Family stories

A gallehault indeed,
that course and who attended it

The School of Chemistry at the University of Pavia and the Braccos: a true love story
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Bracco’s history is closely intertwined with that of Italian chemistry and its applications, which have marked the evolution of medical science in our country. But there is a special setting for this “love story” between Bracco and chemistry: the city of Pavia. The university’s Department of Chemistry, one of the oldest in Italy, was where Fulvio, in 1933, and his daughter Diana, in 1965, both graduated. At the time, Diana was among the very few women to have earned a degree in this predominantly male field of study

But this is not solely the tale of a family tradition of education; it is also a surprising love story. The university’s chemistry program, in reality, was also a matchmaking course for both: Fulvio as well as Diana met their future spouses during their time in that splendid college city.

Fulvio Bracco’s degree in Chemistry & Pharmacy, 1935
Cover of Diana Bracco's experimental thesis in Chemistry, 1964-65

Fulvio Bracco’s story is especially romantic. As he remembers it in his memoirs, he met Anita Coppini, who would many years later become his wife, on the train from Milan to Pavia. She was also a student of chemistry attending the same university course (a real “STEM” forerunner in the 1930s).

He was traveling in third class, she in second. In the words of the story’s protagonist: “She was the most beautiful girl at the university. Acting nonchalant, I used to stand in the corridor of the second class coach to catch a glimpse of her. Since I studied organic chemistry at the university, starting at 9am and finishing at 1pm, she would sometimes ask me for advice, or a suggestion on some problem. My hope, every morning, was to meet her on the train; I didn’t know if she shared the same wish – she later told me she had.”

As for Diana, after having met her husband, Roberto De Silva, and completing her degree, she kept a special relationship with Pavia over the years: first receiving an Honorary Degree in Pharmacy in 2002, and later the prestigious Gran Pavese award in 2012.

The University of Pavia was of pivotal importance for the Bracco family. Listen to Fulvio Bracco talking about his thesis.
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Documents and images from the Bracco Historical Archives
Graduating students of Chemistry & Pharmacy of Regia Università di Pavia, Pavia, 1933. Fulvio Bracco is fourth from the top in the leftmost row
Anita Coppini’s degree in Chemistry & Pharmacy, 1933
Cover of Anita Coppini's degree thesis, 1933
Portrait of Anita Coppini, 1930s
Anita Coppini and Fulvio Bracco, late 1930s
Honorary degree in Pharmacy awarded to Diana Bracco by Università degli studi di Pavia, 2001
Honorary degree in Medicine and Surgery awarded to Diana Bracco by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Roma, Rome, 2004
Carnival caricatures of professors of Università degli studi di Pavia done by students. Fulvio Bracco is Prof. Campetti, 1933
Fellow students at Università degli studi di Pavia, 1933
Fulvio Bracco’s degree in Chemistry & Pharmacy, 1935
A young Fulvio Bracco, 1930s
Fulvio Bracco, first on right, with some classmates, early 1930s
Fulvio Bracco taking a break from studying, 1930s
Cover of Diana Bracco's experimental thesis in Chemistry, 1964-65
Cover of Fulvio Bracco's experimental degree thesis, 1935

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