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Historical meme: seven facts on Wladimiro Dorigo March 3, 2008

Posted by dorigo in physics.
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Ed Darrell tagged me in one of those games that keep bloggers busy -as if we did not have other things to take care of! But seriously, I like these things. New ideas, whose main function is to get some content out which would otherwise find no reason to be written.

So the rules this time are:

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. List 7 random/weird things about your favorite historical figure.
  3. Tag seven more people at the end of your blog and link to theirs.
  4. Let the tagged people know by leaving a note on their site.

I thought for quite a while about whom I should write. I do know random or little known  facts about a few historical figures from biographies, essays, and the like – but this is something anything can do: what is the added value of a post if I cannot write anything new, id est, stuff one can only learn here?

So, here is the deal. I will write about Wladimiro Dorigo, my father. He was an art historian, and he wrote several tens of books, the most important ones about medioeval art history and on the birth of Venice (see here for a very short list of some titles). Objectively, Dorigo was a historical figure of secondary importance, but defintely somebody who left a mark on a very specific topic: Venice in the medioeval times.

Ok, I know it is kind of lame. Not original, and a bit nepotistic. But the thing is, I am not the only one who admired Wladimiro Dorigo for his painstakingly deep research, his detective-like, multi-disciplinary method of approach to finding the truth on the past. He taught Medioeval Art History at the Venice University, where he arrived rather late in his career, well in his fifties, after having been a journalist and a director of the archive of the Biennale di Venezia. But he was a researcher for his whole life.

I am for sure not a good biographer, and I think I would be paying a poor service to my father if I were to write about him more than just a few lines. After all, I was his son, and I always saw him from that unique perspective, save maybe during the last dozen years of his life, when I became able to really appreciate him for his work, and started to read his books. So I will limit this post to what it should really be about: seven random facts about Wladimiro Dorigo.

  1. Wladimiro graduated in letters with a thesis on the mosaics of Villa romana del Casale(right, a detail of one of the many wonderful pavements), in Piazza Armerina, a small town in the center of Sicily. During his thesis, he visited the place several times.
  2. He never bought expensive clothing. He regularly wore some that were easily thirty years old.
  3. When he visited Japan for his job at La Biennale in the early seventies, he flew above the artic ocean and took several rolls of film of the landscape from the airplane. Upon coming back to Venice he took the rolls to a photographer to have them developed, but they got lost or stolen, and he never got them back.
  4. Wladimiro was given a Laurea Honoris Causa in Urbanistics on December 15th, 2005. Two weeks afterwards he fell sick, was hospitalized, and diagnosed with a secondary leukemia which killed him in six months.
  5. In the latter part of his life he spent his summer holidays in the Alps -preferably in a quiet hotel near easy hikes. He used to take possession of a table suitably located far from the action in the common area of the hotel, spread tens of books, maps, and scribblings on it, and spend entire afternoons at work.
  6. His last book, “Venezia Romanica”, is a monumental work in two large volumes, 1200 pages, and about 25 pounds in weight. It is the result of close scrutiny of thousands of documents from the thirteenth and fourteenth century describing the sale, location, change of use of real estate in Venice. Through that information, previously ignored by historians, he reconstructed the map and the life of the city through those two centuries.
  7. One of his favourite teachings to his children who would ask for a new toy was “your brain is the best toy you will ever have”.

Ok. There remains to tag seven fellow bloggers. Let them be Gattostanco, Fliptomato, Babe in the UniverseArun’s Musings, Cocktail Party Physics, Arcadian Functor, Backreaction, and Uncertain Principles. Wait – that’s 8. Oh well. Too bad for the meme – it just mutated.