“On the arid lands there will spring up industrial colonies without smoke and without smokestacks; forests of glass tubes will extend over the plants and glass buildings will rise everywhere; inside of these will take place the photochemical processes that hitherto have been the guarded secret of the plants...And if in a distant future the supply of coal becomes completely exhausted, civilization will not be checked by that, for life and civilization will continue as long as the sun shines!”
Who he was
Giacomo Luigi Ciamician was an ingenious scientist whose work in organic chemistry and plant chemistry led him to found the field of organic photochemistry. He believed that the power of the sun could be harnessed as an energy source. Posterity would prove his prophecy true.
He was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Trieste, now a part of the country where he spent the rest of his life: Italy. Working mostly from the University of Bologna, Ciamician made several discoveries and a number of publications.
It was after his many years studying the effects of light on chemical reactions that Ciamician realized the potential of using solar energy to power human life and industry. His conviction led him to install a solar panel - in 1912 - on the roof of his laboratory, which was able to power one lightbulb inside.
Ciamician was deeply respected by his scientific peers. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry nine times - twice by the preeminent chemist of his time and Nobel laureate Emile Fischer. Despite the numerous nominations, Ciamician never won.
Ciamician was a member of the Italian Senate; during his time, the king would appoint senators and would choose individuals who made significant contributions to Italian society.
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