Vittorio Degiorgio

In memoriam Vittorio Degiorgio (1939-2021)

Vittorio Degiorgio

   Vittorio Degiorgio, one of ECIS founding fathers, passed away on 17 January 2021 after a long illness.  

   A nuclear engineer by training, Vittorio started working on laser physics in CISE, a research center that was somehow the Italian counterpart of the famous Bell Labs in the US. He then moved to MIT where he investigated together with John Lastovka the statistics of Intensity Correlation Spectroscopy (now better known as DLS) and developed the theory of the “clipped” digital correlator [1]. 

   DLS was actually the “gateway” to the investigation of complex fluids that, back in Italy as professor in Pavia, Degiorgio pursued together with Mario Corti by studying interactions and phase transitions in micellar solutions [2,3]. 

   A landmark event that testifies the leading role soon taken by Vittorio in the development of colloid and interface science was the international school Physics of Amphiphiles: Micelles, Vescicles, and Microemulsions that he organized with Mario in Varenna in July 1983. Arguably, the most remarkable outcome of that meeting was a fructuous blending of the diverse skills of chemists and physicists, which was to become the signature feature of the growing field of “soft matter”. 

   The synergy of scientific exchanges and collaborations that originated from the Varenna school was one of the main drivers that lead to the foundation of ECIS and to its two founding meetings that took place in 1986 and the following year in Villa Olmo, Como. 

   But Vittorio’s heyday in the field of colloid science were surely the ’90, when his research interests broadened to encompass soft matter systems ranging from model colloids to polymers and proteins [4-9]. 

   At the turn of the millennium, after his chief pupils in soft matter physics, Tommaso Bellini and myself, moved as professors in other universities, Vittorio reverted back to his youthful passion, retaining well after his formal retirement In 2011 a strong activity in nonlinear optics and in the design of photonic devices. Yet, as one of his last papers clearly shows [10], his curiosity about colloid and soft matter science never fade away. 

   Vittorio was also an outstanding teacher endowed with lucidity, rigor, and expositive clearness, as testified by the successful textbook in photonics he coauthored with Ilaria Cristiani. Besides a first-class scientist, he has also been a fair person and a man of principle, gifted by a great intellectual honesty. All his disciples and friends will miss him a lot. 

   Essential bibliography

  1. Degiorgio, V. & Lastovka, J.B., Intensity-correlation spectroscopy, Phys. Rev. A 4, 2033 (1971)
  2. Corti, M. & Degiorgio, V., Quasi-elastic light scattering study of intermicellar interactions in aqueous sodium dodecyl sulfate solutions, J. Phys. Chem. 85, 711 (1981)
  3. Corti, M., Minero, C. & Degiorgio, V., Cloud point transition in nonionic micellar solutions, J. Phys. Chem. 88, 309 (1984)
  4. Degiorgio, V., Bellini, T., Piazza, R., Mantegazza, F. & Goldstein, R.E., Stretched-exponential relaxation of electric birefringence in polymer solutions, Phys. Rev. Lett. 64,1043 (1990)
  5. Bucci, S., Fagotti, C., Degiorgio, V. & Piazza, R., Small-Angle Neutron-Scattering Study of Ionic-Nonionic Mixed Micelles, Langmuir 7 824 (1991)
  6. Piazza, R., Bellini, T. & Degiorgio, V., Equilibrium sedimentation profiles of screened charged colloids: A test of the hard-sphere equation of state, Phys. Rev. Lett. 71, 4267 (1993)
  7. Degiorgio, V., Piazza, R. & Jones, R.B., Rotational diffusion in concentrated colloidal dispersions of hard spheres, Phys. Rev. E 52, 2707 (1995)
  8. Degiorgio, V., Piazza, R. & Bellini, T, Static and dynamic light scattering study of fluorinated polymer colloids with a crystalline internal structure, Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. 48, 61 (1994)
  9. Piazza, R., Peyre, V. & Degiorgio, V., “Sticky hard spheres” model of proteins near crystallization: A test based on the osmotic compressibility of lysozyme solutions, Phys. Rev. E 58, R2733 (1998)
  10. Parola, A., Piazza, R. & Degiorgio. V. Optical extinction, refractive index, and multiple scattering for suspensions of interacting colloidal particles, J. Chem. Phys. 141, 124902 (2014)

Roberto Piazza
Dept. Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”
Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy

   I am very sad to learn that my dear friend Vittorio has died. The science community has lost an important member. He was very creative and successful with his important contributions to experimental and theoretical colloid science. His ability to understand and respect different points of view together with his ability to discuss and explain very complicate facts with students and colleagues made him a respected colleague. He was very appreciated by everybody that he knew. He was one of the founding members of the European Colloid and Interface Society. His many scientific awards were well deserved. With my deepest sympathy. 

Heinz Hoffmann
Bayreuther Zentrum für Kolloide und Grenzflächen
University of Bayreuth, Germany