of view” expressed in this bill:

  1. recognition of the need of premarital examinations and consequent determination on the part of the legislators to make them obligatory with appropriate measures; without however, the result of the visit constituting a possible obstacle to marriage;
  2. recognition of the need not only for the visit, but for a medical premarital certificate, and consequent determination to make both obligatory by law, avoiding marriage in cases where the results of the visit are unfavourable;
  3. recognition of the need of premarital examinations as a guarantee for the protection of the spouses and the offspring, not obligatory by law, but rather as an opportunity to create an awareness of the problems of marriage and offspring, and to exercise, with appropriate means, solutions and measures that promote the knowledge of the danger constituted by infective and hereditary illnesses, the maximum propaganda and works of persuasion and conviction around the efficiency and utility of centers of premarital counseling, with a free and confidential examination.98

79Specifically, the creation of counseling services should be as broad as possible: every hospital in every capital had the obligation to institute a premarital counseling service, and those towns that, although not capitals, “were relatively important,” had the ability to institute one, first asking the advice of the High Commission of Hygiene and Health (Alto Commissariato d’Igiene e Sanità), or ACIS. The counseling service would be directed by “the head physician of the hospital, with the advice of the head surgeon, a gynecologist, a neuropsychiatrist and a social assistant.” Contrary to Monaldi’s bill, the counseling was voluntary, free and secret:

  • 99 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1000: 5.

Whoever comes to the counseling service is not under the obligation to give their details, but only all the data useful to the consultant, and has the right to receive, at the end of the consultation and the tests, a written declaration justifying the advice for the better fulfillment of marriage.99

  • 100 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1000: 5.

80To favor the “necessary hygienic matrimonial awareness,” premarital counseling centers must carry out “adequate information campaigns, and upon publication of the marriage banns, the municipalities must distribute to the future spouses a booklet that clearly illustrates the principles of premarital prophylaxis, and the aims and functions of the genetic advisory services.”100 The functional costs of the counseling services would be charged to the hospitals where they were based, but the State, through the ACIS, could contribute to the financing with subsidies proportional to the activities of single counseling services, “to a sum of 40 million annually for the entire national territory.”

  • 101 “Inquadramento della istituzione dei consultori prematrimoniali nella legislazione italiana,” Rifl (...)

81In the wake of the Tibaldi Chiesa project, in March 1950 the Istituto La Casa in Milan also developed a draft bill, signed by Giuseppe Canino and Luigi Migliori: every capital of the provinces would be obliged to institute a premarital counseling center, under the control of the provincial administration and the ACIS. The response would be verbal and free, without obligation to provide details. All those who requested a visit or simply a verbal consultation would be given a free “prophylactic booklet.” All the genetic advisory services would then send useful information to the Milan Study Center in Human Genetics, as a contribution to the “national genetic index.”101

  • 102 On the role of Luisa Gianferrari, see Giovanni Widmann, “Pionieri della medicina genetica preventi (...)

82Luisa Gianferrari102 also intervened several times, in the first half of the 1950s, to support the introduction of “eugenic premarital prevention in the Italian sanitary organization.” The years in which Gianferrari had praised the effectiveness of Nazi legislation seemed far away. Now the condemnation of “compulsory eugenics” was nearly obligatory:

  • 103 Luisa Gianferrari and Giuseppe Morganti, “Appunti per una organizzazione eugenica in Italia,” Acta (...)

We believe that any compulsory eugenics is unacceptable and we are contrary to every measure damaging to the moral and juridical rights of man, even if it is limited to the obligation to present a premarital certificate or attend a consultation. Our experience of over a decade of eugenic counseling has demonstrated to us that even from a technical point of view, eugenic counseling must necessarily be based on the collaborative activity of those interested, which must derive from a voluntary act, determined by the conscience to fulfill the moral obligation that marriage carries in regards to the health of the unborn children.103

83Eugenic counseling had to be, therefore, the result of free individual choice:

  • 104 Luisa Gianferrari, “Proposte per l’inquadramento della prevenzione eugenica prematrimoniale nell’o (...)

The only means available to prevent the diffusion of pathological factors [...] in our current state of knowledge, is the selection of coupling. We must be aware that such a measure, in eugenics, can be distinguished into compulsory and non-compulsory. The first possibility includes premarital certificates and sterilization, carried out through surgery or radiology. The second option includes preventive birth control, based on limitation of births, sexual education and eugenic counseling.
We declare ourselves completely contrary to every compulsory measure—and therefore also to premarital certificates, even if they are purely “informative”—because they contravene the moral and juridical rights of man. We believe moreover that preventive birth control in practice fails eugenic aims, due to selfishness and hedonism. What remains is education and eugenic counseling.104

84Gianferrari identified two forms of “prophylaxis of hereditary diseases.” The first, “idiotypic” prophylaxis, comprised the classic forms of negative and positive eugenics:

  • 105 Luisa Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” Acta geneticae medica (...)

Idiotypic prophylaxis comprises both classical eugenics, which aims for the improvement of the stock through the selection of spouses, favoring the reproduction of individuals particularly endowed, and impeding as much as possible that of defective individuals, and idiotypic therapy. This can be practiced through amphimixis, that is, the insertion in defective plasm of factors that act to correct or block pathological factors, or by favoring a return mutation, if the pathological form is influenced by mutational factors.105

  • 106 Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” 116.

85“Phenotypic” prophylaxis, on the other hand, worked on environmental conditions, inhibiting the manifestation of idiotypic defects: “Phenotypic prophylaxis aims to impede and attenuate the manifestation of hereditary illnesses by modifying the environmental conditions necessary for phenotypic realization.”106 Therefore, in Gianferrari’s view, preventive measures of hereditary diseases were matrimonial selection, voluntary control of reproduction and, last but not least, direct action on environmental variables:

  • 107 Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” 117.

From a theoretical point of view, we are therefore authorized to declare that if we are able to understand the environmental components necessary for the manifestation of hereditary pathological characteristics and their active momentum, there will be only one limitation to possible intervention, that of law, omnipresent.107

  • 108 Luisa Gianferrari, “Genetica umana,” in Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici, (...)

86As with infective illnesses, when considering hereditary illnesses, geneticists had to operate in strict contact with clinicians and hygienists, while “eugenic awareness” could be developed by adequate education and information. To this end, Gianferrari proposed the distribution by the municipality of a “sanitary booklet to inform those affected by morbose hereditary forms or who come from defective pedigrees of the serious responsibility toward the offspring that marriage carries with it,”108 to every youth who came of age—and not only to engaged couples in the act of publishing their marriage banns.

87Starting from this theoretical position and from the activity of the Milan Study Center, in 1952 Gianferrari and Morganti, partially integrating the Tibaldi Chiesa proposal, listed several “points for eugenic organization in Italy,” which consisted of the development of state and private structures for a campaign of sensitization of “all strata of the population,” for the training of specialists in “eugenic counseling” and for the old proposal of a national genetic index:

  • 109 Gianferrari and Morganti, Appunti per una organizzazione eugenica in Italia, 214. See also Luisa G (...)

Even if we limit eugenics to free counseling, State measures are necessary to diffuse and control it, possibly improving current private initiatives.
In our opinion, the State must:
carry out efficient campaigns that reach all strata of the population in every region;
create apposite courses to offer eugenic counselors the possibility to adequately
repare themselves for their difficult work;
institute a qualification exam for eugenic counselors;
exercise vigilance and control over the eugenic counseling;
oblige eugenic counselors active in a premarital counseling center, or free professionals, to always provide a certificate with conclusions clearly justified and to keep a copy for the sanitary authority; and favor the gathering and the analysis of statistical data for hereditary illnesses with eugenic relevance in our population.109

88It was necessary however to wait until 1956 to see the approval of a law that seemed to reconcile the principles that inspired the Monaldi and Tibaldi Chiesa bills: on one side, in fact, the 25 July 1956 law, no. 837 (the so-called “Monaldi law”) again dealt with the measures for “the control of venereal illnesses”; on the other, it provided for non-mandatory premarital examinations. Article seven, in particular, read as follows:

  • 110 For a copy of the text of the law in Italian, see Giovanni Davicini, Lex-Legislazione italiana 42, (...)

Whoever intends to contract a marriage can ask a provincial physician or a municipal sanitary official to arrange, through a recommended sanitary institute, the ascertainment of their current state of health, comprising a serological blood test for syphilis [...]. The results of the examination should not be indicated on the certificate.110

89The Italian legislation implicitly confirmed the principle of positive premarital eugenics and recognized the appropriateness of a premarital medical-prophylactic examination. In practice, the issue was resolved by confirming the voluntary nature of the act: with Monaldi’s law, the Italian State invited the citizens to accept such a principle voluntarily, offering them the possibility to freely obtain the examination and medical certificate upon request.

  • 111 See Giacomo Perico, “Visita e certificato prematrimoniali,” Aggiornamenti sociali 12, no. 1 (Janua (...)

90Premarital counseling, in the 1950s, underwent significant development: in 1951 a counseling center was founded in Trieste, as part of the municipal hygiene and health office. In 1956, another opened in Florence, at the university’s Institute of Medical Semeiotics; another in 1957 in Rome, in the offices of ONMI, under the direction of Aldo Marcozzi, central dermo-syphilographic inspector.111

  • 112 Ezio Silvestroni (1905–1990) graduated magna cum laude in medicine and chirurgy from the Universit (...)
  • 113 In order: Ferrara (1956); Cosenza (1957); Palermo and Cagliari (1958); Naples, Reggio Calabria and (...)
  • 114 R. R. Struthers, director of the European Office, to Montalenti, 22 January 1954, AM, b. 125.
  • 115 Canali and Corbellini, “Lessons from Anti-Thalassemia Campaigns,” 752.

91During this decade, the problem of the “eugenic” prophylaxis of genetic diseases was particularly connected in Italy with the implementation of the anti-thalassemia campaign. It was, in fact, in the last half of the 1950s that the Italian public health system finally recognized the relevance of the studies and sanitary program that Ezio Silvestroni and Ida Bianco, at the time pathologists at the Medical Clinic of the University of Rome, had formulated since 1943.112 Thanks to the mediation of the Institute of Hygiene at the University of Rome and to financing from the ACIS, in 1954 the first Microcythemia Study Center was founded in Rome, followed in 1956 and 1961 by another seven regional sections.113 In 1954, the Rockefeller Foundation, on the basis of a research project coordinated by Giuseppe Montalenti, decided to finance the research of Silvestroni and Bianco and the Roman newborn center, repeating the necessity of confronting “the eugenic aspect of the microcythemic problem, the establishment of official registers of persons carrying this gene, marriage counseling in some form.”114 In 1961 the network of centers, directed by Silvestroni and Bianco, was officially included in the special projects, financed by the Ministry of Health, and assumed a juridical character under the name of National Association for the Fight against Microcythemia in Italy (Associazione Nazionale per la Lotta contro le Microcitemie in Italia, or ANLMI). This national association provided the first example worldwide of a prophylactic campaign against thalassemia, and not surprisingly, was successively adopted in Greece and Cyprus in initiatives based on the same model. ANLMI’s activities, between 1954 and 1971, were founded essentially on the preventive “eugenic” model conceived by Silvestroni and Bianco, and characterized by mass screening of the school population and a vast and simultaneous campaign of information and premarital prophylaxis. In 1963 in Ferrara—one of the zones most hit by microcythemia and in which the activities of ANLMI were particularly intense and effective—the entire school population in the provincial territory was screened. The identification of carriers of microcythemia led to a successive investigation on family nuclei, and the parallel development of a provincial haematological register, accompanied by an intense campaign of information and genetic counseling, in order to favor the development of a “premarital eugenic mentality.”115

92At the end of the 1950s, the problem of the prevention of thalassemia was the starting point for a timely and direct intervention by the Pope, Pius XII, on the issue of marital morality. On 5 September 1958, in a special audience to the participants of the 7th Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion, the Pope cited the example of the Dight Institute at the University of Minnesota as a model to imitate for eugenic counseling in Italy, in order not to damage individual freedom:

  • 116 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici (Rome: Orizzonte Medico, 1959), 680–81.

In a general sense, we must, first of all, underline the necessity of providing the public with the indispensable information on blood and its heredity, so as to permit individuals and families to be on their guard against this terrible eventuality. With such an aim, we can organize, in the manner of the American “Dight Institute,” services of information and counseling, where the betrothed and spouses can examine the questions of heredity in good faith, with an aim of better ensuring the happiness and security of their union. These services will not just give information, but help those interested to carry out the appropriate measures.116

93The would be parents, therefore, were also able to eventually choose the “dysgenic” option:

  • 117 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 681.

Informed of the danger and its effects, the parents can then take a decision that will be “eugenic” or “dysgenic” regarding the hereditary characteristic taken into consideration. If they decide not to have children, their decision is “eugenic,” which means that they will not propagate the defective gene, generating both ill babies and normal carriers. If, as usually happens, the probability of producing a child who is a carrier of this defect is less than was feared, they may decide to have other children. This decision is “dysgenic” because it propagates the defective “gene” instead of arresting its diffusion.117

  • 118 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 682.
  • 119 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 682.
  • 120 On Reed and the Dight Institute, see Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, 253.
  • 121 See, for comparison, Sheldon C. Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica (Rome: Edizioni dell’Istituto (...)
  • 122 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 77–86.
  • 123 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 160.
  • 124 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 130.

94In sum, the result of the “genetic counseling,” according to Pius XII, should be that of “encouraging the parents to have more children than they would have had without it, as the probability of an unfortunate case is less than was thought.”118 In a clinic such as the Dight Institute, counseling would not, however, involve the problem of number of children and would not aim to “repress fertility.” The Pope emphasized: “You would not give information on the way to ‘plan’ families, because such a question does not enter your objectives.”119 It is interesting to note here how the Pope reproduced, in an almost literal way, several passages from the essay Counseling in Medical Genetics, by Sheldon C. Reed, director of the Dight Institute from 1947 to 1977:120 this classic essay was translated in Italian in 1959 and published in the series Analecta Genetica, edited by Luigi Gedda.121 In Reed’s essay, the typical topics of American eugenics abounded, such as the proposal of the segregation of children with low IQs in special institutes,122 the statement of the “dysgenic” nature of insulin123 and the identification of “diagnostic criteria” useful in adoption for estimating whether a child “of mixed racial ancestry” could “pass for white” and therefore enjoy better socio-economic conditions in life.124 Despite these ambiguous references, the Pope’s discourse nevertheless explicitly condemned racism and negative eugenics. In the face of the progress of genetics, men—the Pope claimed—must “themselves avoid, and help others to avoid, the numerous difficulties of physical and moral character,” in this way respecting the “community of blood” that represented the material basis of human nature:

  • 125 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 683.

They must be alert to all that could cause permanent damage to their descendants and lead to an interminable length of disgrace. In regards to this, let us remember that the community of blood between people, whether in the family or the community, imposes certain duties. Although the formal elements of every human community are of a psychological and moral order, the descendants constitute the material basis that must be respected and not damaged.125

95Applied to the “human stock,” this same principle required great prudence, given the “exaggerated insistence of the significance and value of racial factors”:

  • 126 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 683–84.

Those excesses that can lead to racial pride and hatred are unfortunately overly marked. The Church has always been energetically opposed to this, both in cases of attempts at genocide, and in those that have been called a “color-bar” (color barrier). It also disapproves of any genetic experience that takes the spiritual nature of man too lightly and treats it as an example of any animal species.126

96A few days later, on 12 September 1958, Pius XII received the participants of the 7th International Congress of Hematology to Castel Gandolfo, and on this occasion, responded directly to several questions posed by physicians on the issue of “defective heredity” and genetic counseling. Four questions specifically addressed the problem of Mediterranean anemia. The first was: “In general, and especially in Italy and the Mediterranean basin, are premarital examinations and in particular blood exams, advisable?” The Pope’s answer was affirmative, even going so far as to hypothesize, in particularly serious localized situations, an obligatory character:

  • 127 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 710–11.

This examination is advisable, just as, if the danger is truly serious, it could be imposed in certain provinces or localities. In Italy, in the entire Mediterranean basin, and where groups of emigrants from this country are gathered, we must keep special track of this Mediterranean hematological disorder. The moralist will avoid apodictic “yes” or “no” pronouncements about particular cases; only the observation of the data will allow us to determine if we find ourselves in front of a serious obligation.127

  • 128 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 712.
  • 129 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 712. On the Catholic Church’s acceptance of the Ogino-Knaus method, (...)

97Marriage could be advised against, but not prohibited: this was the response of the Catholic Church to the second question. Pius XII referred to the encyclical Casti Connubii, highlighting the difficulty of “reconciling the two points of view, the eugenic and the moral.”128 The third question—“For existing marriages in which ‘Mediterranean hematological disorders’ are ascertained, is it permissible to advise against offspring?”—was satisfied with similar arguments. It was permissible to advise against, but not prohibit, and the Church proposed, as acceptable contraceptive methods from a Catholic moral point of view, abstinence and the Ogino-Knaus method, and also approved of adoption of children.129 As for a question regarding the validity of a marriage contracted by carriers of “Mediterranean hematological illness”—“If the spouses are ignorant of their condition at the moment of marriage, could this be grounds for an annulment of marriage?”—the Pope responded in the negative:

  • 130 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 713.

Neither simple ignorance, nor fraudulent concealment of a hereditary defect, nor moreover the positive error that would have impeded the marriage if the defect had been discovered, are sufficient to cast doubt on its validity. The object of the matrimonial contract is too simple and too clear to be able to plead ignorance.130

98In the photographs that accompanied the publication of Pius XII’s two discourses, the figure constantly at the Pope’s side was that of Luigi Gedda, president of the Catholic Action, as well as director since 1953 of the “Gregorio Mendel” Institute in Rome, and authoritative voice of medical genetics, close to the orientation of the Vatican. In Gedda’s interpretation, eugenics was one of the “knots” that characterized the links between medicine, on one side, and on the other, the family, in the Catholic sense. On 7 June 1958, at the 5th Health Congress (Convegno della salute) in Ferrara, Gedda confirmed:

  • 131 Luigi Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina (Turin: Borla, 1963), 164. Renzo, Lucia, Don Abb (...)

Eugenics is today rapidly earning public notice, so that Renzo and Lucia would be more likely to consult the physician before going to Don Abbondio or to Azzeccagarbugli. [...] A family rationally oriented by their physician must tighten a eugenic knot between the spouses, that is, a rapport which, in the probabilistic approach of genetics, is destined to produce healthy children.131

  • 132 Luigi Gedda, “Eugenetica e profilassi mentale,” in Sanità mentale ed assistenza psichiatrica. Atti (...)

99In this view, “eugenic counseling” was a “delicate but necessary service, worthy of science and modern civilization”132 and its development had to be based on respect for the sacredness of life and individual liberty. From this, Gedda explicitly condemned any form of mandatory premarital certificate:

  • 133 Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina, 172.

We are against that exaggeration called mandatory premarital medical certification, clearly being of the view that the free consultation of a physician on the part of the betrothed is at least as important as the consultation of a lawyer.
Eugenic counseling by a physician revolves around two poles: knowledge that every man carries morbid defects; and discretion regarding the freedom of man, requiring the physician to give, with professional confidentiality, advice and not anathemas.133

100Sterilization and the “systematic registration of defectives”—a technique supported by Scandinavian eugenicists at the World Population Conference in Rome in 1955—also provoked Gedda’s net condemnation:

  • 134 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione (Rome: Staderini, 1955), 21–22. The speech was made in Rome, o (...)

However hereditarily defective he might be, man is endowed with values that are truly human, which cannot be deliberately ignored, or reviled in anyone. Registration, as discreet as the proposal suggests it would be, would never be secret, and would therefore classify, in front of public opinion, in a seriously damaging way, a category of people who, beneath other aspects, may be worthwhile, and who are not morally at fault in any way for having received a certain inheritance.134

101In the same context, Gedda compared eugenic birth control to a sort of sterilization:

  • 135 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione, 22–23.

The same moral principles just enunciated have weight for the birth control of defectives, with one addition. Birth control, including certain methods that have been publicly proclaimed, is not so different from the sterilization of defectives pursued by racism, and we cannot understand how those who are justly opposed to that procedure can consider themselves satisfied by birth control. [...] Also for the procreation of defectives the recourse to high prestige eugenic counseling is preferable, which, within the boundaries of moral laws, can create an imperative of conscience: this represents a strong impediment, but it respects the moral freedom of mankind.135

  • 136 Istituto Italiano di Medicina Sociale, La consultazione prematrimoniale (Roma, 24 gennaio 1969) (R (...)
  • 137 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione, 24.
  • 138 Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina, 167. Gedda was opposed to the idea of a general index (...)

102Rather than birth control, eugenic diagnosis had a precise function of supporting the birthrate, as Gedda declared in a seminar, in January 1969, on the theme of premarital counseling, at the Italian Institute of Social Medicine: “To summarize, [the aims of premarital counseling are] exclusion of sterility, exclusion of infertility, […] and prevention of illness in those who could be the children of the couple.”136 According to Gedda, rather than a compulsory measure, a constant eugenic monitoring of the family was necessary, not limited to the premarital phase, but extended also to the postnatal and adolescent ages of the children.137 Gedda proposed, in particular, the institution of an “individual sanitary identity card” that followed the person in all his relationships with the medical sphere.138

  • 139 Giacomo Perico, “Visita e certificato prematrimoniali (continuazione),” Aggiornamenti sociali 12, (...)

103Therefore, from the end of the 1950s and for a good part of the following decade, the secular and the Catholic fields of Italian eugenics seemed to share, for different motivations, the approval of premarital eugenic counseling, based not on imposed and compulsory measures, but on the respect of individual freedom and the “construction of a hygienic and sanitary mentality.”139

  • 140 Lecturer of social medicine at the University of Rome and of hygiene at the University of Lecce, D (...)

104Nevertheless, the problem of mandatory premarital visits reappeared in the Italian legislative debate in 1969. Curiously, it was actually the Catholic battle against the divorce laws approved in 1970 that fed this rentrée. Explicitly recalling the Tibaldi Chiesa bill, the new proposal presented in July 1969 by the Christian Democrat deputy Beniamino De Maria140 identified the premarital certificate as one of the indispensable sanitary instruments for defending the solidity of the family structure, which was increasingly under threat:

  • 141 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill proposed by deputies De Maria, Anselmi Tina, Martini (...)

The socio-economic and above all, moral, progress of our country has by now matured the principal problems that surround the institute of marriage and the formation of an increasingly advanced and civilized society. The dangers of such progress are well known and undermine the roots of matrimony as an indissoluble bind on which the family should be founded. In the face of these attempts at disintegration and annulment of family life, the necessity to identify instruments and institutions—in the deplorable hypothesis of an opening of a “breach” in the connective tissue of the indissoluble link that unites two spouses—which allow, on the contrary, the reinforcement and restoration of the institute of marriage, has come to the attention of public opinion, the Parliament and the country. These measures must work in such a way that the youth, who intend to unite themselves for all their lives, will be more responsible and knowledgeable of the act that they are about to undertake, and of the perspectives, rights and duties that attend the founders of a new family, from a juridical, moral, and in particular, hygienic-sanitary point of view.141

  • 142 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 2–3.
  • 143 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 3.
  • 144 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 5.

105According to the introductory section of the bill, the wide-spread opposition to any form of mandatory premarital examination derived from the “hygienic-social immaturity (and in some cases, absolute ignorance) of vast sectors of the Italian population” and the “almost total inadequacy of the current sanitary and advisory structures in our country, in which sanitary centers of primary importance are scarce.”142 Referring to Pius XII’s declaration at the Congress of Hematology in 1958, De Maria’s bill proposed mandatory premarital examinations and certificates, with a simply informative character, because “society has the right to defend itself against the dangers that could strike its collective health.”143 The articles of De Maria’s bill reproduced the contents of Tibaldi Chiesa’s proposal, at least as far as concerned the constitution of counseling centers in provincial hospitals, the composition of the specialized medical staff, the characteristics of the examination and certificate, and the mode of financing. Added to such indications however, were the authorization of the release of the certificate to individuals for both public and private counseling centers, and the introduction of monetary fines, according to criteria already outlined by the CNPDS Commission.144

  • 145 Angelo Bianchi to Montalenti, 27 October 1970, AM, b. 76, f. 6.
  • 146 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana alla proposta di legge n. 1656 (Camera dei Deputati) su “ (...)
  • 147 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.
  • 148 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.
  • 149 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

106While Monaldi’s and Tibaldi Chiesa’s bills had notably exploited the technical advice of the CNPDS, De Maria’s bill on the “mandatory nature of premarital visits and the institution of matrimonial counseling centers” was studied and discussed by a specific commission nominated by the members of the Italian Genetics Association (AGI), during the meeting in Erice on 16 October 1970.145 The members of this special commission included Giuseppe Montalenti, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Gedda, Franco Conterio, and Antonio Moroni. The results of the analysis, fruit of a first draft written on the 9 November 1970 and successively completed with the observations of Cavalli-Sforza and Italo Barrai, were available until May 1971.146 The commission and the executive committee of the AGI declared themselves generally in favor of De Maria’s proposal, but expressed many reserves on the formulation of the bill. First of all, the geneticists rejected the idea of a blanket mandatory examination, believing it damaging to individual freedom and also difficult to manage, due to the scarce availability of personnel qualified in genetic counseling. They proposed instead to limit the obligatoriness to only currently manifesting contagious illnesses, which could be easily identified by provincial laboratories of hygiene and prophylaxis, without any particular problem of organization or funding.147 The commission—referring, on the suggestion of Barrai, to the statements of the World Health Organization—strongly stressed the necessity that the staff of counseling centers should include personnel specialized in problems of human and medical genetics.148 In addition, the superior authority (health ministry or department) should consult “a special commission of experts that must include geneticists,” in order to ensure that counseling centers had all the necessary useful structures for genetic diagnoses.149

  • 150 Draft attached to the letter from Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza to Benedetto Nicoletti, 22 December 19 (...)

107To these specifications—the optional character of the premarital examination and the presence of geneticists in counseling centers—another was added. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza,150 and in general the secular component of the commission, strongly petitioned for the indication of a specific role of counseling in the field of family planning:

  • 151 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

As regards the juridical and moral advice that the counseling center can offer, it seems implicit that it should include, among other things, the responsibility of the newlyweds for the future offspring, also in the field of family planning.151

  • 152 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica (Pisa: ETS, 1972), 7.

108In May 1971, the AGI commission attempted to resolve the basic ambiguity of all the legislative proposals for premarital counseling that had been outlined until that time: the geneticists, in particular, stressed the difference between “infective” or “contagious” diseases (particularly venereal diseases), and genetic diseases. Regarding the latter, they demanded the recognition of their specific and irreplaceable professional skills. The main problem consisted evidently in the situation of serious backwardness of medical genetics in Italy. This concern also pervaded the final report of the AGI scientific meeting held in Pavia in September 1972. After reaffirming the fundamental role of “medical specialists in genetic diseases,”152 the last part of this report explicitly denounced the retardation of Italian medical genetics:

  • 153 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 8–9.

We can say that general genetics, as much as human genetics, medical genetics and molecular biology are, qualitatively, on an international level; specialized medical genetics however must still develop in Italy. In other terms, though we have solid bases on which to construct a series of schools of specialized medical genetics, these in practice, do not exist.153

  • 154 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 10.

109The development of genetic counseling centers would therefore be a useful initiative, “both to prevent the birth of abnormal babies and to direct couples to make their decisions on a scientific basis rather than an emotional one.” However, it had to be preceded by the constitution, with an “urgent nature” and “absolute priority,” of a “school” to train personnel for the centers.154 However, although believing the opening of genetic counseling centers to be appropriate, the AGI again confirmed its opposition to a mandatory premarital examination:

  • 155 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 11.

While we believe that it is appropriate to open centers, once qualified staff has been trained, we think that the obligatoriness of the premarital examination is absolutely unadvisable. In fact, such a visit would constitute a notable limitation of individual freedom. We believe therefore that every citizen should have a genetic service available, and not a mandatory examination.155

  • 156 Giacomo Perico, “Aspetti medico-sociali della ‘visita prematrimoniale,’” La Civiltà Cattolica, 298 (...)

110A few days after the publication of this document, on 18 October 1972, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill on the reform of Italian Family Law: in the first chapter, where the physical acquaintance of both spouses was required for marriage, an optional premarital medical examination was inserted in article seven. In the Senate, two years later, on 30 May 1974, the “optional” character of the visit, together with the entire content of article seven, was newly rejected, leaving such work to sanitary regulations as its most natural place.156

  • 157 Fiorella Nuzzo, “La diagnosi prenatale,” Sapere 746 (March 1972): 11.
  • 158 De Sio and Capocci, “Southern genes,” 812–15.

111Moreover, the premarital certificate seemed by now an obsolete sanitary instrument, compared to the new possibilities of prenatal diagnosis. The latter was welcomed by the popular science journal Sapere, for the first time in Italy, in March 1972, as a practice destined to revolutionize the cure of genetic diseases, both through the means of “selective” and “therapeutic” abortion, and through “euphenic” corrective therapy, adopted before birth.157 Three years later, in 1975, in Sardinia, the research group led by Antonio Cao, professor of pediatrics at the University of Cagliari, devised the first method of prenatal diagnosis of the beta-thalassemic phenotype. In 1977, a program of voluntary screening and genetic counseling was set up, in which prenatal diagnosis was side by side with a large spectrum communicative work, coordinated with general practitioners, family planning associations and patient associations. Starting from a frequency of live homozygous births of about 1 in 250, in Sardinia the campaign managed to bring the frequency to 1 in 1000 in the first decade, getting to 1 in 4000 in 1997.158

3. Eugenics and Catholic Medical Genetics: Luigi Gedda and the “Gregorio Mendel” Institute

112In 1951, Luisa Gianferrari, director of the Milan Study Center in Human Genetics, and Luigi Gedda, physician and important political exponent of the Italian Catholic right, created a new association: the Italian Society of Medical Genetics (Società italiana di Genetica Medica), presided over by the physiologist Carlo Foà, and as opposed to the Montalenti–Barigozzi–Buzzati line as Gini’s SIGE. On 6–7 September 1953, just a week after the Bellagio Congress, the First International Symposium of Medical Genetics (Primum Symposium Internationale Geneticae Medicae) was held in Rome, under the auspices of Pius XII. The convention was organized in collaboration with the Italian Society of Medical Genetics and coincided with the inauguration of the Institute of Medical Genetics and Twin research “Gregorio Mendel,” founded in Rome, with headquarters in Piazza Galeno, and directed by Luigi Gedda.

  • 159 Barigozzi to Montalenti, 26 May 1952, AM, b. 28, f. 9.

113The level of conflict existing between the Italian geneticists—Barigozzi, Buzzati and Montalenti—and Gedda and Gianferrari, is well represented by the few lines that Barigozzi wrote to Montalenti, in the midst of organizing the Bellagio Congress: “Gianferrari and Gedda are fighting against Gini and Jucci, because they want to not only form a sort of congress of medical genetics, but also an anti-SIGE association.”159 Still more incendiary, several months later, was the Buzzati-Traverso’s quip to Montalenti:

  • 160 Buzzati-Traverso to Montalenti, 2 February 1953, AM, b. 28, f. 9.

And what do you think of those S.O.Bs (if you don’t know what it means, ask the nearest American) Gedda and Gianferrari, who are putting together a symposium of medical genetics, without saying even one word to the organizers of the congress? With this, they also make us look stupid, regarding those who would have been invited, who will conclude that usually in Italy, we gently lead each other to the gallows.160

114The clash was, above all, of a scientific nature: the geneticists intended to impede the advance of those clinicians who were involved in the eugenic fascist past, and were currently attempting to present their constitutional, genealogical and twin analyses on the heredity of physiological, psychological and pathological traits under the label of “genetics.” At the inaugural ceremony of the “Gregorio Mendel” Institute, Carlo Foà deliberately attacked the so-called “pure” geneticists, energetically restating the right of medicine to address human genetics:

  • 161 Carlo Foà, “Discorso pronunciato nella cerimonia inaugurale dell’Istituto G. Mendel il 6 settembre (...)

Let us be frank; our Society has not been created without any opposition, and now finds itself in a polemical phase. On one side, the major part of general genetics experts hesitates to admit that human genetics (and even less, medical genetics) has the right to an autonomous life. On the other side, physicians have taken the study of the hereditariness of physiological, psychological and pathological characteristics of the human species upon themselves.161

115Only medicine could provide geneticists with that “verification of the most subtle clinical symptoms,” necessary for the study of human heredity:

  • 162 Foà, “Discorso pronunciato nella cerimonia inaugurale dell’Istituto G. Mendel il 6 settembre 1953, (...)

“Genetics is one,” I have heard it said. I agree: its laws hold true for all the living beings and represent the doctrinal basis of every specialized investigation, but this cannot be accomplished, except by the specialists of single branches of biological science, including clinical. Who, if not the specialized clinician, can discover how illnesses of the skeleton, blood, metabolism, organs of sense, the psyche, are propagated in descendents, if they do not have specific knowledge of each of these arguments?162

  • 163 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, review of Luigi Gedda, ed., Genetica Medica. Primum Symposium Internatio (...)

116But the reply of the “pure” geneticists was not long in coming. It was Buzzati-Traverso who dedicated a vitriolic review to Gedda’s symposium, in Science, denouncing the isolation of the initiative in terms of international scientific context, and inviting both Gedda and Foà to at least learn the “correct use of the terminology” before occupying themselves with genetics.163

  • 164 Ministerial decree by Antonio Segni, 15 June 1953, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere (...)

117Besides the scientific dimension, a political and academic opposition further aggravated the situation. In fact, Luigi Gedda’s debut in the field of genetics was marked by a scandal that identified the harsh confrontation between the Catholic and the secular components of Italian medical genetics. In 1953, for the qualification exam sessions for the chair in human genetics, the Ministry of Public Education (Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione) consulted the First Section of the High Council (Sezione I del Consiglio Superiore) of Public Education regarding the composition of the deciding committee. The High Council proposed the following names: as permanent members, Claudio Barigozzi (professor of genetics in Milan), Giuseppe Montalenti (professor of genetics in Naples) and Alfonso Giordano (professor of anatomy and pathological histology in Pavia); as substitute members, Adriano Buzzati-Traverso (professor of genetics in Pavia) and Umberto D’Ancona (professor of zoology in Padua). Without taking this recommendation into account, on 15 June 1953, the Christian Democrat Antonio Segni, Minister of Public Education, proposed an alternative: the three professors of genetics disappeared from the committee, and in their places Segni nominated, as permanent members, Luigi Gedda, Luisa Gianferrari and Giovanni Di Guglielmo (professor of general clinical medicine and medical therapy in Rome), and, as substitute members, Alfonso Giordano and Giovanni Dall’Acqua (professor of specialized medical pathology and clinical methodology in Bari).164

  • 165 Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Turin, verbal extract of the Faculty Board, 4 (...)
  • 166 Claudio Barigozzi and Adriano Buzzati-Traverso appeal to the State Council, 27 August 1953, ACS, M (...)
  • 167 Appeal by Giuseppe Montalenti to the Head of state, 14 December 1953, in ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione (...)

118The first reaction to Segni’s interference came from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Turin, which approved, on 4 July 1953, a motion of condemnation.165 After having petitioned in vain for the Ministry to reconsider its choice, with a letter sent 15 July, Barigozzi, Buzzati-Traverso and Montalenti adopted the strategy of a frontal attack: the first two appealed, on 27 August, to the State Council (Consiglio di Stato),166 while the third denounced Segni’s decision directly to the President of the Italian Republic in December.167 The accusation of the geneticists pointed the finger at the illegitimacy of the ministerial decision. The composition of a deciding committee should be, in fact, an act of acute technical discretion, possessed to the maximum by the High Council as the consultative organ expressly created to that end: the Ministry had not only ignored the recommendation of the High Council, but had not given any justification for its interference. The deciding committee had to be, in addition, composed of technicians, and therefore professors, of the relevant discipline (in this case, genetics) or of related disciplines. This last criterion was followed by the High Council but not by the Ministry, who had excluded the three professors of the mother-discipline (genetics), completely neglecting the professors of “general biology and zoology, including genetics,” and confirming, as a substitute member, the professor of anatomy and pathology first designated as a permanent member. On the contrary, three pathologists and a clinician had been included.

  • 168 Memo from the State Advocacy in response to the appeal by Barigozzi and Buzzati-Traverso, 23 March (...)

119State Advocacy (Avvocatura generale dello Stato) was appointed to defend the Ministry and, on 23 March 1954, presented a written deposition to refute the charges. According to this report, it was up to the Ministry to nominate the deciding committee and the recommendation of the High Council was certainly not binding. Neither did the Ministry need to offer a motivation to explain a decision which contrasted with the advice of the High Council. As for the choice of specialties for the composition of the deciding committee, State Advocacy did not believe that it violated any law, substantially for two reasons. First, “there could not be full professors of human genetics, because it is a specialization which is not currently taught in universities.” Second, “only three were tenured professors of similar disciplines—genetics—and their inclusion in the committee was not seen as appropriate because they were professors of genetics, a discipline of the Faculty of Science, according to the current university categorization, while centers of human genetics are above all in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.” For these reasons, according to the Ministry of Public Education, “the inclusion in the committee of noted scholars was necessary—even if they were not professors—from centers of human genetics. It seems that we find ourselves in front of one of those typical cases in which the law allows us to have recourse to research fellows.”168

  • 169 Sentence of the State Council, 7 April 1954, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docen (...)
  • 170 Sentence of the State Council, 7 April 1954, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docen (...)
  • 171 E. Modica, “Gedda bocciato,” L’Unità (14 April 1954).

120Considering all sides of the controversy, the sixth session of the State Council, at its jurisdictional seat on 7 April 1954, found in favor of the geneticists and annulled Segni’s decree of June 1953. The sentence was expressed in two parts. In the first, the State Council recognized the formal validity of the appeal. In the second, it reaffirmed, contrary to the position of State Advocacy, the function of the High Council and the limits of eventually different decisions.169 The Ministry of Public Education, having received the recommendation of the High Council, could also have chosen not to follow it completely, or in part, but it had to justify its interference, demonstrating that reasons of public interest were incorrectly or not sufficiently valued by the High Council. As this had not happened, the State Council judged Segni’s decree as illegitimate.170 The public importance of this judiciary case is well exemplified by the title of the article that appeared in the journal of the Italian Communist Party, L’Unità on 14 April 1954171—“Gedda rejected.”

121Actually, the progressive advancement of Luigi Gedda in the field of medical genetics had started some years before, in 1952, with the publishing of the quarterly Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae, and in 1953, with the inauguration of the “G. Mendel” Institute, in the presence of Pius XII and the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Pella.

122In the article opening the first number of Acta geneticae medicae, which he himself directed, Gedda included his approach to genetics in a general framework of methodological reformulation of medical constitutionalism. The title chosen—Genetics, medicine and constitution—was significant in itself. Gedda’s discourse, in fact, started by criticizing the traditional forma mentis of the physician, caught between “Virchowian localism” and “Pasteurian esogenism”:

  • 172 Luigi Gedda, “Genetica, medicina e costituzione,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 1, no. 1 (...)

“Virchowian localism” and “Pasteurian esogenism” have dominated medical knowledge in the first half of the 20th century, determining “the mode” of scientific research and professional exercise, which has concentrated the fire of its attention on the anatomical-pathological framework and on the external pathogenic noxa, leaving causality and phenomena of a different order in half-light.172

  • 173 Gedda, “Genetica, medicina e costituzione,” 5.

123According to Gedda, the three different schools of constitutional medicine—morphological, functional and neuro-endocrinal—had tried to resolve such dichotomies, but with little success. Only genetics could, in fact, allow a synthesis between “synchronic” (form and function in action) and “diachronic” (individual anamnesy) studies of the phenotype and analysis of the “family stock.”173

124In Gedda’s opinion therefore, medicine had arrived at a “turning point,” because, due to the decisive contribution of genetics, the focus of scientific and professional interest was shifting “from the recognition of the imprint of illness on the phenotype and from the knowledge of esogenic moments of illness,” to the “endogenic moments, that is, to constitution.”

125In his discourse at the inauguration of the Mendel Institute, Gedda, after having listed the three methods on which medical genetics had to be based (familial anamnesy, twin research and the genetic study of the population), repeated the connection between genetics and constitutionalism:

  • 174 Luigi Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” in Genetica Medica. Primum Symposium Int (...)

The problem of the constitution must be confronted using concepts, terms and laws of genetics to find a true, convincing and useful solution. In this framework we can completely understand the concept of “diathesis,” which means the receptivity or reactivity that is specifically hereditarily conditioned, and the concept of “ground” [terreno], which qualifies the current or realizable constitutional resistance that an organism opposes in a certain moment to a certain morbid agent. The doctrine of the constitution is a corollary of medical genetics.174

  • 175 Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” 6.
  • 176 Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” 6.

126The work of medical genetics was to “carry its help to the clinic to study, diagnose and cure the phenotype,” but also to “make the phenotype as translucent as crystal, so that we can transparently see what is happening on the level of genotype and can provide for the individual and his offspring.”175 From here came “the prevention of the hereditary disease of the single individual and its cure without fatalism and purely symptomatic therapy, the treatment of diathesis, eugenics at the service of the individual rights and duties of the human person, and even premarital counseling.” In Gedda’s view, genetics must become the common heritage of family medicine, newly called to seize the “invisible fabric that links the illness of man to the history of his blood.” In addition to family medicine, Gedda maintained the necessity of new specialized centers “where the problem can be posed and resolved through all the means that the insurance companies, military and sport medicine and other institutions that carry out collective medical assistance, can today arrange.”176

  • 177 See “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medica (...)
  • 178 “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medicae,” (...)

127Pope Pius XII confirmed Gedda’s program, giving a long speech at the inauguration of the Mendel Institute, which, on one hand, approved the general problem of eugenics, judged “irreproachable” from a moral point of view. On the other, he strongly condemned certain defensive measures in genetics and eugenics.177 Sterilization, the “prohibition of marriage,” the segregation of defectives and therapeutic abortion were, therefore, all placed on the same plane and were equally rejected in the name of respect for the dignity of the human person, according to Catholic teachings.178 Genetics, Pius XII concluded, could not regard the human being in the same way as other animal and vegetable species:

  • 179 “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medicae,” (...)

The practical aims being pursued by genetics are noble and worthy of recognition and encouragement. Would that your science, in weighing up the means destined to achieve those ends, could only remain always conscious of the fundamental difference that exists between the animal and vegetable world on the one hand, and man on the other! In the first case, the means of bettering the species and race are entirely at the disposal of science. On the other hand, in the domain of man, genetics are always dealing with personal beings, possessing inviolable rights, with individuals who for their part are bound by inflexible moral laws in the exercise of their power to raise up a new life. Thus the Creator himself has established certain barriers in the moral domain, which no human power has authority to remove.179

  • 180 See for example, Luigi Gedda, Giuseppe Del Porto and Adriana Del Porto-Mercuri, “Sindrome di Werdn (...)

128With the strength of such papal investiture, the scientific activity of the Mendel Institute focused, in the following years, on “eugenic” counseling and twin research. Family and twin studies were published in Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae180 and were presented at the International Symposium of Medical Genetics and at the 2nd International Congress of Human Genetics, organized by Luigi Gedda in 1953 and 1961.

129Both events are particularly relevant because they reveal an international eugenics network, orbiting around the Mendel Institute and its president.

  • 181 On Grebe and Verschuer see, in particular, among others, Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for (...)

130A first branch of Gedda’s post-war liaisons dangereuses consisted in post-Nazi German eugenics: the most representative figures in this sense were undoubtedly the geneticist Othmar von Verschuer, head of the department of human heredity of the KWI for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics, and the physician Hans Grebe, Verschuer’s assistant at Frankfurt and KWI in Berlin.181 After the war, Verschuer, who came out unscathed from the purging trials, thanks to his academic connections and his close ties with the ecclesiastical environment, was appointed professor of human genetics at the University of Münster in 1951, became president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Anthropologie in 1952, and of the Faculty of Medicine of Münster, in 1954. His close links with Gedda were exemplarily reassumed, along with numerous scientific collaborations, by the pompous homage the Italian geneticist dedicated to him in 1956, on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, in the pages of Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae. The title of Gedda’s article, A master and an example completely summarized the apologetic nature of the contribution. After a detailed exposition of Verschuer’s scientific production, the article concluded with a few eloquent lines:

  • 182 Luigi Gedda, “Un maestro e un esempio,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 5, no. 3 (July 195 (...)

Master of well-known fame and forger of men, who dedicated himself to scientific research with a spirit of vocation, he is also an example of industry and method for all scientists, and especially for all geneticists, beyond the borders of his School and his Nation. It is our duty to recognize Verschuer’s prominence, taking the opportunity of his birthday, profoundly convinced as we are that the best praise is this: Master and Example.182

  • 183 See Benno Müller-Hill, Murderous Science. Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, an (...)

131Hans Grebe183 was also frequently in contact with Gedda, as Grebe himself stated in an interview released by Benno Müller-Hill:

  • 184 Müller-Hill, Murderous Science, 167–68. On the collaboration between Gedda and Grebe, see Hans Gre (...)

I have always said that race is only the sum total of certain traits. But human genetics is not so simple. The Church is very interested in the subject. In 1953, I attended the First Congress of Human Genetics, which was held in Rome. The Director of the Institute of Human Genetics in Rome, Professor Gedda, explained to me why the Church is so interested in twin research. Do twins have two souls or one? The Holy Father received us in audience. He came up to me and said: “I have good news for you: Adenauer has been re-elected.” Eugenics had its high and low points. The Holy Father spoke about this. But we should continue to aspire to the heights.184

  • 185 See Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), (...)
  • 186 See Reginald Ruggles Gates, “Records of Y-inherited Hairy Ears in India,” Acta geneticae medicae e (...)

132In addition to connections with German post-Nazi eugenics, Gedda’s eugenics network also involved Anglo-American racial anthropology. The successive chapter will focus more deeply on Gedda’s collaboration with the International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics (IAAEE). Here it is perhaps worth mentioning the friendship between Gedda and the botanist and anthropologist Reginald Ruggles Gates, a significant figure for nearly four decades (from the 1920s to the 1960s) in Anglo-American scientific racism, inveterate advocate of biological differences between the human races and of the natural inferiority of the “blacks” in respect to the “whites.”185 Articles by Ruggles Gates abounded in Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae, dedicated to questions of “racial genetics.”186 Even more representative of his relationship with Gedda is perhaps the obituary, which appeared in the journal in January 1963:

  • 187 Luigi Gedda, “Prof. R. Ruggles Gates (in memoriam),” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 12, n (...)

A year after he participated, accompanied by his wife, with great enthusiasm and notable scientific contributions, in the Second International Conference of Human Genetics in Rome, Prof. R. Ruggles Gates has died at the age of 80, in London. In that capital he was professor of Botany from 1921 to 1942.
During his academic career he was oriented always more toward the study of genetics, with particular regard to racial and population genetics. Author of 380 publications, including books and articles, he took part in our treatise De Genetica Medica writing an original 128-page work, titled “Race Crossing.” Also, he asked the Mendel Institute to collaborate on his research on hairy ears, of which trait he studied the hereditary transmission. [...] Brisk and youthful spirit, he experienced sacrifices and inevitable confrontations for science, conserving the impetus and enthusiasm of the first hour. Generous to the young, cordial with his friends, ingenious in his studies, pioneer of the genetic revision of anthropology, his exemplary spirit of researcher and master remains among us.187

  • 188 Luigi Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” in Tommaso Lucherini an (...)
  • 189 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 85.
  • 190 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 89.

133In addition to these international contacts, several research interests highlight the involvement of Gedda’s Mendel Institute in eugenics. A significant example is the investigation on the heredity of “sporting talent,” conducted between the mid-1950s and the celebration of the Rome Olympics in 1960. At the Congress on Sports Medicine, organized in 1960 by the Olympic Executive Committee (presided over by the Christian Democratic politician Giulio Andreotti) and by the Surgical Clinic of the University of Rome, directed by Pietro Valdoni, Luigi Gedda presented a paper that synthesized the results of the genealogical and twin research conducted by the Mendel Institute since 1955. According to Gedda, the investigations on family pedigrees, as much as the study of twins, demonstrated the “true genetic roots of sporting athleticism”: the “precious genotypes responsible for sporting talent” were transmitted “through dominant Mendelian mechanisms.”188 Gedda went so far as to hypothesize the existence of a sporting “phenotype” and “genotype.”189 In an investigation on the athletes awarded with gold or silver medals until 1955 by the Italian National Olympic Committee (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, CONI), Gedda and his collaborators deduced a so-called “index of familial sportingness,” with the aim of identifying diverse “hereditary conditioning” of various sports.190 Once the origin of the sporting talent was ascertained in “the hereditary constitutional variability of the individual,” the role of medical genetics in the selection of athletes obviously assumed a fundamental centrality:

  • 191 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 90–91.

The geneticist must advise that the selection of athletes should take maximum notice of the familial sporting anamnesy, [...] both to avoid the repeat of failures, and to orientate the subject toward those sporting goals for which presumably his hereditary constitution presents some atouts which it would be wise to consider.191

134With this view, it is not surprising that Gedda considered the Olympics in Rome as an extraordinary laboratory of genetic analysis of sporting activity. In 1959, he presented CONI with a project relative to the adoption of an official scientific program for the Olympic Games, based on the following premise:

  1. The Olympic athletes represent for the most part the fruit of a long and precise selection, which is realized in their country of origin, with the aim of presenting at the Olympic Games those sportingly endowed subjects who have the highest probability of victory. And so, not just the winners of the Olympic competitions, but all the Olympic athletes have, from a somatic-psychic point of view, a high level of representativeness;
  2. the representativeness of the Olympic athletes is specific, that is, it enhances the morphological and functional characteristics of any sport to the highest level [...];
  3. data collection could not be completed, not even mostly, during the Olympic Games, because organizational and psychological reasons would make the athletes unapproachable and intractable on those days, and far from the ideal conditions of scientific research;
  4. the progressive breaking of records in the results of the successive Olympics, fruit of increasingly vast selection and increasingly efficient training, postulates a scientific testing of the homo olympicus, every four years, as interesting scientific fact not only for sport, but for all sciences dealing with the human being and the development of human civilization;
  5. the scientific investigation can not therefore be reduced to a team that operates in the place and time of the Olympic Games, but must result from the scientific collaboration of an international Olympic medical-scientific commission with national medical-scientific commissions, which must be conveniently planned, well in advance.192

135CONI approved Gedda’s program and decided the organization of a medical-scientific committee, presided over by Gedda, which was inaugurated on 27 November 1959. According to the program, CONI would adopt an “Olympic athlete card” as a “basic document for the scientific research,” compiled by Gedda and sent “in useful time” to all National Olympic Committees in order to “solicit and orientate them in the gathering of necessary data for the scientific program during the pre-Olympic period.” A health center was installed in the Olympic village, equipped “for the performance of requested medical cures and physiotherapeutic treatments, and also for the development and the control of official and voluntary scientific research.” Finally, the “centralization of official scientific research” would take place at the Mendel Institute in Rome.

  • 193 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 65–71
  • 194 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 24.

136Gedda prepared two forms (for the male and female athletes), in five languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish and German) and sent them to all National Olympic Committees, nine months prior to the Olympic Games. The forms consisted of 73 questions, divided into four pages and several subgroups: genealogical tree, physiological and pathological anamnesy, clinical exams, anthropometric data, sporting anamnesy, and psychophysiological examination. Question number four (immediately after the indications of surname, name, place and date of birth) asked the athlete to specify their “race,” choosing between “white,” “negro,” “mongloid,” “American-Indian,” “Indian,” “mixed” or “other.” Numbers 11 and 12 asked the athlete to specify if they were a “smoker” or a “drinker.” Question number 26 investigated the “success of marriage” with a choice between “good,” “medium” or “bad.” In the “psychophysiological examination” questions, as well as studies completed, languages spoken, profession, and preferences in reading, spare time, color and type of design, the athlete was asked to evaluate their “temperament” in the “sexual sphere”: here the options varied from “+++” to “-.”193 The analysis of the data obtained from the responses of 5192 athletes was undertaken at the Mendel Institute based on four analytical orientations, which proposed the definition of the relationship between sporting performance and the place of birth of the athlete; the characteristics of the family origin and the growth of the athlete; the normal phenotypic traits; age and pathological anamnesy; training and psychical and behavioral characteristics.194

137In order to judge the nature of Gedda’s research, it is interesting to read some of his conclusions:

  • 195 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 62–63

Manual ability (right-handed, left-handed, ambidextrous) does not appear to be associated with any differential value of performance (tab. 43);
social conditions (tab. 44) seem to associate a certain better performance with less well-off social conditions;
the level of instruction is highest for the athletes of fencing and field hockey, and lowest for those of football and boxing (tab. 45)
the frequency of reading is highest in relation to water polo, fencing and rangeshooting, and lowest for pentathlon, boxing, canoe and rowing (tab.46);
the condition of smoker or non-smoker does not appear associated in the overall athlete body with any condition of advantage in performance (tab. 47);
the use of alcoholic drinks appears associated with an improved performance, particularly in the case of wine and beer (tab. 48).195

138In general, the program was a total failure, both because only 20 % of the athletes agreed to compile the form (and not all the questions) and because the delegations of the various countries, particularly Britain, revolted against what they saw as a brazen and embarrassing violation of the athletes’ intimacy. The following ironic account was published in the review Il Ponte, in June 1960:

  • 196 See A. P., “Gedda vuole la firma,” Il Ponte 16, no. 6 (June 1960): 990–91.

There are 300 English athletes at the Olympics, and according to today’s news, they were “advised against” answering. Leslie Tuelove, the manager of the British Olympic delegation, today declared: “The initiative of Prof. Gedda was a fantastic example of brazenness. Our athletic association was never informed of anything and I will do everything to make sure my athletes refuse to respond.” English Olympic runner Derek Ibbotson, 27, married, commented on the questionnaire with this dry phrase: “Prof. Gedda will receive only rude answers.” Brian Hewson, European champion of the 1 500 meters, who is also married, said “It is incredible that he is asking me if in my love life I am cold or passionate. I will certainly not tell him.” The graceful Margaret Edwards, 21, swimming champion, declared: “I will not give him information on my intimate life. I don’t like people who poke their noses into these things. It’s ridiculous. How can I know if I am cold or passionate? Soon I’ll be engaged; I’m sure that my fiancé wouldn’t be happy if I answered these questions.”196

139Gedda himself could not deny the undignified results of the research, but tried to attribute the responsibility to scientific immaturity, the lack of adequate structures and the bad taste of certain newspapers:

  • 197 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 16.

The forms, sent to the 84 participating countries in the period of Olympic athlete selection, were not received everywhere with the serene comprehension and sense of responsibility that scientific research requires.
That could be expected on the part of promoters because it lacked a tradition, as it was the first time in which they were asked to overcome the commitments and emotion of sporting competition with the calm and objective vision of the scientific eye.
Additionally, many nations were not equipped to respond to the questions of the inquiry due to the lack of health structures, or of personnel adept at data collection, or due to lack of time, absorbed by late training and the trip.
Several newspapers also showed the bad taste to joke about this work, making it more difficult. As often happens with new initiatives, it is easier to ridicule then it is to evaluate it.197

  • 198 “Una cattedra universitaria per il prof. Luigi Gedda,” Paese Sera (3–4 May 1960).

140As if all this were not enough, Italian newspapers, in May 1960, on top of the Olympic scandal, published revelations of the maneuvers which, in the same year, had helped Luigi Gedda, ex-president of the Catholic Action, to attain a professorship of medical genetics at the University of Rome. With a convention signed on 19 November 1959, the University of Rome had instituted the chair of medical genetics, completely financed by ONMI, for 3,200,000 lire annually. The position, it goes without saying, was offered by the company San Tommaso Apostolo, proprietor and managing entity of the Mendel Institute.198

141The competition for the position that was held a few months later, in 1960, already had an assured winner, but the way in which it was carried out—reconstructable thanks to the correspondence found in Montalenti papers—demonstrates the political and ideological context which marked Gedda’s academic rise in the field of medical genetics.

  • 199 Professor of human anatomy at the University of Turin, Giuseppe Levi introduced the method of in-v (...)

142On 12 November 1960, the famous Italian histologist Giuseppe Levi199 wrote to Montalenti, indignant that the professorship had gone to Gedda, and determined to denounce the fact:

  • 200 The letter is preserved in AM, b. 33, f. 18.

Dear Montalenti,
It has been reported to me that in the competition for the professorship of human genetics [sic] at the University of Rome, the number one proposal was Gedda. You know that no tenured professor of genetics was part of the deciding committee, and instead Lambertini took part! Wouldn’t it be appropriate if this news were communicated to a “moderate” newspaper, such as “Il Mondo”? Or perhaps better, to “Il Ponte,” that deals more specifically with problems pertaining to culture? In “Il Ponte,” the news could appear in the Ritrovo column. Would you like to place the news yourself, without comments? If you do not wish to do it, I ask you to tell me all the information: names of the committee, names of the applicants (I know that the number two proposal was Ceppellini, but number three I don’t know).
Naturally it won’t do any good, but that doesn’t matter; it is good for the public to know.200

143A few days later, Montalenti answered Levi’s question, likewise scandalized and also inclined to bring attention to what had happened, but without personal exposure:

  • 201 Montalenti to Levi, 21 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. 18.

What has occurred, which has been long in preparation with the creation of the Mendel Institute (largely supported by the Vatican) and with the convention between that Institute and the University of Rome, is truly scandalous. I give you all the details in the attached paper.
For various reasons that you will understand (among others, we are colleagues at the University of Rome this year, and it could seem as if I were jealous of him) I would prefer that my name does not appear. But I agree with you that the scandal must be denounced, even if, as you say, it will not do any good.201

144The anonymous document, attached by Montalenti to his letter, is worth citing entirely, because of the precision and bitter irony with which it describes the organization and results of the competition:

  • 202 Anonymous document attached to the letter from Montalenti to Levi, 21 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. (...)

The voting of the Faculty of Medicine for the deciding committee of the competition for the professorship of medical genetics in Rome had the following results (in order of number of votes): Luigi Condorelli, professor of clinical medicine at University of Rome; Gastone Lambertini, professor of normal human anatomy, Naples; Luigi Turano, professor of medical radiology, Rome; Antonio Lanedei, professor of medical pathology, Florence; Giov. Federico De Gaetani, professor of general pathology, Turin.
None of these has the least competency in human genetics, nor in general genetics: they would all be rejected if they presented themselves for a professorship or even a university exam in human genetics.
Many votes demonstrated however that the body of professors of medicine were far from unanimous. Many voting cards had to be cancelled because they expressed votes such as the following: disgusting; Gedda (the candidate); Cardinal Siri or Cardinal Ottaviani; Gregorio Mendel; Pius XII or John XII.
Additionally, there were about forty blank voting cards. 13 votes went to Giuseppe Montalenti, professor of genetics in the Faculty of Science in Naples; eight to Claudio Barigozzi, professor of genetics in Milan; and five to Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, professor of genetics in Pavia.
The results of the competition were the following: winner Luigi Gedda, with unanimity, with a relation acclaiming his capacity as a geneticist. The three clinicians wished to leave the other two posts vacant. However the recommendation of the other members of the committee prevailed, and so the second post was covered by Ruggero Ceppellini, lecturer in Turin, human geneticist of great value, who however received only three votes; one vote for second place went to Marcello Siniscalco, of the Institute of Genetics of Naples, another competent person of value. In third place, with three votes, was L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, who was short-listed third of three in genetics the previous year, but did not receive the professorship […].
Therefore: the only competent people, able to give a judgment of the value of the applicants (that is, the professors of genetics Montalenti, Barigozzi and Buzzati, some of whom also have a direct and specific competence in human genetics) were excluded from the deciding committee. A domesticated committee was created, made up of physicians incompetent in genetics, all dutiful to the commands of the Vatican. In this way they achieved the aim of offering the professorship to the ex-president of the Catholic Action, a name whose scientific value is nil, and whose only foreseeable future activity is politics.202

145In the same day in which he sent this scorching document to Giuseppe Levi, about to transfer from Naples to Rome, Montalenti formally congratulated Gedda, who responded cordially:

  • 203 Gedda to Montalenti, 8 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. 18.

Dear Prof. Montalenti,
I am very grateful for your congratulations and best wishes so kindly expressed and very dear to me. I am looking forward to your arrival in Rome, when I can consult with you more easily.203

146On the letterhead of the Mendel Institute, under the title “Director,” a new title now appeared: “Professor of Medical Genetics, University of Rome.”

Notes

1 Giuseppe Montalenti and Alberto Chiarugi, eds., Atti del IX Congresso internazionale di genetica. Bellagio (Como, 24–31 agosto 1953) (Florence: Florentiae, 1954), 1, 16.

2 Montalenti and Chiarugi, eds., Atti del IX Congresso internazionale di genetica 1, 1265–98

3 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, ed., Symposium on Genetics of Population Structure. Pavia, Italy, August 20–23, 1953 (Pavia: Tip. succ. Fusi, 1954)

4 Giuseppe Montalenti (1904–1990) studied with Grassi in Rome, as an internal student in the Laboratory of comparative anatomy. He graduated in natural sciences in 1926 and was appointed as assistant at the Institute of zoology in the University of Rome, directed by Federico Raffaele. In 1937 he obtained the position of aiuto at the Institute of zoology at the University of Bologna, directed by Alessandro Ghigi, and stayed until 1939. Between 1933 and 1937 he taught courses of genetics in Rome. In 1939, Montalenti became head of the department of zoology at the Naples Zoological Station. The following year he was appointed to hold the first professorship of genetics in Italy, instituted at the Faculty of Science of the University of Naples, a chair that he held until 1960, at the same time keeping his position as department head of the Station until 1944. See Stefano Canali, “La Biologia,” in Raffaella Simili and Giovanni Paoloni, eds. Per una Storia del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Bari: Laterza, 2001) 1, 534–35; Alessandro Volpone, Gli inizi della genetica in Italia (Bari: Cacucci Editore, 2008), 124–25; Fabio de Sio and Mauro Capocci, “Southern Genes: Genetics and its Institutions in the Italian South, 1930s–1970s,” Medicina nei Secoli 20, 3 (2008): 791–826.

5 Carlo Jucci (1897–1962) graduated in natural sciences in Rome in 1920, spending time in Giovan Battista Grassi’s laboratory, before transferring to the Bacological Institute of the High School of Agriculture in Portici and graduating in medicine in Naples in 1925; he also worked as an assistant to the chair of physiology, under Filippo Bottazzi. Thanks to a Rockefeller Fellowship, he spent a year in Plymouth (Massachusetts, USA) before receiving, in 1930, a position teaching in zoology and anatomy in Sassari, from where he transferred to Modena (1932), and finally to Pavia (1934). For a biographical profile, see Paola Bernardini Mosconi, ed., Carlo Jucci nel centenario della sua nascita. Testimonianze e documenti, (Milan: Cisalpino, 2000); Maurizia Alippi Cappelletti, “Jucci Carlo,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2004), vol. 62, 687–90; Volpone, Gli inizi della genetica in Italia (Bari: Cacucci Editore, 2008), 128–33.

6 Student of Cesare Artom in Pavia, Claudio Barigozzi (1909–1996) from the start of the thirties studied the chromosomes of the mole cricket and the crustacean Artemia salina. In 1937, he worked as a non-staff lecturer in genetics, and in 1939 became assistant of Silvio Ranzi at the institute of zoology at the University of Milan. In the 1940s, he began to research the drosophila and, in particular, the genetic basis for its diverse reactions to light, and genetic control of the dimensions of the cells. For an autobiographical profile, see Claudio Barigozzi, La stanza di genetica (Luino: Francesco Nastro, 1981); see also on this topic, Mauro Capocci and Gilberto Corbellini, “Il contesto culturale della ricerca biomedica in Italia nel secondo dopoguerra,” Nuova Civiltà delle Macchine, 19, (2001): 29–41.

7 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso was born in Milan, the younger brother of the writer Dino Buzzati. In 1934 he spent one year in the US studying population genetics at Iowa University with Ernest W. Lindstrom. In 1938, Buzzati-Traverso went to Berlin where he began a five-year collaboration with Timoffieff-Ressovsky, with whom he developed the theories and methods of radiogenetics. That same year Buzzati-Traverso introduced radiogenetics to his Italian audience, and the views of Timoffieff-Ressovsky and Delbrück concerning the physical dimension of the gene, in so doing developing the concept of an experimental approach to evolutionary mechanisms at the University of Pavia. Professor of genetics in Pavia from 1948, between 1944 and 1948 he directed the Italian Institute of Hydrobiology in Pallanza, while from 1947 he was the director of the CNR Study Center for Biophysics. Between 1953 and 1956 he worked at the University of California, where he founded and directed the genetics division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. In 1962, he founded in Naples the International Laboratory for Genetics and Biophysics. For a biographical profile, see Bernardino Fantini, “Buzzati-Traverso Adriano,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1988), vol. 34, 563–67. See also Mauro Capocci and Gilberto Corbellini, “Adriano Buzzati-Traverso and the foundation of the International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics in Naples (1962–1969),” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 33, 3 (2002): 489–513; Francesco Cassata, Le due scienze. Il “caso Lysenko” in Italia (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2008).

8 Diane B. Paul, The Politics of Heredity. Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature–Nurture Debate (Albany: State University of New York, 1998), 134.

9 Giuseppe Montalenti, “L’VIII Congresso internazionale di Genetica (Stoccolma, 7–14 luglio 1948),” La Ricerca Scientifica, 19 (1949): 130–31.

10 In the documents, the Provisory Committee was also defined as a Provisory Commission.

11 On this trial, see: Francesco Cassata, “Cronaca di un’epurazione mancata (luglio 1944–dicembre 1945),” Popolazione e Storia no. 2 (2004): 89–119.

12 Corrado Gini to members, 31 December 1948, Montalenti Papers (hereafter AM), b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

13 Gini to members, 31 December 1948, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

14 Gini to members, 31 December 1948, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

15 Alfieri, Argenti, Armanini, Barberi, Barison, Benini, Bisceglie, Buonomini, Cattaneo, Caranti, Castellano, Castrilli, Canella, Costanzo, Dechigi, Eugeni, Federici, Fiore, Floris, Forlini, Fortunati, Gatto, Gemelli, Gini, Giovanardi, Giudici, Imbasciati, Laurincich, L’Eltore, Maggio, Malcovati, Margaria, Martinolli, Maroi, Moracci, Paolinelli, Petrini, Quinto, Revoltella, Robaud, Romaniello, Satta, Savorgnan, Scaglione, Scopelliti, Seppilli, Severi, Sfameni, Sofia, Tesauro, Tripi, Tortora.

16 Baldi, Bambacioni Mezzetti, Barajon, Barigozzi, Baschini Salvadori, Battaglia, Battistin, Beer, Benazzi, Blanc, Bonarelli, Bonvicini, Bronzini, Buzzati-Traverso, Cavalli, Chiappi, Chiarugi, D’Ancona, Dionigi, Draghetti, Dulzetto, Galeotti, Granderi, Guareschi, Jucci, Marcheson, Marcozzi, Maymone, Melis, Montalenti, Monterosso, Morselli, Mosti, Munerati, Pasquini, Piacco, Pirovano, Pompilj, Ranzi, Reverberi, Scossiroli, Taibel, Tallarico, Tria, Valle, Vezzani, Zannone.

17 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso and Claudio Barigozzi to Giuseppe Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

18 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

19 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

20 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

21 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

22 Buzzati-Traverso and Barigozzi to Montalenti, 1 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

23 Gini to members, 23 February 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

24 Giuseppe Montalenti to Alessandro Ghigi, 19 January 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

25 Gini to members, 4 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

26 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 23 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

27 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 23 April 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

28 Gini to Barigozzi, 5 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

29 Barigozzi to Montalenti, 18 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

30 Giovanni L’Eltore to Claudio Barigozzi, with a copy to Giuseppe Montalenti, Corrado Gini and Carlo Jucci, 16 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

31 Giuseppe Pompilj to Claudio Barigozzi, with a copy to Giuseppe Montalenti, Giovanni L’Eltore, Corrado Gini and Carlo Jucci, 19 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

32 Pompilj to Barigozzi, 19 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

33 Montalenti to L’Eltore, with a copy to Gini, Jucci and Barigozzi, 20 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; italics added.

34 Montalenti to Gini, 21 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

35 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

36 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8 [italics in the original].

37 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

38 Gini to Montalenti, 28 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

39 Pompilj to Barigozzi, 31 May 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

40 Montalenti to Gini, 2 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8; see also the circular from Montalenti to the members of the genetics section, 31 May 1949 and from Gini to members, 3 June 1949, both in AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

41 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

42 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

43 Montalenti to Gini, 6 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

44 Buzzati-Traverso to Pompilj, 16 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

45 Buzzati-Traverso to Pompilj, 16 June 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

46 Montalenti to Barigozzi, with a copy to Ghigi, 29 October 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

47 Montalenti to Buzzati-Traverso, 30 July 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

48 Giuseppe Montalenti, “Utopie,” Rivista di psicologia, 35 (1939):197–99.

49 Giuseppe Montalenti, “Genetica umana ed eugenica,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi della genetica umana alla medicina” (Milan: Istituto Sieroterapico Milanese S. Belfanti, 1949), 5.

50 Denmark was the second European country (after the Swiss Canton of Vaud in 1928) to adopt a eugenic legislation in 1929, with the introduction of voluntary medical sterilization, to which was added, in 1934 and 1935, decidedly coercive measure in dealing with the mentally ill and sexual criminals. The application of the law was distinguished by a relatively moderate attitude: from 1935 to 1939, 1380 people were sterilised in Denmark, of whom 1200 were in the category judged “mentally retarded.” For a detailed discussion, see Bent Sigurd Hansen, “Something Rotten in the State of Denmark: Eugenics and the Ascent of the Welfare State,” in Broberg and Roll-Hansen, eds., Eugenics and the Welfare State, 9–76.

51 Tage Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi della genetica umana alla medicina,” 17.

52 Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” 17

53 Kemp, “Malattie e difetti ereditari,” 17

54 Piero Malcovati, “Discussione,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi della genetica umana alla medicina,” 69.

55 John B. S. Haldane, “La selezione naturale nell’uomo: Discussione,” in Atti del convegno dedicato a “I recenti contributi della genetica umana alla medicina,” 69.

56 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano,” L’Europeo 5, no. 41 (9 October 1949).

57 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

58 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

59 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

60 Buzzati-Traverso, “Il pedigree umano.”

61 Montalenti to Gini, 29 October 1949, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

62 Montalenti to Gini, 30 March 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

63 Gini to members, 31 May 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

64 Gini to Montalenti, 22 July 1950, AM, b. 24, f. 2, sf. 8.

65 Luisa Gianferrari, “Il Centro di Studi di Genetica umana dell’Università di Milano ed i Consultori di genetica umana dell’Università e del Comune di Milano,” Natura 41 (1950): 76.

66 Gianferrari, “Il Centro di Studi di Genetica umana dell’Università di Milano,” 76.

67 On the Istituto La Casa, see Don Paolo Liggeri, “A proposito di consultori prematrimoniali,” Riflessi 2 (1950): 6.

68 Atti del Convegno per studi di assistenza sociale (Milan: Marzorati, 1947), 169.

69 Atti del Convegno per studi di assistenza sociale, 170.

70 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale (problemi medico-sociali). Atti ufficiali del Convegno internazionale per la trattazione dei problemi medico-sociali di profilassi pre-matrimoniale (Bologna: Cappelli, 1949), 52–53.

71 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 53.

72 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 186.

73 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 185.

74 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 226.

75 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 227.

76 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 35–36.

77 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 123–60.

78 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 199.

79 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 199.

80 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 216.

81 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 211.

82 Profilassi pre-matrimoniale, 238.

83 Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici (Roma, 24 settembre – 2 ottobre 1949) (Rome: Orizzonte Medico, 1950), 75–158.

84 Amadeo José Cicchitti (Cuyo, Argentina) was in favour of a obligatory premarital certificate but without a punitive character; José Malaret Vilar (Barcelona) condemned sterilization and therapeutic abortion; Antonio M. de Figuereido Meyrelles do Souto (Lisbon) supported a premarital certificate only with an informative nature and exchange of information between betrothed; Victor Manuel Santana Carlos (Lisbon) desired premarital medical counselling; Giacomo Santori (Rome) proposed obligatory syphilis cures, accompanied by a hard fight against prostitution and the introduction of an informative premarital certificate.

85 Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici, 103–04.

86 Mimmo Franzinelli and Pier Paolo Poggio, Storia di un giudice italiano. Vita di Adolfo Beria di Argentine (Milan: Rizzoli, 2004), 45. The presence of several people in particular at the constitutional meeting of the CNDPS, in July 1948, gives the idea of its cultural and political relevance: Antonio Banfi (philosopher and communist senator), Riccardo Bauer (president of the Humanitarian Society), Alessandro Casati (War minister of the first post-war government), Ettore Conti (financier and president of the National Development Society for Industrial Entities), Giovanni Demaria (rector of the Bocconi University), Antonio Greppi (socialist mayor of Milan), Achille Marazza (then Christian democrat delegate for CLNAI and later undersecretary in De Gasperi’s government), Ferruccio Parri (Prime minister in the first post-war government), Alfredo Pizzoni (then president of CLNAI), Umberto Terracini (president of the Costitution assembly). On CNPDS, see Franzinelli and Poggio, Storia di un giudice italiano, 37–138; Vincenzo Tomeo, Il Centro nazionale di prevenzione e difesa sociale. Un caso di ricerca sociale e di azione sui centri di decisione politica (Milan: Giuffrè, 1961); Mirella Larizza Lolli, Le scienze politiche e sociali, in Storia di Milano. Il Novecento, vol. 18 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1995), 854–58.

87 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale e introduzione di un certificato prematrimoniale obbligatorio nella legislazione italiana. Relazione della Commissione di studio – art. 7 del progetto di legge del sen. Monaldi (Milan: CNPDS, 1951), 23.

88 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 24.

89 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 11–12.

90 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 17.

91 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 22.

92 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 13–16.

93 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 25.

94 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 39.

95 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 40.

96 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 43.

97 CNPDS, Prevenzione matrimoniale, 44.

98 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill proposed by deputies Tibaldi Chiesa Mary, Chiostergi, Targetti, Capua, Ceravolo, Cornia, De Maria, Perrotti, Riva, Migliori, Giannini Olga, Zerbi, Cucchi, announced 19 December 1949, n. 1000, entitled: Istituzione di Consultorii prematrimoniali: 1.

99 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1000: 5.

100 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1000: 5.

101 “Inquadramento della istituzione dei consultori prematrimoniali nella legislazione italiana,” Riflessi 2 (1950): 6–7.

102 On the role of Luisa Gianferrari, see Giovanni Widmann, “Pionieri della medicina genetica preventiva in Italia. Luisa Gianferrari e l’esperienza dei consultori genetici prematrimoniali,” in Atti della Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati, 3, no. B (2003): 35–66.

103 Luisa Gianferrari and Giuseppe Morganti, “Appunti per una organizzazione eugenica in Italia,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 1, no. 2 (May 1952): 214.

104 Luisa Gianferrari, “Proposte per l’inquadramento della prevenzione eugenica prematrimoniale nell’organizzazione sanitaria italiana,” La settimana medica 37, no. 21 (1949): 4–5.

105 Luisa Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 1, no. 2 (May 1952): 116; see also Luisa Gianferrari, “Genetica e matrimonio,” Riflessi 1 (March 1959): 1–11.

106 Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” 116.

107 Gianferrari, “Introduzione alla profilassi delle malattie ereditarie,” 117.

108 Luisa Gianferrari, “Genetica umana,” in Atti del IV Congresso internazionale dei medici cattolici, 129.

109 Gianferrari and Morganti, Appunti per una organizzazione eugenica in Italia, 214. See also Luisa Gianferrari, “Piano per un’organizzazione eugenetica in Italia,” L’economia umana 2 (1952): 5–7.

110 For a copy of the text of the law in Italian, see Giovanni Davicini, Lex-Legislazione italiana 42, July–December (Turin: UTET, 1956): 1254–59.

111 See Giacomo Perico, “Visita e certificato prematrimoniali,” Aggiornamenti sociali 12, no. 1 (January 1961): 13. On the Rome counseling center, see the testimony of Aldo Marcozzi in “Voci diverse,” Riflessi 3 (September 1960): 71.

112 Ezio Silvestroni (1905–1990) graduated magna cum laude in medicine and chirurgy from the University of Padua in 1934. From 1936 to 1939 he worked at the Cancer Institute of Milan, directed by Pietro Rondoni. From 1939 to 1956 he was an assistant in the Medical Clinic at the University of Rome, where he developed his scientific activities with the collaboration of Ida Bianco. He lectured in general pathology, medical pathology, clinical medicine and hematology. From 1947 to 1953 he participated in four competitions for the chair of medical pathology, but did not win the chair despite having a scientific curriculum vitae already well-known and appreciated on an international level. From 1957 to 1975 he was the head haematologist at the Sant’Eugenio Hospital in Rome. In 1943, at the Medical Academy of Rome, Silvestroni and Bianco described the existence of healthy subjects who were carriers of a haematological framework both characteristic and hereditary, which they named microcythemia (today, thalassemia minima). Soon afterwards, they studied a vast group of microcythemic families, collected in various regions of Italy with great difficulty, given that it was during the war. This led to the discovery of the etiological link between microcythemia and Rietti-Greppi-Micheli illness (today, thalassemia intermedia). It demonstrated, completely independently from the analogue research of American scientists, which was then unknown in Italy due to the war, that Cooley’s anaemia (today, thalassemia major or mediterranean anaemia) was the expression of the homozygotic condition for microcythemia.
In 1949, presenting the results of their studies at the 50th Congress of the Italian Internal Medicine Society), Silvestroni and Bianco proposed the introduction of “eugenic” measures, specifically a premarital control and an obligatory blood test for students. See Ida Bianco Silvestroni, Storia della microcitemia in Italia (Rome: Giovanni Fioriti editore, 2002).

113 In order: Ferrara (1956); Cosenza (1957); Palermo and Cagliari (1958); Naples, Reggio Calabria and Lecce (1960). For a study of greater depth on the entire affair, see Stefano Canali and Gilberto Corbellini, “Lessons from Anti-Thalassemia Campaigns in Italy, before Prenatal Diagnosis,” Medicina nei secoli 14, no. 3 (2002): 739–71.

114 R. R. Struthers, director of the European Office, to Montalenti, 22 January 1954, AM, b. 125.

115 Canali and Corbellini, “Lessons from Anti-Thalassemia Campaigns,” 752.

116 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici (Rome: Orizzonte Medico, 1959), 680–81.

117 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 681.

118 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 682.

119 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 682.

120 On Reed and the Dight Institute, see Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, 253.

121 See, for comparison, Sheldon C. Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica (Rome: Edizioni dell’Istituto Gregorio Mendel, 1959), 12–13.

122 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 77–86.

123 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 160.

124 Reed, Consulenza in Genetica medica, 130.

125 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 683.

126 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 683–84.

127 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 710–11.

128 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 712.

129 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 712. On the Catholic Church’s acceptance of the Ogino-Knaus method, see Anna Treves, Le nascite e la politica, 372.

130 Pius XII, Discorsi ai medici, 713.

131 Luigi Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina (Turin: Borla, 1963), 164. Renzo, Lucia, Don Abbondio and Azzeccagarbugli are all characters of Alessandro Manzoni’s novel I promessi sposi (in the English translation, The Betrothed).

132 Luigi Gedda, “Eugenetica e profilassi mentale,” in Sanità mentale ed assistenza psichiatrica. Atti del II Congresso italiano di Medicina forense (Rome: Homo, 1962), 84.

133 Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina, 172.

134 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione (Rome: Staderini, 1955), 21–22. The speech was made in Rome, on 14 January 1955, at the Bank of Rome, under the auspices of the Italian Center for International Reconciliation Studies.

135 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione, 22–23.

136 Istituto Italiano di Medicina Sociale, La consultazione prematrimoniale (Roma, 24 gennaio 1969) (Rome: Tip. Loffari, 1969), 8. Presenters at the seminar were Umberto Chiappelli, Giuseppe Del Porto, Dante Primo Pace, Cesare Chiarotti, Giovanni Villani, Ezio Borgognoni Castiglioni, Giorgio Alberto Chiurco, Tommaso Paladino, Francesco Di Raimondo, Adalberto Galante, Giuseppe Cardinali and Mino Bolognesi.

137 Gedda, I problemi della popolazione, 24.

138 Gedda, Problemi di frontiera della medicina, 167. Gedda was opposed to the idea of a general index of the population, as desired by Giorgio Alberto Chiurco: see Istituto Italiano di Medicina Sociale, La consultazione prematrimoniale, 15–16 and 23.

139 Giacomo Perico, “Visita e certificato prematrimoniali (continuazione),” Aggiornamenti sociali 12, no. 2 (February 1961): 82. The author specifically supported the Catholic position favouring an obligatory certificate without punitive character. On the Catholic position, see also Alfredo Boschi, “Visita e certificato medico prematrimoniale,” Palestra del Clero 3 (1 March 1952): 193–204 and Palestra del Clero 11 (1 June 1952): 489– 500; Bonaventura D’Arenzano, “La visita prematrimoniale,” Orientamenti pastorali 3 (March 1960): 44–46; P. P., “La visita prematrimoniale,” Studi cattolici 10 (January 1959): 61–63. For a summary of the debate on premarital visits in 1960, see also the symposium titled “Introduzione del certificato prematrimoniale obbligatorio in Italia,” Riflessi 3 (September 1960): 51–71.

140 Lecturer of social medicine at the University of Rome and of hygiene at the University of Lecce, De Maria was president of the Parliamentary Commission for Public Hygiene and Health (Commissione parlamentare Igiene e Sanità Pubblica), manager of the Italian Catholic Physicians Association (Associazione Medici Cattolici Italiani) and on the board of administration of the Italian Institute of Social Medicine (Istituto Italiano di Medicina Sociale).

141 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill proposed by deputies De Maria, Anselmi Tina, Martini Maria Eletta, Micheli Pietro, Castelli, Pennacchini, Rausa, Barberi, presented 3 July 1969, n. 1656, entitled: Obbligatorietà della visita prematrimoniale e istituzione di consultori matrimoniali: 1; italics added.

142 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 2–3.

143 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 3.

144 Atti Parlamentari, Camera dei Deputati, Bill no. 1656: 5.

145 Angelo Bianchi to Montalenti, 27 October 1970, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

146 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana alla proposta di legge n. 1656 (Camera dei Deputati) su “Obbligatorietà della visita prematrimoniale e istituzione di consultori matrimoniali,” attached to the letter from Giuseppe Sermonti, president of AGI, to the members of the commission and the directing committee, 28 May 1971, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

147 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

148 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

149 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

150 Draft attached to the letter from Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza to Benedetto Nicoletti, 22 December 1970, AM, b. 76, f. 6. The text continued until point 6: “The advantages to include, in the breadth of the premarital examination, are also those of effecting counselling on the relative problems of family planning in terms of number.”

151 Note dell’Associazione Genetica Italiana, AM, b. 76, f. 6.

152 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica (Pisa: ETS, 1972), 7.

153 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 8–9.

154 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 10.

155 Associazione Genetica Italiana, Consultorio di genetica medica, 11.

156 Giacomo Perico, “Aspetti medico-sociali della ‘visita prematrimoniale,’” La Civiltà Cattolica, 2983 (October 1974): 58.

157 Fiorella Nuzzo, “La diagnosi prenatale,” Sapere 746 (March 1972): 11.

158 De Sio and Capocci, “Southern genes,” 812–15.

159 Barigozzi to Montalenti, 26 May 1952, AM, b. 28, f. 9.

160 Buzzati-Traverso to Montalenti, 2 February 1953, AM, b. 28, f. 9.

161 Carlo Foà, “Discorso pronunciato nella cerimonia inaugurale dell’Istituto G. Mendel il 6 settembre 1953,” in Luigi Gedda, ed., Genetica Medica. Primum Symposium Internationale Geneticae Medicae Roma 6–7 settembre 1953 (Rome: Edizioni dell’Istituto Gregorio Mendel, 1953), 447.

162 Foà, “Discorso pronunciato nella cerimonia inaugurale dell’Istituto G. Mendel il 6 settembre 1953,” 447–48.

163 Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, review of Luigi Gedda, ed., Genetica Medica. Primum Symposium Internationale Geneticae Medicae Roma 6–7 settembre 1953 (Rome: Edizioni dell’Istituto Gregorio Mendel, 1953), in Science 122, 3161 (July 1955): 206.

164 Ministerial decree by Antonio Segni, 15 June 1953, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

165 Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Turin, verbal extract of the Faculty Board, 4 July 1953, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

166 Claudio Barigozzi and Adriano Buzzati-Traverso appeal to the State Council, 27 August 1953, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

167 Appeal by Giuseppe Montalenti to the Head of state, 14 December 1953, in ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

168 Memo from the State Advocacy in response to the appeal by Barigozzi and Buzzati-Traverso, 23 March 1954, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

169 Sentence of the State Council, 7 April 1954, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

170 Sentence of the State Council, 7 April 1954, ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938– 1953, b. 74, f. 1052. The new commission, nominated 14 July 1954, with Barigozzi, Gedda and Gianferrari as permanent members, and Montalenti and Giordano as substitute members, assigned the position of professor of human genetics to Angelo Cresseri, Giuseppe Morganti (student of Gianferrari), Ruggero Ceppellini (student of Barigozzi), Amleto Maltarello (student of Gedda) and paediatrician Ignazio Gatto, although these last two exceeded the maximum number of nominations for the chair. See ACS, MPI, DGIS, Divisione I, Commissione libere docenze 1938–1953, b. 74, f. 1052.

171 E. Modica, “Gedda bocciato,” L’Unità (14 April 1954).

172 Luigi Gedda, “Genetica, medicina e costituzione,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 1, no. 1 (January 1952): 2.

173 Gedda, “Genetica, medicina e costituzione,” 5.

174 Luigi Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” in Genetica Medica. Primum Symposium Internationale Geneticae Medicae, 13–14.

175 Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” 6.

176 Gedda, “Profilo scientifico della genetica medica,” 6.

177 See “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medicae,” 418.

178 “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medicae,” 419.

179 “Discorso di S.S. Pio XII ai partecipanti al “Primum symposium internationale geneticae medicae,” 419–20.

180 See for example, Luigi Gedda, Giuseppe Del Porto and Adriana Del Porto-Mercuri, “Sindrome di Werdnig- Hoffmann familiare che include una coppia di gemelli MZ concordanti (un caso di Consulenza Eugenica),” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 11, no. 2 (April 1962): 113–21.

181 On Grebe and Verschuer see, in particular, among others, Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927–1945.

182 Luigi Gedda, “Un maestro e un esempio,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 5, no. 3 (July 1956): 244. On the collaboration between Gedda and Verschuer, see Otmar von Verschuer, “Die Erbanlage als bestimmende Kraft auf dem Lebenswege,” in Gedda, ed., Genetica Medica, 132–52; Otmar von Verschuer, “Die Häufigkeit von krankhaften Erbmerkmalen beim Menschen,” in Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Human Genetics (Rome, September 6–12, 1961) (Rome: Istituto Gregorio Mendel, 1963), 1, 168–75; Otmar von Verschuer, “Ein altes und ein neues Problem der Zwillingsforschung,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 1, no. 2 (May 1952): 180–90.

183 See Benno Müller-Hill, Murderous Science. Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others in Germany, 1933–1945 (Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1988), 163–68.

184 Müller-Hill, Murderous Science, 167–68. On the collaboration between Gedda and Grebe, see Hans Grebe, “Erbpathologie des Skelettsystems,” in Gedda, ed., Genetica Medica, 188–222; H. Grebe, “Genetik und morphologische Variation,” in Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Human Genetics 1, 355–68; Hans Grebe, “Diskordanzursachen bei erbgleichen Zwillingen,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae, 1, no. 1 (January 1952): 103–107; Hans Grebe, “Über besondere Zwillingskonkordanzen,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae, 5, no. 2 (May 1956): 138–54; Hans Grebe, “Familienbefunde bei letalen Herzmissbildungen,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae (supplementum primum): 257–93; Hans Grebe, “Sportfamilien,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 5, no. 3 (September 1956): 418–26; Hans Grebe, “Zwergwuchs als genetisches Problem,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 6, no. 4 (October 1957): 429–36; Hans Grebe, “Biemond-Syndrom in einer Sippe mit Iriskolobomen, Hüftgelenksdysplasie und Epilepsie,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 9, no. 2 (April 1960): 197–210.

185 See Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 168–76.

186 See Reginald Ruggles Gates, “Records of Y-inherited Hairy Ears in India,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 6, no. 1 (January 1957): 103–108; Hans Grebe, “The African Pygmies,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 7, no. 2 (April 1958): 159–218; Hans Grebe, “The Genetics of the Australian Aborigines,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 9, no. 1 (January 1960): 7–50; Hans Grebe, “Studies in Race Crossing. Crosses of Australians and Papuans with Caucasians, Chinese, and the Other Races,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 9, no. 2, (April 1960): 165–84; Hans Grebe, “The Melanesian Dwarf Tribe of Aiome,” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 10, no. 3, (July 1961): 277–311. See also the participation of Ruggles Gates at the Congress of Human genetics of 1961, presided over by Gedda in Rome, see Reginald Ruggles Gates, “Inheritance of Racial and Sub-racial Traits,” in Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Human Genetics 1, 369–70.

187 Luigi Gedda, “Prof. R. Ruggles Gates (in memoriam),” Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae 12, no. 1 (January 1963): 95.

188 Luigi Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” in Tommaso Lucherini and Claudio Cervini, eds., Medicina dello sport (Rome: Società Editrice Universo, 1960), 78.

189 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 85.

190 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 89.

191 Gedda, “L’importanza della genetica nella selezione degli sportivi,” 90–91.

192 Luigi Gedda, Marco Milani-Comparetti and Gianni Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade. Roma 1960 (Rome: Istituto di Medicina dello Sport, 1968), 9–10.

193 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 65–71.

194 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 24.

195 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 62–63.

196 See A. P., “Gedda vuole la firma,” Il Ponte 16, no. 6 (June 1960): 990–91.

197 Gedda, Milani-Comparetti and Brenci, Rapporto scientifico sugli atleti della XVII Olimpiade, 16.

198 “Una cattedra universitaria per il prof. Luigi Gedda,” Paese Sera (3–4 May 1960).

199 Professor of human anatomy at the University of Turin, Giuseppe Levi introduced the method of in-vitro tissue culture to Italy. His students were future Nobel prize winners, forced to leave Italy after the promulgation of the racial laws in 1938: Rita Levi Montalcini, Renato Dulbecco and Salvatore Luria (naturalised American with the name of Salvador Edward Luria). See Claudio Pogliano, “Le scienze biomediche,” in Antonio Casella, ed., Una difficile modernità. Tradizioni di ricerca e comunita scientifiche in Italia, 1890–1940 (Pavia: Università degli Studi di Pavia, 2000), 257–86.

200 The letter is preserved in AM, b. 33, f. 18.

201 Montalenti to Levi, 21 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. 18.

202 Anonymous document attached to the letter from Montalenti to Levi, 21 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. 18.

203 Gedda to Montalenti, 8 November 1960, AM, b. 33, f. 18.

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