Luigi Dadda at Famedio
The Politecnico di Milano's great computer expert and rector among the City of Milan's new
As is done every year, on 2nd November a ceremony took place at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan to unveil the stones in the Famedio (hall of the famous at the entrance) for the new meritorious citizens, attended by the Mayor Giuseppe Sala.
To pay homage to those who were shining examples of Ambrosian values, in our fatherland and in the world. Not heroes, but men and women who lived the great adventure of life with generosity and courage
This year's illustrious names included Prof Luigi Dadda, an eminent figure at Politecnico di Milano and in the informatics field in Italy.
Having graduated in Electronic Engineering in 1947, with a thesis on the transmission of signals, in 1953 he obtained a bursary from the National Science Foundation to do research at CalTech in Los Angeles.
He was the first Italian academic to see the possibilities that informatics offered: in fact, it was thanks to him and other "illuminated" experts that Politecnico di Milano was able to get the first digital electronic computer in the country in 1954, bought with Marshall Plan funds.
That computer's history has some adventurous twists and turns. The rector at the time, Gion Cassinis, offered Eng Dadda the chance to go to San Diego in California, to work with the Computer Research Corporation on building a machine, a CRC 102A.
Once completed, this computer was loaded onto an old ship, in a hold full of bales of cotton, to protect the sensitive thermionic valves from the vibrations. Having overcome the perilous voyage and customs formalities, which applied a radio duty to each of the computer's thousands of valves, and even the affixing of a fiscal band to each of them, a task that was able to be avoided.
Finally, the machine was installed at our university in September 1954, making it the first working computer in Italy and in Continental Europe. In the years that followed, Eng Dadda dedicated his time to development of the computer, in terms of its technical operation and of its use for scientific and industrial applications, besides being used to train both teaching staff and students on using it. He organised and ran the first university courses on the computer and its use, and worked on upgrading it.
In 1960 he became a full professor in Electrotechnics. He then became Director of the Computer Centre and Electronic Computer Laboratory in the Department of Electronics at Politecnico di Milano, where he coordinated research into computer systems, the architecture of microcomputers, programming languages, databases, and computer networks.
In 1961 he co-founded the Associazione Italiana per l’Informatica e il Calcolo Automatico [Italian Association of Informatics and Automatic Computing], of which he was President from 1968 to 1970.
In 1972 he became Rector of the Politecnico di Milano, and guided the University for 12 years, through to 1984.
From 1980 to 1982 he chaired the Science and Technology Commission at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. He was also President of the Advanced Learning and Research Institute in Lugano.
He died in 2012 at the age of 89. In 2016 he was posthumously given the prestigious “Milestone Award” of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the worldwide association for these professionals. The only Italians to be given this honour previously were Alessandro Volta, Guglielmo Marconi, and Enrico Fermi.
As recalled by the President of the Milan City Council, Lamberto Bertolé:
Luigi Dadda brought honour to Milan in terms of science and technological progress around the world, applying the highest Ambrosian values of trust in research and human progress, as well as openness to the world, with vigour, generosity, and passion