In Honor of Columbus Day


A very short list of more obscure Italians and Italian Americans who are notable for some unique achievement:

Frank Borzage: First person to win Academy Award for Best Director

Charles Joseph Bonaparte: Founder of the FBI and member of Teddy Roosevelt’s  Cabinet

Robert Fano: Computer scientist and co-inventor of Shannon-Fano data-compression coding

Franco Malerba: Italian astronaut who participated in joint Italian-US satellite deployment — in summer of 1992, returning from space almost exactly 500 years from the day Columbus set out for the New World

Shoeshine, directed by Vittorio De Sica, first film ever honored with Special/Honorary Oscar for foreign film (1947)

La Strada, directed by Federico Fellini, first film ever honored with official Best Foreign Film Academy Award (1956)

Luigi Palma di Cesnola: Medal of Honor winner for military bravery in Civil War (Union)

Antonio Meucci: According to the United States Congress, the official inventor of the telephone

Enrico Bernardi: Inventor of the first petrol combustion engine

Francesco Lana de Terzi: Dubbed the “Father of Aeronautics,” he was also a Jesuit, a mathematician, and laid the groundwork for what would become Braille

Alessandro Cruti: Improved on Edison electric lightbulb by introducing carbon filaments

Amadeo Giannini: Founder of Bank of Italy in California to help immigrant Italian Americans gain small-business loans and mortgages; finally became Bank of America under his direction

Enrico Bombieri: One of only 50 mathematicians in the world ever to win the Fields Medal

Giovanni Salvemini: Astronomer Royal for Frederick the Great

Two guesses who the Zamboni and the Jacuzzi were named after

And finally, there are five body parts named after Italians (you will have to do some work here)


8 thoughts on “In Honor of Columbus Day

  1. Anthony Sacramone: Widely (i.e, me, his mother, not his wife, and half a dozen guys from his Knights of Columbus council) early 21st century blogger and purveyor of wisecracks and dumb herring.


  2. All of which leads to the question,* “Why are members of the Knights of Columbus reading the ravings of an Italian American Lutheran smart aleck?”

    *It does not “beg the question.” Using “begs the question” when one means “leads to the question” is fingernails on the chalkboard to me. For goodness’ sake people. “Begs the question” means to assume one’s conclusion, i.e., to argue in a circle. Though I must admit that the lexicographers of the “descriptive” school (grrrrr) are beginning to give way on this issue.


    1. Barry: You do realize we can hear you, and that the voices are no longer confined to the inside of your head?


    1. I had to look it up, so it doesn’t count: Abel Gance’s “Napoleon,” right?


  3. Close. That line and “Compliance!” are the only lines I remember from an otherwise fairly forgettable movie. You’re right though. Arcane irrelevantia (my neologism for the day) are leaking out of my head into the blogosphere. In my defense, I was reviewing a cross-parking indemnification agreement before I came online. And no “cross-parking” is not what transvestites do with their cars.


  4. Giacomo Costantino Beltrami (1779-1855) was an Italian count who explored extensively in Minnesota and claimed to have discovered the source of the Mississippi. Unfortunately he was mistaken. But he had a town, a county, and at least one park named after him.


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