2020 Mary C. Rabbitt History and Philosophy of Geology Award

Presented to Ezio Vaccari

Ezio Vaccari

Ezio Vaccari
University of Insubria, Varese


Citation by Kenneth L. Taylor

I am honored to introduce the recipient of the 2020 Mary C. Rabbitt Award.

Ezio Vaccari is Professor of History of Science and Technology at the University of Insubria, Varese, Italy. He earned the Ph.D. degree in history of science at the University of Bari. He has held research fellowships in Germany, Ireland, Austria, France, and the United States, as well as Italy.

Ezio has a long record of scholarly research on the development of geology, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, mainly in Europe and most particularly in Italy. He is the author of two books and three volumes of primary sources, and of over 100 papers, mainly on the history of geology; and he has edited two collections of conference proceedings. His informative and perceptive studies have addressed a broad array of issues involved in geology's early development. Among the topics over which his work has ranged are: mining and mining education in relation to geological pursuits; the investigation of mountains, and the establishment of travel and field studies as standard geological practices; the foundations of lithostratigraphic classification; and the activities of scientific and educational institutions in promoting geology's growth and in facilitating communication with regard to geology in the culture at large. The individual figures whose work and influence he has investigated include Marsili, J. J. Scheuchzer, Arduino, Robilant, Spallanzani, Targioni Tozzetti, Werner, Saussure, Dolomieu, Goethe, Marzari Pencati, and Lyell.

Ezio has a decidedly international outlook in both his historical research and his professional activities. He participates in meetings and conferences all over the world, and has made conspicuous contributions to the organization of historical programs and field excursions in several countries. He currently serves as President of INHIGEO.

With a distinguished record of scholarly accomplishment in advancing our understanding of geology's history, and also in constructive promotion of activities in our field, Ezio Vaccari is a very worthy recipient of the Mary C. Rabbitt Award.


Response by Ezio Vaccari

I am truly delighted to accept the 2020 Mary C. Rabbitt Award for the history and the philosophy of geoscience and I am very grateful to Ken Taylor for his long lasting friendship and support through all these years, when we have been sharing common interests in the various aspects of 18th century geology. I would also like to warmly thank the GSA History and Philosophy of Geology Division, which has been part of my 'scientific family' since the late 1990s, when I started to attend and enjoy the GSA Annual Meetings.

I discovered the fascinating world of the history of geology during the time of my early research work for a degree in Humanities (1989) and later for a PhD in History of Science (1995). The work on Giovanni Arduino, particularly within the context of the history of stratigraphy in late 18th century Europe, allowed me to meet Nicoletta Morello, a great scholar in the history of Earth Sciences who soon became for me also a precious mentor and a real friend. Thanks to Nicoletta, not only did I start a new fundamental learning experience within the University of Genoa in Italy - studying geology and stratigraphy with Gaetano Giglia and history of science and technology with Carlo Maccagni - but I was introduced to INHIGEO, the IUGS International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences, of which I became a young member in 1992. Within this wonderful group of scientists and historians I was warmly welcomed and constantly encouraged in several steps of my early career by eminent scholars such as Martin Guntau, François Ellenberger, Gordon Herries Davies, Martin Rudwick, Hugh Torrens, David Oldroyd, Ursula Marvin, Gabriel Gohau, David Branagan and of course Ken Taylor and my long time friend Greg Good. Thanks to their support I have learned the importance of interdisciplinary research work between history, geology and several other disciplines from humanities and sciences. And I have also been very lucky, as an historian, to be helped in the field by two geologists within my family: my sister Anna and my wife Kathleen.

I have always found a mutual spirit of collaboration, curiosity and passion among the historians of geology in most of the conferences and meetings that I have attended throughout the years. However, I fondly remember in particular my first encounter with GSA, at a Penrose Conference held in San Diego in March 1994, where a lively and exciting open discussion about the methods, aims and future of the history of geology completely captured my attention for all the meeting and strongly reinforced my determination to become an historian of the geological sciences.

Also for this last reason I am particularly delighted to receive the 2020 Mary C. Rabbitt Award from the Geological Society of America!