Who was Piero Angela, Italy’s most respected science journalist

Piero Angela, Italy’s most famous science journalist and TV presenter, died earlier this week, aged 93. A central figure in the country’s broadcasting field, he was regarded as a knowledgeable, versatile scientific presenter and, in general, one of the most respected public figures in the country. When his son Alberto (who followed in his father’s footsteps and is also a journalist and science presenter – they have often worked together), broke the news of his separation on social networks, many institutional figures issued statements filled with grief and regret . “A great Italian has passed away; All of Italy is grateful to him,” said the country’s president, Sergio Mattarella. “He united the country as few others have done,” declared Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The Life of Piero Angela

Piero Angela was born in Turin in 1928. He spent most of his career as a journalist and television presenter at the Italian public broadcaster RAI, working first as a correspondent and then as an anchor in cultural and scientific programs. The son of an anti-fascist psychiatrist, he was passionate about jazz music and a talented pianist. He first joined RAI in the 1950s, contributing to a program on the history of Jazz, before moving on to the national news programme. Between the 1960s and 1970s he covered the Apollo Moon Missions.

A video of Piero Angela reporting on the Apollo 12 mission in 1969

Angela wrote several books, many of which together with his son Alberto. He also presented more than 30 television programs over a career spanning 70 years, with topics ranging from space exploration to the human body and dinosaurs. The show he is best known for is Quark, a one-hour science research program (still broadcast today) whose name is a tribute to the particles that make up the protons and neutrons inside the atom. As he explained, it was chosen to convey the idea that the show was meant to go “into the details of things”. More generally, about science and relations with the public, Angela said: “To understand things, I first take an uphill road, a difficult road, among thorns. It is precisely because I understand the difficulty, for my readers, that I try to make them take this downhill road among the roses.” This is why Angela’s programs were highly appreciated by the Italian public: although they were quite informative, they also had a light tone and language, easily accessible to everyone.

Highlight video from the first episode of Quark, in 1981

One man, one show: the success of Quark

The first episode of Quark was broadcast on March 18, 1981 and was watched by 9 million people. The theme music that introduces the program is Air on the G string by Johann Sebastian Bach, Angela’s favorite composer, in a version performed by the French group Swingle Singers. The journalist explained the unusual choice of music with these words: “Bach is my favorite musician, the interweaving of notes is extraordinary. The Swingle Singers managed to give it a jazzy rhythm without touching a single note, and this proves that Bach was a jazz musician.” He said he chose it because “Back then, the theme songs were all triumphant, while what I wanted to say was ‘calm down, relax.’

Quark’s theme music, The Air on the G String

Angela was talented in music, but, according to those who knew him best, he was also skilled in many other areas, including drawing and sculpture. “It was like living with Leonardo da Vinci,” said his son Alberto in his speech during the funeral ceremony.

In the last statement she shared on social networks, just a few days before she passed away, Angela writes: “Dear friends, I’m sorry that I’m no longer with you after 70 years together. But even nature has its rhythms . These have been many stimulating years for me that have brought me to know the world and human nature. Above all, I have been fortunate to meet people who have helped me understand what every human would like to discover. Thanks to science and a method to to approach problems rationally, but at the same time humanely. […] “It was an extraordinary adventure, intensely lived and made possible thanks to the cooperation of a large group of authors, collaborators, technicians and scientists. For my part, I have tried to share what I have learned. Dear all, I think I have done my part mine. Try to do your part for this difficult country of ours. A big hug.”

Piero Angela was married for 66 years and had two children. During his lifetime, he received 10 honorary degrees. When, in an interview in 2017, a journalist asked him if he was afraid of death, he replied that he considered it “a nuisance”. An asteroid and a type of mollusk are named after him.

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