At the age of 96, the geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza died, famous for having laid the foundations of population genetics and for having demonstrated the scientific groundlessness of the concept of the human race. Born in Genoa on January 25, 1922, he died in Belluno, where he lived. His scientific career had begun in Great Britain, and since the 50s it has continued between Italy, where he taught at the University of Pavia, and the United States, at Stanford University.
After studying in Turin at the school of Giuseppe Levi, as before him had done Rita levi Montalcini, Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco, Cavalli Sforza had begun his scientific career at the University of Pavia with the pioneer of Italian genetics, Adriano Buzzati Traverso . It was the era in which the genes were still entities to be defined, understood and measured and also thanks to the charm of these researches Cavalli Sforza had followed Buzzati Traverso in Germany and then in the Institute of Hydrobiology of Pallanza. Di Buzzati had also married his niece, Albamaria Ramazzotti.
His colleagues remember Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza as a man of great views and a well-rounded researcher, animated by an enormous curiosity that had led him to study both biology and statistics, very different disciplines that he managed to reconcile in his commitment in research on population genetics, from the first studies conducted in Italy, on the Parma Apennines, to research in Africa. He had deepened this research at Stanford University for over 20 years and had returned to Italy only in 1994, firmly intending, he said, to fight against "the inertia and the slowness of Italian research". He liked to stay in Italy and here he wanted to carry out historical research on the origin of populations, which he defined as "important for understanding the mechanisms of evolution and
cultural adaptation. "He noted, however, that Italian research was still at the level of 30 years ago, with" little money and badly distributed ".
He had however chosen to continue working in Italy and his latest research led him to affirm that the concept of race is only cultural and that it is not shown by any genetic basis. In addition to the border between the races Cavalli Sforza has also sought to break down the gap between scientific and humanistic culture, making different disciplines interact, such as genetics, mathematics, archeology and linguistics, with the aim of reconstructing the world's first genetic atlas.