A landmark in the field of genome size evolution: Maria Gabriella Manfredi Romanini’s contributions

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Carloalberto Redi *
Silvia Garagna
Ernesto Capanna
(*) Autore principale:
Carloalberto Redi | carloalberto.redi@unipv.it


The interest for genome evolution started quite early during the academic career of prof. Maria Gabriella Manfredi Romanini (MGMR, as all her pupils were used to call her; she knew that, and she was pleased we were confidentially nicknaming her!). She taught Anthropology since 1964 while holding the course of Histology and Embryology for the degree in biology. She was immediately attracted by the new coming vision that shifted from the physical anthropology to the molecular level at which the human evolution could be followed. Strong believer, she never put her beliefs before the scientific data: she invited us (her pupils and students) to read carefully Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a great palaeontologist who took part in the discovery of the Peking man but, at that time, also an heterodox Jesuit philosopher whose writing were censored by the Catholic Church because of his view of the original sin and the evolutionary theories. At the same time, MGMR was often stressing that we had to learn all of the new coming techniques to get a deep vision of the evolutionary story of the Mammals. Just to remember one of her teachings of the ’60, she convinced all of us to carry on the new techniques of DNA denaturation and hybridization by simply using hot water solutions and cold ice! (a technique that stimulated inspiration to an entire generation of biologists). She was continuously teaching, even during the summer holidays when she was asking all of us to come to her lake’s villa (discomforting her husband, that rightly was recalling MGMR that was already dinner time!) and inspiring curiosity, fascination for the livings and wishes to fully participate to the international academic community. Over time, she inspired even the F2 of her pupils thanks to her enthusiastic and positive view for our exceptionally lucky chance to carry on the “most marvellous work”, as she defined our job. Having much younger pupils she was always able to learn even the most advanced molecular techniques that she always tried to apply even in very difficult environmental situations (while the Italian Universities only encountered a drastic shortage of human capitals and economic resources): she prompted us to go abroad to collaborate with the best institutions worldwide (Germany, Holland, France, England, Japan, Brazil, to mention a few). While teaching and doing research she took the very hard gamble to launch at an international level the European Journal of histochemistry (born as “Rivista di Istochimica normale ed applicata”, the first journal on Histochemistry worldwide, founded on 1954 by her tutor and master, Maffo Vialli). Here we will briefly present one of the many interest and activities carried on by Maria Gabriella Manfredi Romanini; the one on Mammalian genome size, especially looking at the deep human and scientific relationships she had (apart with the coauthors who were her pupils) with Ernesto Capanna.

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