Antonino Zichichi
Antonino Zichichi is an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 physicist who has worked in the field of nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...



Zichichi was born in Trapani
Trapani is a city and comune on the west coast of Sicily in Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Trapani. Founded by Elymians, the city is still an important fishing port and the main gateway to the nearby Egadi Islands.-History:...

, Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, in 1929. He has collaborated to several important discoveries in the field of subnuclear physics and has worked in some of the most important research laboratories in the world (Fermilab
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory , located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics...

 in Chicago, CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research , known as CERN , is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory, which is situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border...

 in Geneva, etc.). He is known to the Italian public, above all, for his popularizations of scientific ideas, both as the author of numerous books and essays and because of his appearances on television programs of RAI television. In this work of popularization, the Sicilian scientist places great emphasis, above all, on trying to demonstrate that there is no contrast between science and the Catholic faith in which he strongly believes.

In 1963 he founded the Centro Ettore Majorana of Erice
Erice is a historic town and comune in the province of Trapani in Sicily, Italy.Erice is located on top of Mount Erice, at around 750m above sea level, overlooking the city of Trapani, the low western coast towards Marsala, the dramatic Punta del Saraceno and Capo san Vito to the north-east, and...

, dedicated to scientific culture.

He has been president of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
The Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare is the coordinating institution for nuclear, particle and astroparticle physics in Italy. It was founded on the 8th of August 1951, to further the nuclear physics research tradition initiated by Enrico Fermi in Rome, in the 1930s...

 from 1977 up to 1982 and in 1980 he strongly backed the creation of the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso
Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso
Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso is a particle physics laboratory of the INFN, situated near the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy, between the towns of L'Aquila and Teramo, about 120 km from Rome. In addition to a surface portion of the laboratory, there are extensive underground facilities...

. Currently, he is an emeritus professor of physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 at the University of Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

. He is president of the World Federation of Scientists, an organization concerned with the fight against planetary emergencies. He is an ISI highly cited researcher
ISI highly cited researcher
ISI Highly Cited is a database of "highly cited researchers"—scientific researchers whose publications are most often cited in academic journals over the past decade, published by the Institute for Scientific Information...


Zichichi was at the center of a diplomatic incident during the elections for director of CERN: a letter from the Ministry of Research nominated him for the post, since there was an informal rotation of seats taking place. But the pressure brought to bear on the part of Italy in favor of Zichichi caused a sharp break at CERN between Italy and the supporters of other candidates. The candidacy of Zichichi was rejected by 12 votes and a German, Herwig F. Schopper
Herwig Schopper
Herwig Schopper was born in Lanškroun, Czechoslovakia in 1924. He was involved at CERN as a Research Associate , Division Leader of the Nuclear Physics Division , member of the Directorate responsible for the Co-ordination of the Experimental Programme, Chairman of the ISR Committee at CERN ,...

, was elected in his place. The Italian government threatened to retaliate by cutting its funding of CERN, passing to the status of non-contributing observer nation.

Another incident involving Zichichi concerned a Eucharistic pantomime which took place at L'Aquila
L'Aquila is a city and comune in central Italy, both the capital city of the Abruzzo region and of the Province of L'Aquila. , it has a population of 73,150 inhabitants, but has a daily presence in the territory of 100,000 people for study, tertiary activities, jobs and tourism...

, where a chorus of students begged Zichichi to explain the mysteries of the atom, after which there followed a conference. The episode caused another rupture: he was sharply criticized by one large section of the University heads, and appreciated by another, with the particular support of the leaders of the Christian Democrats
Christian Democratic Party
Christian democratic parties are those political parties that seek to apply Christian principles to public policy. The underlying Christian democracy movement emerged in 19th-century Europe, largely under the influence of Catholic social teaching, and it continues to be influential in Europe and...

, the party to which Zichichi was always tied.

In his essay L'irresistibile fascino del tempo ("The Irresistible Fascination of Time") he cites the rule of the "Perfect Calendar" in an attempt to improve on the Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

 by eliminating three days every 10,000 years. In this system, the days of the year are 365, plus one every four years, minus three every four centuries, and minus three every 10,000 years. Zichichi therefore accepts the idea of not considering as leap years the years 4,000, 8,000 and 12,000 which, according to the Gregorian calendar, would be. It should be recalled that the definition of a high-precision calendar (superior to the Gregorian) has been studied at various times and places: in particular, the Persian calendar defined in the 11th century is very precise and one was created by Milutin Milanković
Milutin Milankovic
Milutin Milanković was a Serbian geophysicist and civil engineer, best known for his theory of ice ages, suggesting a relationship between Earth's long-term climate changes and periodic changes in its orbit, now known as Milankovitch cycles. Milanković gave two fundamental contributions to global...

 at the request of the orthodox church.

Popularization and criticism

Zichichi is regarded as an effective communicator who succeeded in focusing attention on the scientific world in the Italian media. However, he has been criticized from many quarters for his biased views. In his book on Galileo
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

, Galilei, Divin Uomo: as many book reviewers have pointed out, this is a book with an ideological agenda, in which objectivity is sacrificed to the demonstration of the thesis that Galileo was a deeply committed Catholic more than a scientist and was therefore willing to renounce his scientific convinctions for his faith.

Elio Fabri, professor of Physics at Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, Enrico Bellone, professor of the history of science at the University of Milan
University of Milan
The University of Milan is a higher education institution in Milan, Italy. It is one of the largest universities in Europe, with about 62,801 students, a teaching and research staff of 2,455 and a non-teaching staff of 2,200....

 and Piergiorgio Odifreddi
Piergiorgio Odifreddi
Piergiorgio Odifreddi , is an Italian mathematician, logician and aficionado of the history of science, who is also extremely active as a popular science writer and essayist, especially in a perspective of philosophical atheism as a member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and...

, mathematician at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 and at the University of Turin
University of Turin
The University of Turin is a university in the city of Turin in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy...

, have all criticized his essays both with regard to form and with regard to contents (often pointing out errors in the scientific part itself). Odifreddi has even been sued by Zichichi for defamation for having pointed out the numerous contradictions in his writings in an article entitled "Zichicche" (a portmanteau word from "Zichichi" and the Italian "chicche", meaning "interesting bits"), which later became a book consisting of a collection of writings about Zichichi by various people. There is a preface written by Giulio Andreotti
Giulio Andreotti
Giulio Andreotti is an Italian politician of the now dissolved centrist Christian Democracy party. He served as the 42nd Prime Minister of Italy from 1972 to 1973, from 1976 to 1979 and from 1989 to 1992. He also served as Minister of the Interior , Defense Minister and Foreign Minister and he...



  • Zichichi, A., Perché io credo in Colui che ha fatto il mondo, Il Saggiatore
  • Zichichi, A., L'irresistibile fascino del Tempo, Mondadori
  • Zichichi, A., L'infinito, Il Saggiatore
  • Zichichi, A., Galilei divin uomo, Il Saggiatore
  • Zichichi, A., Il Vero e il Falso, Il Saggiatore

Further reading

  • Odifreddi, P.
    Piergiorgio Odifreddi
    Piergiorgio Odifreddi , is an Italian mathematician, logician and aficionado of the history of science, who is also extremely active as a popular science writer and essayist, especially in a perspective of philosophical atheism as a member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and...

    , Zichicche, Dedalo, 2003 ISBN 88-220-6260-4

External links

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