Italy’s first aeronautical engineeran asteroid also bears his name to indicate how much he had an impact on space discoveries, starting from Rosetta mission. All without giving up other stars: 5 children, 7 grandchildren. Amalia Ercoli Finzi is still working for Mars and to spread the passion for science and technology to the new generations. For this reason he will also be at the forefront on Friday, at the Engineering Festival of the Polytechnic of Milan, for which QN And The day they are media partners.
When you started, there were five female students out of 650 enrolled in the classrooms of the Polytechnic. How tiring was it to be a trailblazer?
“It took courage. But at university I found a beautiful environment: even then the merit was worth it and I had no doubts about my choice. I was good, my teammates respected me and that’s it. Even though after the first good grades I lost all my admirers (smiles, ed). The problems came later, because making a career in any field has always been more difficult for a woman.”
What has changed since then?
“There are more female students who enroll, there are fewer settling-in difficulties: those who are good move forward easily and in many cases this leads to trying to stay in research. The obstacles have decreased, but they have not disappeared completely. There is still a lot of work to do. I didn’t have a “mentor” to follow, someone who trusts you and shows you the way, a guardian angel who shows you the possible studies, the professional figures you are looking for. In my own small way, I try to do it a bit with my girls: what a satisfaction to see them in international research centers, following their discoveries. I’m really good.”
The term “engineer” has been approved not only by the Accademia della Crusca but stamped by the Order of Engineers. A small turning point?
“I think it’s more of a corollary. Engineer ends with “e”, it could also be unisex. We don’t want to look like men in every way, but to carry forward our way of doing research. There is one aspect that often distinguishes us: when faced with one of our discoveries, which is certainly no less significant or important, we immediately evaluate the impact, effects and benefits. In Italy we are all making giant strides, we have men and women with wonderful ideas: we must find the time to tell them more to the public, making known the consequences of their research. Hence the need for an Engineering Festival”.
“Sore point. I have launched a proposal: research spending should have a fixed percentage of GDP. For a nation like Italy it is the future. A country that does not finance research is doomed to failure.”
What invention changed the way you see the future?
“I still remember the day when – in October 1954 – I went to my neighbors’ house to watch television for the first time, they were broadcasting “Lorenzaccio”, a drama by De Musset. I was looking at the exceptional nature of a person who was far from me, but whom I could see and feel so close. For me it was like teleportation: I understood that a new era was beginning, that we would learn everything, for better or for worse.”
And among your discoveries, which one moved you the most?
“Finding many organic molecules on the surface of the comet. Not one or two: there were the building blocks of life. The idea that comets brought life around the Solar System is not wrong. It was beautiful and gave meaning to the things you do. The Rosetta mission took twenty years of my life, it was a great birth but from there I saw several things: Europe exists. Many European countries were able to work together to land on the surface of the comet. As a woman of faith I said to myself: I can get this far, now it’s up to the Eternal Father. And she listened to me”.
How are faith and science reconciled?
“Without any problem: science is the world of logic, faith the world of transcendence, they are two different worlds. And we must know how to accept even things for which we have no evidence: God is not demonstrated in the laboratory.”
Today he is also working for Mars. Where are we at?
“The goal is to send a human crew. Not just automatic devices for which a traffic light would now be needed. A European mission, blocked by the war, should also have started. The couple from the rover on the ground are called Amalia like me. To involve a crew it is necessary to use all the knowledge and skills that exist, to guarantee the journey, protection from radiation, the possibility of building the fuel on Mars to return to earth and solve infinite problems, including psychological ones. In the best cases we are talking about the last years of the 1930s: 2038-2039. I won’t see it, I’ll be on the other side. I will be directly on Mars to lend a hand to the astronauts.”
What would Amalia like to discover today?
“Technology followed me into what I wanted to know and it’s moving forward fast: I saw the Tower of Babel blown up with artificial intelligence that translates live into all languages. Do you know what I really want? That a method could be found to transfer the essential values to people’s hearts: charity, loving each other, respect for women. But a program is not enough, perhaps not even an artificial heart, even if we are working on it. Here, I would like to see and discover a humanity at peace.”