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Edoardo Semenza

La Storia del Vaiont*

raccontata dal geologo che ha scoperto la frana


(*) The Story of Vaiont Told by the Geologist Who Discovered the Landslide


280 pages - € 19.00



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Edoardo Semenza is the geologist who discovered the Vaiont landslide in August, 1959, hypothesizing that it could move again once the reservoir had been filled. This was more than four years before the landslide caused the enormous tragedy. He is the son of the engineer who designed the dam.

He taught Applied Geology and various geological courses for more than forty years at the University of Ferrara.

He also studied the slide after October 9, 1963, until his death in 2002. Many years after the catastrophe, using language comprehensible to all, not just those who are specialists in the field, and including many images, most of which were previously unpublished, he wished to express all his memories, scientific studies and the reflections of a lifetime as well as with the help of documents collected by the Magistrature which were finally available in 2000 after the conclusion of the lengthy legal process.

This volume also contains an ample commentary on the books by Tina Merlin and Marco Paolini and the film by Renzo Martinelli.

La Storia del Vaiont raccontata dal geologo che ha scoperto la frana becomes, therefore, an indispensable resource upon which to base an objective judgement regarding the catastrophe as well as an important contribution to be certain that similar tragedies are not repeated.



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The Author

Edoardo Semenza (1927-2002) is the geologist who discovered the large Vaiont landslide in August 1959, four years before it produced the disaster of 1963. He is one of the sons of Engineer Carlo Semenza, designer and builder of the Vaiont Dam.

He was born in Vittorio Veneto. Both parents were from Milano. He was raised in Venezia and graduated from Padova University.

For more than forty years, Prof. Semenza taught courses in Geology and especially in Applied Geology. He is the author of a great number of scientific works published both in Italy and in various foreign journals. Many of these studies deal with landslides; among them are: Sintesi degli studi geologici sulla frana del Vajont dal 1959 al 1964 (1965, Synthesis of Geological Studies regarding the Vaiont Landslide from 1959 to 1964), La grande frana di Ancona del 1982 (1983, The Large Ancona Slide of 1982), and Classificazione e nomenclatura dei fenomeni franosi (1985, Classification and Nomenclature of Landslide Phenomena) published as the President of the National Commission in charge of this study.

His work regarding Vaiont, judged favorably by all, brought the recognition which made him one of the world’s major landslide experts. In 1986, at Ferrara University, he organized the International Pennrose Conference on the Vaiont Landslide.

As a professor, he assumed the tutorship of numerous dissertations and contributed to the formation of hundreds of Italian geologists, many of whom continue to practice successfully in various areas of Geology. For many years, he was the Director of the Course of Geological Studies and was also the Head of the Department of Geological and Paleontological Sciences at Ferrara University for three years. He was elected as an original member of the Board of the newly formed National Order of Geologists. He co-ordinated the first Italian doctorate in Applied Geology. He was also a member of the National Group for the Defense against Hydrogeological Catastrophes of the National Research Council.

As a geologist, he did not limit his work to research and academic formation; he also worked practically in Applied Geology. He conducted many field campaigns and provided the studies for the stabilization of numerous slopes, primarily in the Province of Belluno and in the eastern Alps. Among these was the study in the valley of the Torrente Tèssina where, as a result of rigorous geological research, he developed the solution of a drainage tunnel which was finally built in 1995-96 and provided a significant contribution to the stability of a large landslide which had threatened several villages in Alpago (Belluno Province) since the 1960’s.

During his geological work in the service to his country, Edoardo Semenza was always devoted to the idea, which became particularly clear because of the tragic event of Vaiont, that in order to prevent a natural disaster, it is essential to conduct complete geological studies before beginning the design of any civil engineering project. His publications on Vaiont have provided a noteworthy contribution to two geotechnical engineers, American and Canadian. A. J. Hendron and F. D. Patton were confronted with the feasibility of the construction of a huge dam on the Columbia River between the USA and Canada, where the enormous Downie landslide had been discovered. To carry out their work, they wanted to understand the causes of the landslide of Vaiont. Their knowledge of the Vaiont landslide allowed them to find solutions to prevent a similar risk and permitted the construction of a dam as well.



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