12.12.1931 - 21.7.1998
A brief biography
Born on 12th December 1931 in Pula (then part of Italy, now Croatia),
the events of the war brought his family to Trieste in December 1943.
He completed his high school and college studies at the local Dante
Alighieri school, before graduating in Physics summa cum laude at the
University of Trieste in July 1955.
After winning a public competition to become a Theoretical Physics
assistant at the University of Trieste, he travelled to the United
States of America with a Fulbright grant in 1958 to take the position
of Research Associate at the University of Bloomington (Indiana). In
1959 Robert Oppenheimer invited him to become a member of the Institute
for Advanced Studies in Princeton.
In November 1960 he won a public competition to become a full
professor of Theoretical Physics and returned to Italy in 1961, first
to work at the University of Palermo and then at the University of
Parma. In November 1963 he moved to the University of Trieste
He was the author of a hundred of scientific
publications, including a book on quantum symmetries. His research
activity covered several areas, from nuclear and subnuclear physics to
condensed state physics. His main interest areas were: strong
reactions, symmetries and invariance, group theory and relativity
equations, nuclear reactions, nuclear fusion, threshold effects, atomic
and nuclear decay, nuclear and molecular coherent rotational states,
Auger electron and photoelectron diffraction, X-ray spectroscopy, and
atomic source holography. He also wrote many technical and popular
articles on synchrotron light.
He was given an award by the
Italian Physics Society in 1960 for his pre-professor research activity
and was also conferred the title of Associate Member of the Jozef
Stefan Institute for his collaboration with the theory group from the
University of Ljubljana.
Besides his productive research
activity, Luciano Fonda was also Director of the Advanced School of
Physics, which was open to scholarship holders from the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Vienna and UNESCO. The School was under
his management from 1964 to 1980, when he oversaw the merging of its
contents and programmes into the recently born International School for
Advanced Studies (Scuola Internazionale di Studi Superiori Avanzati –
SISSA). As vice director, Luciano Fonda contributed both found and run SISSA
for six years.
He was Director of the Theoretical Physics
Institute of the University of Trieste from 1966 to 1969 and Dean of
the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences from 1991 to
1997. It was during his deanship that the degree in Environmental
Sciences was born.
He was also Director of the Consorzio per
l'incremento studi e ricerche dei Dipartimenti di Fisica
dell'Universita' di Trieste (Consortium for Physics of the University
of Trieste) from 1980 to 1997 and President of the same Consortium for
Physics from 1997. He was a consultant to the International Centre for
Theoretical Physics (ICTP) of Trieste from its foundation in 1964.
Luciano Fonda has often been defined the ‘father’ of the ELETTRA synchrotron light machine.
1980 to 1985 he participated in the Intergovernmental Committee of
Brussels responsible for choosing the site on which to build a European
5GeV synchrotron light machine. When the machine was assigned to
Grenoble in 1985, he used the experience acquired in those years to
develop, along with his collaborator Renzo Rosei, the idea of an
Italian machine that would complement the European one. The
construction of ELETTRA was completed in October 1993 and it is now
operative in Basovizza, on the Triestine Carso. Luciano Fonda was
director of the Scientific Division of Synchrotron Trieste from 1987 to
1991 and vice director from 1993.
It was for this initiative
that he was conferred the San Giusto d’Oro Prize in December 1993, an
award assigned every year by local reporters to a Triestine who has
made the city famous in Italy and the world with his/her work.
Luciano Fonda married Thea Arcangeli and had three children, Alessandro, Paola and Gabriella.
He died in Skradin (Croatia) on 21st July 1998.
an initiative led by the Consortium for Physics, the ‘University
College for Physical Sciences’ was instituted in Trieste at the beginning of 1999.
It began its activity during the academic year of 1999-2000 and by
unanimous decision the organizing committee dedicated the College to
Further information on his life and scientific activity can be found in the book:
Societa' Italiana di Fisica, Bologna, 2006.