Enzo Boschi (1942 - 2018)

 Enzo Boschi (1942 - 2018) Enzo Boschi passed away on December 22, 2018, at the age of 76 years.

Born in Arezzo, Tuscany, he graduated in Physics at the University of Bologna in 1968. His first scientific interests were the physics of the Earth’s interior, the earthquake source and those mechanisms from which volcano eruption originates. At the beginning of his scientific career he was visiting scholar at the Laboratoire des Hautes Pressions (CNRS, Paris), at the Cavendish Laboratory (Cambridge University) and at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (Harvard University).

In 1973 he became professor of Geophysics at the new-born University of Ancona and later full professor at the University of Bologna where from 1977 to 2012 he was Chair of Seismology.

After participating in the “Progetto Finalizzato Geodinamica” by the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) and in the first edition of the “Gruppo Nazionale per la Difesa dai Terremoti”, in 1983 he was appointed as President of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica (ING). He remained in charge till 2001 when ING merged with Osservatorio Vesuviano and three institutes from CNR into the new Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV). He was President of INGV since its birth up to year 2011.

During his almost 30-year long presidency, Enzo Boschi had an active role in the creation of the Protezione Civile Italiana (National Civil Protection) and, from 1986 to 2000, he chaired the Seismic Risk Section of the Commissione Grandi Rischi (GreatRisks Commission). Later he continued to be member of the Commission as INGV president. Meanwhile, and with the support of the National Civil Protection itself, the modern Italian Seismic Survey was created by moving from few sparse vertical seismographs to a dense network of more than 400 digital seismometers covering the entire country, plus a state-of-the-art network of very broadband seismometers at Mediterranean scale (MedNet Network). Later, INGV extended its research topic to Physical Oceanography and climate changes. The institute during the years had also a leading role in many research projects and international collaborations with the support of United Nations, UNESCO, NSF, NATO, European Commission and others.

However, among several successful actions, his masterpiece was to get a small institute made of few researchers, technicians and scientific instruments to grow up and become one of the top institutions in the world for geophysics and volcanology with highest number of publications and citations. Since 1984 Enzo Boschi was Director of the International School of Geophysics at the Ettore Majorana Cultural Centre in Erice, Sicily. Here, Boschi gathered together students, young researchers and professors of the highest repute. The informal but rigorous setting of the School contributed to create those connections and collaborations that brought a large number of Italian geophysicists abroad to learn and grow by visiting top level universities and research centres worldwide. In this framework, his support to the ideas and ambitions of “his researchers” was often wholehearted.

As INGV President, on March 30, 2009, Enzo Boschi was invited to attend an expert meeting in L’Aquila organised by the National Civil Protection and dedicated to the ongoing sequence of earthquakes that was interesting the region since few months. Few days later, the Mw 6.3 “L’Aquila earthquake” struck, resulting in the death of about 300 people. Boschi and six other meeting attendants were indicted for manslaughter under the motivation of having put in place an inaccurate appraisal of the seismic risk and having reassured the population about the low probability of a destructive earthquake. At first instance, he was sentenced to six years imprisonment and the refunding of the victims’ relatives. Two years later, the decision was overtaken by the second instance sentence where Enzo Boschi and other five were fully acquitted because the case was unfounded. Acquittal was later confirmed by the Supreme Court.

During his long career, Enzo Boschi has received several scientific and civil awards and honours. Member of the Accademia dei Lincei and of the Accademia Europe, AGU and AAAS fellow, in December 2006 he was called Cavaliere di Gran Croce, Ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana by president Giorgio Napolitano. Enzo Boschi was also very popular among the tv and media public since he was always interviewed in the aftermath of seismic or volcanic events. By combining his passion and rigorousness for the scientific research with a full commitment toward the society, he never missed the opportunity, while interviewed, to remark that safe buildings are the only way to prevent earthquake casualties. A lesson that Italy is far from learning, yet. In the last years, he gained a good visibility on Twitter where he was active and willing to discuss with colleagues, researchers, journalists andcitizens. Even by short sentences, he was able to conjugate joviality, bitterness and rigour. He was alw ays able to listen and relaunch the discussion.

He was a person with strong personality, abundant political courage, farsightedness, and charisma. Everything spiced up with a Tuscan character. His inner strength was crucial to overcome the complex steps of his career and of his life. Seismology, volcanology and several researchers owe him. Certainly, we who are dedicating to him this memory. It was a great honour to have him as Presidente.

Marco Olivieri (marco.olivieri@ingv.it) & Massimiliano Stucchi