History of the CMIC Department

Giulio Natta (1963 Nobel Prize for Chemistry)

The origins of the Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department of the Politecnico di Milano date back to 1883, when a laboratory for Technological Chemistry was established in the former "Regio Istituto Tecnico Superiore"(founded in 1863) and was housed in the Rectory Palace of Via Cavour in Milan.

Luigi Gabba was the director of the laboratory until 1914. In 1923 the "Regio Istituto Tecnico Superiore" became the "Regia Scuola di Ingegneria di Milano" and in 1927 it moved to the present location in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci.

It was in 1928 that the Institute of Industrial Chemistry was established. The chairman position was first held by Mario Giacomo Levi who had been appointed full professor of Industrial Chemistry. In 1937 the "Regia Scuola di Ingegneria" became the "Regio Politecnico di Milano", and the next year Mario Giacomo Levi was removed from his position due to the newly introduced Racial Laws. Giulio Natta then came from Turin to replace him as full professor of Industrial Chemistry and chairman of the Institute.

In 1945 the "Regio Politecnico" finally took its present title of Politecnico. M.G. Levi returned and continued his work until 1953. The same year, the Insitute set up a Laboratory for Testing of Plastic Materials. In 1963 Giulio Natta and Karl Ziegler were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of stereospecific polymerization in 1954. Over about 20 years, Natta and his colleagues carried out intensive research in this area, producing over 800 scientific publications and nearly 300 industrial patents: some aspects are detailed in this paper by P. Corradini (we thank John Wiley & Sons for permission to use it).

Giulio Natta left his position in 1973 and died six years later. In 1981 the Institute of Industrial Chemistry was named in his honour and became Dipartimento di Chimica Industriale e Ingegneria Chimica "Giulio Natta" in 1982.

The new Chemistry, Material and Chemical Engineering Department "Giulio Natta" has been created in 2001 by merging of three existing Departments:

  • Chemistry
  • Applied Physical Chemistry
  • Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta"

The driving force for the merging was the need to achieve synergies in the activities of the Department by promoting the development of research fields with a highly innovative content and strong interdisciplinarity, through a more rational use of human and economic resources. Facilities are now unified to a critical size for supporting internal and external research cooperation with other departments, universities and industry.