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Enrico Zeno Bernardi

(Verona, 20.05.1841 – Turin, 21.02.1919)

He graduated in mathematics from the University of Padua in 1863 and in 1879 he became professor of machines of the University where he remained as teacher and director of the Department of Machines (which later became Institute) until 1915.

In Padua, between 1882 and 1889, he patented an innovative model of a direct-acting combustion engine, intended for the industrial and transport sectors and applied to vehicles and to motorbikes; There are five specimens of this prototype in the world and the only functional one, without any alteration of the mechanisms and original devices, is in Padua.

The engineer from Veronais considered to be one of the key protagonists in the development of motorcars.
Between 1894 and 1899, with others, he set up Società Italiana Bernardi for the production of motorcars (founded five years before Fiat): the first Italian company to produce motorcars as well as the Bernardi motorcar at industrial level.

His activity and creativity in engineering is also clearly visible in many finds preserved at the Museum of Machines at the University of Padova, which is dedicated to him. The museum brings together key examples of internal combustion engines which marked the European automobile history in the second half of the 19th century, all manufactured (even if not devised) by Bernardi during his time in Padua. These include the atmospheric engine, the Motrice Pia (engine suited to small industry, patented in 1882 and built to operate his daughter’s sewing machine), the single wheel attachment used to propel a bicycle (forerunner of the modern motor scooter) the three-wheeled vehicle and many more besides.