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“MAKSIMOVIČ. La storia di Bruno Pontecorvo”

12 September 2023
The event about the famous scientist will take place on 15 September at 6 pm at Ubik bookstore in Trieste

A dialogue between Giuseppe Mussardo and Nico Pitrelli on one of the most interesting science figures of the 20th century. The event, which will take place on 15 September at the Ubik Bookshop in Galleria Tergesteo in Trieste starting from 6 p.m., is part of the series of seminars dedicated to the history of science organised by SISSA Interdisciplinary Laboratory. The event will be held in Italian.

When he disappeared into thin air in 1950, Bruno Pontecorvo was one of the world's greatest scientists. Together with the other 'boys from Via Panisperna', he made Rome the capital of nuclear physics. He discovered how to reveal the most elusive particle in the universe, the neutrino; he was a refined experimenter and the world's greatest expert on neutrons. But above all, he was a communist who had worked for the United States and England. In the Western bloc, rumours were swirling: "Pontecorvo has escaped to the USSR, he is a spy for the Soviets, he will help them build the bomb". For five years, nothing leaked from the Iron Curtain, until Bruno's signature, now Bruno 'Maksimovič' Pontecorvo, appeared in 'Pravda': he claimed political asylum, a new life in Moscow, the dream of a country of the future to which he was willing to sacrifice everything else. He knew he had a one-way ticket.

Pontecorvo is a character who seems to come straight out of the pages of a hard-boiled novel, no less elusive than his particles, and provides us with an intriguing key to interpreting one of the most emblematic events of the 20th century even though, even today, "Pontecorvo is a rebus, wrapped in a mystery within an enigma."

Giuseppe Mussardo is Professor of Theoretical Physics at SISSA. His scientific research activity has always been accompanied by a passion for the history of science. Author of documentaries and popular books on great scientists and important scientific topics, he scripted the documentary film "Maksimovič. The Story of Bruno Pontecorvo" (2013), winning the Grand Jury Prize for Best Scientific Documentary at the International Scientific Film Festival (2014). An academician of the Academy of the Art of Drawing, in 2013 he received the prize for popularising science from the Italian Physical Society. He is also the author of the book "“MAKSIMOVIČ. La storia di Bruno Pontecorvo” (Castelvecchi 2023).

Nico Pitrelli is director of the Master in Science Communication "Franco Prattico" at SISSA in Trieste and head of the Communication Office at the same institution.