1. Home
  2. /
  3. Stories
  4. /
  5. Giovanni Canestrini

Giovanni Canestrini

(Revò, 26.12.1835 – Padua, 14.02.1900)

Following his degree in Vienna (1861) he worked as professor of natural history at the University of Modena.

From 1869, up until his death, he taught zoology, anatomy and comparative physiology at the University of Padua where he was also Chair of the Science Faculty from 1885 to 1891. Here, he put together a room with tools and craniological collections that would go to make up the first section of the current Anthropological museum of the University. As an expert of the sector, in 1873 he was also appointed to conduct an anthropological study on the remains of the poet Petrarch that were preserved at Arquà Petrarca.

Canestrini founded the Modena Society of Naturalists and the Trento-Venetian Society of Natural Sciences, whose objective was to boost the connections between the scholars of the two regions and he also established the first Italian bacteriology laboratory.
He was one of the first to contribute to spreading evolutionism in Italy as author of essays and volumes, as well as translator and disseminator of Charles Darwin’s works. In fact, Canestrini held Darwin in high regard and enjoyed with him a close working relationship. A month after Darwin’s death, he held a memorial service of his life in the Great Hall of University of Padua.
Between 1866 and 1867, anticipating the British biologist, Canestrini gathered a series of testimonies from comparative anatomy, embryology and anthropology to support an evolutionistic interpretation of the origin and history of mankind. Within his own work, Darwin acknowledged the contribution that the research of the Italian zoologist made to the evolutionary debate.

The researcher Canestrini was also involved in politics. Born Habsburgian citizen in Revò, a small town in Trentino, in 1878 he was expelled from the Empire. In July 1881, he was elected to the Paduan City Council in a progressive and moderate list, intervening.