February 1, 2022 will mark the 131st anniversary of the birth of Corradino D’Ascanio, a 20th century genius and the utmost pride and joy of the city of Popoli, which gave birth on February 1, 1891 to the world-famous engineer-inventor.
In 2011, the Vespa Club Popoli was founded in his honour, and in 2013 Popoli officially became his town, thanks to a project launched by the municipal administration that includes, in addition to the creation of a museum in the house where he was born (which will be subject to post-earthquake renovation in the future), the inauguration of a small monument dedicated to him along the road junction of the Tiburtina Valeria with the road to Vittorito.
The Pescara river springs, a place of inspiration for Corradino D’Ascanio
D’Ascanio already had an immense passion for flying during his childhood. As an adolescent, he tried several times to fly with a pair of wings attached to his arms near a hillock in the Antera district of Popoli, near the Pescara river springs, but all of his attempts proved to be unsuccessful; other efforts were made by taking advantage of the great wind blowing through the town, by attaching a sail to a bicycle. During an interview in Pisa in 1972, D’Ascanio expressed his true love: ‘I watched the swallows for hours and I envied them. Then when my father, a passionate hunter, brought pigeons home, I would examine them, study their wings. When I got older, I built, with the help of two of my little cousins, a glider with sheets taken from the house, newsprint and wooden slats. I tried to fly it and one time I managed to do a good fifteen metres off the ground”.
His place of inspiration was undoubtedly nature, where he began to develop some of his most renowned inventions, observing the flight and behaviour of orthoptera, heteroptera and samare; in this regard, we should remember that he was one of the fathers of biomimesis, a discipline that studies and imitates the biological and biomechanical processes of nature and living beings as a source of inspiration for the improvement of human activities and technologies.
In particular, Corradino D’Ascanio is remembered for:
• the first installation of a two-way radio on an italian aircraft;
• the upgrading of the town power plant in 1920;
• the creation of the technical shool of Popoli;
• the construction of the first helicopter in Pescara at the ‘Fonderia Camplone’ and later in Rome at the military airport of Northern Ciampino (1926- 1928);
• the planning of the war memorial (1926);
• the completion of Paolini square with lighting, sewers, gardens, roads (1927-1929);
• the creation of the propeller of the helicopter;
• the teaching at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Pisa (1937-1961);
• the invention of the Vespa, from which the ‘Ape’ and the ‘Lambretta’ were later derived.
Thanks to his inventions, the name of Corradino D’Ascanio is now renowned all over the world.
He died in Pisa on August 5, 1981 and now rests in the family tomb in Popoli.
Written by Federica Casciano and translated by Luca Di Gregorio (Popoli universal civil service)