Ministero dei Beni delle Attivitą Culturali e del Turismo Direzione Generale Biblioteche e Istituti Culturali

Gregorio Fontana

Gregorio Fontana(Director 1778-1784)

(Villa di Nogaredo, Rovereto, 1735 - Milan, 1803)

Giovanni Battista Lorenzo Fontana took on in 1754, the Order of the Scopoli, the name of Gregorio. Decisive for his studies were the influence of his brother Felice, distinguished physicist, and the cultural addresses established among the Scopoli towards the areas of mathematics and physics.

Gregorio Fontana taught Philosophy and Mathematics in Rome, Senigallia, Milan and later Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Pavia from 1764 to 1768.
Brilliant mathematician, but also a philosopher and man of letters, he was in touch with the scientific, literary and political trends of his time in Italy and in Europe, thanks to his knowledge, as well as of the greek and Latin, also of French, English, German and probably Dutch.

From 1776 to 1771 he was part of a delegation of eight professors in charge of the regency of the University, and in 1768 was appointed to the chair of pure mathematics and theoretical physics.

The day October 18, 1768 a letter from the Governor of Lombardy, Count Karl Firmian, to the prefect of the College Ghislieri announced the foundation at that Institute of a new library and assigned the task of directing it to Fontana along with the right to an adjacent dwelling . So Gregorio Fontana was the first in the series of librarians-teachers, uninterrupted until the unification of Italy.

With the relocation of the books in the new University building Fontana, appointed director of the Library, drew up a catalogue of books held at the College Ghislieri and took care of the transfer to the new headquarters. The first manuscript catalogue, completed in 1784, listed 2,600 separate volumes in nine classes that retraced the universities present in Pavia. Under his leadership, the Library began to take on a scientific aspect with a European, thanks to the collection of records and memories of many European and American academies that is one of the most interesting collection.

Pandering his cultural interests and the austerity proper of Jansenists, he refused the complete acquisition of the entire library of the abolished Jesuit order and the monastery of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, of which he accepted, unfortunately, only the most valuable works. The cultural objective was to give the Pavia library compared to the other ones in Lombardy and in particular the Braidense of Milan, a stronger scientific character, supporting the very modern in the University in which among the others in those years, Spallanzani and Boscovich, Tissot and Frank, Volta and Scarpa taught.

The news about the Revolution and its developments in France were welcome with hope before, then apprehension and finally execration. Fontana did not hesitate however to stand publicly for the French after the victorious conquest of Napoleon in Italy, and was not slow to make commitments and public positions in the new regime, becoming part of the legislative body of the Cisalpina republic.
When Austrians returned in 1799 he was deprived, with other professors, of the chair, arrested in Milan and imprisoned for a short time. Reinstated in teaching after the battle of Marengo, he left him in the same in 1800 and moved to Milan where he died in 1803.

Find Manuscripts by Gregorio Fontana in Inventario dei manoscritti Ticinesi