Florence has old and remarkable traditions in chemistry. Starting from 1752 Anton Nicola Branchi held lessons and experiments in the Farmacia del Cinghiale. At the end of the 18th century even the Granduca di Toscana Pietro Leopoldo took a special interest in this scientific branch.
In 1807 the first university chair for teaching chemistry was founded at the "La Specola", in Via Romana.
In 1859 the R. Istituto di Studi Superiori Pratici e di Perfezionamento was founded and later, in 1876, was transferred to the present seat in Via Gino Capponi 9.
FLORENTINO STUDIORUM ATHENAEO
COMMODIORES AEDES EXSTRUCTAE
This panel, cast on marble, was posted on the wall of the new building on the side of via Gino Capponi. The building is located in the so called " square of San Marco" which from the year 1887 is hosting the laboratories and teaching rooms of chemistry of the R. Istituto di Studi Superiori Pratici e di Perfezionamento".
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 2Oth century Chemistry in Firenze was focused on two great Scientists completely different in nature and culture: Hugo Schiff and Angelo Angeli.
Hugo Schiff was born at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1834. He studied and graduated at Goettingen in l857 under Prof. Wohler (1800-1882). He came to Firenze in 1864 and, apart from the years 1877-1879 he spent in Torino as a successor of Piria, there he remained. Hugo Schiff had complicated personality, almost paradoxical. A highly capable scientist and work organizer, he had a sense of duty bordering on paroxysm and his judgement and criticism were so caustic that his relationship with his Collogues was anything but friendly. Although held in great esteem as a scientist, his students were never fond of him. Hugo Schiff's research methods in organic chemistry were still tied to classical concepts. His most significant work was the discovery of the reaction between the amino and carbonyl groups to create what is now universally known as "Schiff's bases". The well-known "Schiff's reagent" is used to differentiate aldehydes from ketons. While in Firenze, along with Cannizzaro, Selmi, Tassinari and Gabba, he founded in 1870 the "Gazzetta Chimica Italiana". In 1909 at the age of 75 he was still lecturing in Firenze. He died in Firenze on 8th September, 1915.
Angelo Angeli came to Firenze from the University of Palermo and took up the chair of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1905. In 1915 he was appointed to the chair of Organic Chemistry, one of the earliest in Italy. Angeli was born at Tarcento (Udine) in 1864 and graduated at Bologna in 1891 under Ciamician who appointed him one of his assistants. In 1899 he obtained the chair of Pharmacy at the University of Palermo also thanks to A.Von Bayer who had great esteem for him. Shy and withdrawn, Angeli never took part in congresses and never spoke in public and his shyness did not help him to become famous. In 1925 R. Willstaetter, Nobel Prize`s winner in 1915, wrote: "Prof. Angeli's work places him above any other italian chemist and its originality and significance is of the highest distinction". At that time he was mentioned as a possible Nobel Prize's winner. In his studies Angeli tried to correlate structure and reactivity with particular attention to nitro compounds. Together with E. Rimini he prepared nitrohydroxylamine and discovered that it reacts selectively with aldehydic groups. Angeli did brilliant research work in azoxy compounds of which he demonstrated their asymmetric structure and the possibility of obtaining two isomers. He had a lively but polemical correspondence with A. R. Hantzch on the real structure of the N-oxyde of nitro compounds. He contributed substantially to the knowledge of pyrrole and indolic compounds and studied the analogies of behaviour of the para- and orto-derivates of benzene. He died in Firenze in 1951 in the anonymous hotel room he had lived in for so many years on May 31, 1951.
The 22th June 1968, during the 10th National Congress of the Italian Chemical Society an inscription was posted on the house where Angelo Angeli was born in Tarcento, province of Udine, by Prof. Livio Cambi:
FIGLIO DEL FORTE POPOLO DEL FRIULI
DI CONCEZIONI PRECORRITRICI
DELLA CHIMICA MODERNA
STUDIOSI E TECNICI ITALIANI PARTECIPANTI
AL X CONCRESSO NAZIONALE DI CHIMICA
ALLA SUA TERRA CONVENUTI
MEMORI DELL'OPERA IMPERITURA
CON DEVOZIONE SULLA CASA NATALE
QUESTA LAPIDE POSERO.
22 GIUGNO 1968.