the beginning of the 15th century, instability in the
Lombard region which was caused by the political and
military crisi, coupled with the untimely death of Gian
Galeazzo Visconti, induced the teaching staff of the
Universities of Pavia and Piacenza to propose to Ludovico
di Savoia-Acaia the creation a of new Studium generale.
Choice of the location fell on Turin for a number of
reasons: first it was at the crossroads between the
Alps, Liguria and Lombardy; it was also an episcopal
seat and in addition the Savoy Prince was willing to
establish a university on his own land, like those in
other parts of Italy. In autumn 1404, a bull issued
by Benedict XIII, the Avignon Pope, marked the actual
birth of a centre of higher learning, formally ratified
in 1412 by the Emperor Sigmund's certification and subsequently,
in 1413, by a bull issued by John XXIII, the Pisan Pope,
and probably by another issued in 1419 by Martin V,
Pope of Rome, and by a series of papal privileges. The
new institution, which initially only held courses in
civil and canon law, was authorized to confer both the
academic "licentia" and "doctoratus"
titles which were later to become a single "laurea"
(degree) title. It was the Bishop, as Rector of Studies,
who proclaimed and conferred the title on the new doctors.
The early decades were marked by discontinuity, due
to epidemics and crises which plagued the region between
the 1420s and the 1430s following the annexation of
the Piedmont territories to the Duchy of Savoy and by
difficult relations between the University and the local
Public Administration. After a series of interruptions
in its activities, the university was moved to Chieri
(between 1427 and 1434) and later, in 1434, to Savigliano.
In 1436, when the institution returned to Turin, Ludovico
di Savoia, who succeeded Amedeo VIII, introduced a new
order of studies whereby the Government gained greater
control over the University. The ducal licenses of 6
October, 1436 set up the three faculties of Theology,
Arts and Medicine, and Law, and twenty-five lectureships
or chairs. The growth and development of the role of
Turin as the subalpine capital led to the consolidation
of the University and to a stability which lasted for
almost a hundred years.
From 1443 the University was housed in a modest building
purchased and refurbished by the City for this purpose
on the corner of via Doragrossa (now via Garibaldi)
and via dello Studio (today's via San Francesco d'Assisi)
directly behind the Town Hall, until the opening of
the university premises in via Po, in 1720.
The Study, closed at the beginning of 1536 with the
French occupation, reopened in 1558 with prestigious
lecturers at Mondovì; it was re-established in
Turin in 1566.
With Emanuele Filiberto and Carlo Emanuele I the University
enjoyed a season of great prosperity due to the presence
of illustrious teachers and a sizeable and culturally
motivated student body. However, a lengthy period of
decline set in around the second half of the 17th century
because of plagues, famines and continual wars: courses
were irregular or temporarily suspended, the number
of chairs was reduced and for those which were temporarily
vacant it was necessary to resort to private instruction.
The opening of the new premises marked a major turning
point in the history of the greatest Piedmontese educational
institution. The inauguration of the prestigious building
in via Po, close to piazza Castello, and the seats of
power and other educational institutions of the City,
coincided with the academic year 1720-1721, the first
year of the reform of university studies passed by Vittorio
Amedeo II in the context of a radical renewal at all
levels of public administration and education. Vittorio
Amedeo II was convinced that an efficient university
controlled directly by the State was the only way to
form a faithful and well-trained ruling class which
could support him in the process of modernizing the
Nation. While the War of Spanish Succession was still
being fought, the Duke had entrusted his officials to
gather information concerning the structure of the major
Italian and foreign universities, and charged the Sicilian
jurist Francesco D'Aguirre with the task of drawing
up a reorganization project.
Among the notable innovations of the reform enacted
by Vittorio Amedeo was the opening of the Collegio delle
Province (Halls of Residence for the Provinces) which
housed one hundred young people of low social extraction
to aid them in completing their studies at the State's
expenses, and the establishment of the Chair of Eloquenza
Italiana (Italian Rhetoric) alongside that of Latin.
This had a noteworthy effect on the cultural linguistic
models of the Duchy. At the time, the Piedmontese Studium
became a point of reference for university reforms at
Parma and Modena and subsequently a model for the universities
in Cagliari and Sassari.
Carlo Emanuele III continued the policy of innovation
and consolidation commenced by Vittorio Amedeo II and
created a University Museum in 1739. However, in the
last decades of the 18th century, the course of events
at the University, closely connected to international
developments, led to great urban unrest and the lost
of State prestige. The revolt of university students
in 1791 joined by artisans who stormed the "Collegio
delle Province" in 1792 causing numerous victims,
was a clear instance of this conflict.
The University and "Collegio" were closed
in the autumn of the same year when war broke out against
revolutionary France. In January 1799, the provisional
Piedmontese Government reopened the University under
the control of the "Comité d'instruction
publique" (Committee for Public Instruction). In
summer, 1800, the second provisional Government transformed
the University into a National University and replaced
the Faculties with eight Special Schools, which were
based on the existing pattern: Chemistry and Rural Economy,
Surgery, Drawing and Fine Arts, Legislation, Medicine,
Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Literature and Veterinary
Medicine. Two years later, Literature was abolished,
Medicine and Surgery were merged and many chairs were
suppressed for financial reasons.
Another milestone in the Turin university system was
the introduction of the new Imperial order, since Piedmont
had become a French Department; this involved the personal
appointment by Napoleon of a Rector to head each University.
Because of its size, number of chairs, teaching staff
and students the Piedmontese University became the second
largest in the Empire after Paris.
With the fall of Napoleon, Vittorio Emanuele I brought
back the former legislation of the Savoy regime. Innovations
which ensued in the following years involved the establishment
of the chair of Political Economy in the Faculty of
Law in 1817, the opening of a Veterinary School at Venaria
in 1818 and a new procedure for the appointment of the
Rector, entrusted to the academic staff of each Faculty,
who proposed to the Sovereign a list of names of retired
or teaching professors.
The uprisings in 1821 were supported by students in
Turin to the extent that the Collegio delle Province
had to be closed and the University itself operated
only to a limited degree. To prevent student assemblies
in the Capital, it was ordered that all students who
did not come from the provinces of Turin, Pinerolo and
Susa would continue their education in their place of
residence, where coaches went to supervise the progress
of their studies and to conduct so-called "private"
examinations. In this period too participation in the
appointment of the Rector was restricted: the President
of the Magistrature submitted the names of five candidates
to the King, chosen among the teaching staff of Surgery,
Medicine, Sciences, Law, Literature and Theology but
without the involvement of the professors.
Carlo Alberto's opening up to moderate liberalism and
his international outlook had positive effects on the
University, too: like the development of institutions
and the foundation of others, in addition to the appointment
of illustrious scholars such as the French Augustin
Cauchy to teach Sublime Physics and the Dalmatian Pier
Alessandro Paravia to the chair of Italian Rhetoric.
In 1832 the Institute of Forensic Medicine was set up,
in 1837 a specialization course in Obstetrics was introduced
and a new Theatre and Museum of Anatomy was opened at
the San Giovanni Battista Hospital to bring together
the materials stored at the University and those collected
since 1818 at the Museum of Pathological Anatomy. In
1842 the Collegio delle Province was reopened and students
gradually resumed attending courses, which were better
organized thanks to the increased number of chairs.
An Upper School of Methods and the Chair of the Military
History of Italy (1846), later to become the chair of
Modern History, were set up; the Chair of Political
Economy was revived. The new order of 1850 redesigned
the Medicine and Surgery course to give scope for clinical
experience and practice in hospitals and laid the foundations
for the School of Pharmacology, which was later to become
Cultural life involving intellectuals and exiles, journalists
and politicians was very lively inside and outside the
University until the Capital was moved to Florence:
its decline commenced when members of the teaching staff
were called to government duties or to State management.
Thus the circles which gravitated around the Court thinned
and the City itself dropped from 220,000 inhabitants
to less than 190,000. However, the University managed
to find new life among the science faculties and their
staff: in fact, in early 1864, Filippo De Filippi, professor
of Zoology in the Science Faculty, held the first lecture
in Italy on the theories of Charles Darwin. At his death,
in 1867, Michele Lessona succeded to the chair and became
director of the Museum of Zoology, then Dean of the
Faculty of Sciences and, finally, Rector from 1877 to
1880. Thanks to Giulio Bizzozero, who founded the Laboratory
of General Pathology (1873) and contributed largely
to the spread of the microscope in addition to discovering
blood platelets, medicine in Turin branched out into
the field of social medicine to meet the health and
sanitary needs of the population, particularly as regarded
infectious diseases and infant mortality. The political
activities of Luigi Pagliani, professor of Hygiene and
founder in 1878 of the Hygiene Society, were at the
basis of the strategies of public health in Italy, while
discoveries made by Edoardo Bellarmino Perroncito, the
first to hold a Chair of Parasitology in Italy (1879),
saved the lives of thousands of miners all over Europe.
In 1876, Cesare Lombroso set up the Institute of Forensic
Medicine; in 1884 Carlo Forlanini tried out the first
artificial lung in Turin. More recently, Renato Dulbecco
and Rita Levi Montalcini, both Nobel Prize winners,
trained at this medical school which has always kept
abreast of the times.
In 1887 the Botanical Institute and Gardens started
a systematic collection of all plants present in the
Piedmont Region; in 1878 the University Consortium was
constituted with the Municipality, the Province of Turin
and some of the neighbouring Provinces "in order
to preserve the prestige of the University of Turin
as one of the primary centres of university studies".
At the turn of the century some of the science institutes
moved to the Valentino area and vacated the old buildings
in via Cavour and via Po. The teaching and research
activities of Physics, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Physiology,
General Pathology, Human Anatomy, Pathological Anatomy
and Forensic Medicine were relocated in purpose-built
facilities. Significant results were reached in the
following years both in scientific research and in the
organization of teaching.
In 1893 the foundation of the Laboratory of Political
Economy connected to the University and the Industrial
Museum marked a further feat beyond the scientific sphere.
In the Humanities, Arturo Graf, a "European Turinese",
deserves special mention. He was born in Athens of an
Italian mother and a German father. In 1876 he was appointed
lecturer in Italian Literature and Comparative History
of Neo-Latin Literatures; he became Professor in 1882
and Rector from 1892 to 1894. He was a thinker, a critic,
a historian and above all a poet, who taught such prominent
personalities as Pastonchi, Bontempelli, Augusto Monti,
Balsamo Crivelli, Arturo Foà, Luigi Foscolo Benedetto
and Guido Gozzano.
The 20th century saw the institution of the first Italian
Chair of Psychology, held by Friedrich Kiesow in 1905,
the foundation of the Institute of the History of Mediaeval
and Modern Art in 1907 and that of Archaeology in 1908.
In 1906 the Regia Scuola Superiore di Studi Applicati
al Commercio (the Royal School of Applied Studies in
Commerce) commenced its courses; this early nucleus
would become the fully fledged Faculty of Economics
in 1935, together with the Faculty of Agriculture.
At the turn of the century, a branch of the University
formed the first nucleus of the Polytechnic under the
guidance of Galileo Ferraris.
Last century, the Letters Faculty could claim such prestigious
staff as Luigi Pareyson, Nicola Abbagnano, Massimo Mila
and Lionello Venturi. Luigi Einaudi and Norberto Bobbio
taught in the Law Faculty.
The Gentile Reform of 1923 officially recognized 21
universities in Italy; Turin was included among the
10 State universities which were directly managed and
funded by the State but were independent as regards
administration and teaching, as far as the law allowed,
and supervised by the National Education Ministry.
Many of the protagonists of Italian political and social
life in the 20th century, such as Antonio Gramsci and
Piero Gobetti, Palmiro Togliatti and Massimo Bontempelli,
graduated from Turin University. With its rich variety
of subjects, the University of Turin has always maintained
a characteristic cultural imprint made up of rigour
and independence in teaching, and a spirit of service
and openness to European culture.