Memories of Giorgio Gamberini ...
(translated from the original Italian text, written in 1993)
When I have been asked to prepare a talk dedicated to Giorgio Gamberini on the occasion of the granting of the scholarship named after Him, I immediately felt deeply honoured and at the same time worried for my inadequacy for such a delicate task.
Probably I should have written a very precise and self-contained biography emphasizing the extraordinary characteristics of Giorgio as a student, as a physicist and as a pianist, but my efforts to rationalize all of these things have been shattered by a very simple and fundamental fact: most of the events of Giorgio's extremely short existence have deeply affected my own life and so through the words that I pronounce with difficulty and emotion the memories that will emerge will inevitalbly show some strong personal involvement.
met Giorgio for the first time at the Scientific High School "Liceo
F.Severi" in Faenza at the end of a student's meeting in 1979.
Since I was a very curious freshman there, I found myself walking around in a fifth grade classroom (VB) where at the blackboard a few students were discussing some interesting topics in electromagnetism. I was not yet completely able to follow what they were writing, but what I could clearly see was that one of the guys had a special gift and He could run in the most natural way where all the other could barely advance because of the difficulty of the steps of the deduction.
Because of that very strange form of intuition that sometimes allows us to instantly find out those things that we really like and recognize those people that nurture them with our very same passion, I had the very clear feeling that I was in front of a boy whose intense enthusiasm for the study of nature and physics was matched with a penetrating intelligence ... a boy from whom I would have had to learn so much indeed !
During that very same year 1979 Giorgio obtained His High School Diploma with full marks and after only a few months He was able to win the competition for one of the places in the extremely prestigious Class of Science in the SNS in Pisa (Scuola Normale Superiore), where He enrolled in Physics.
I met Giorgio again only a few years later when in a
completely surprising and unexpected way, He showed up as a pianist in
occasion of a concert held at the Scientific High School "F.Severi". I
immediately recognized Him: the very same boy that I had admired
discussing electrodynamics was
now in front of me with His hands literally dancing on the piano ... the
same enthusiasm ... the very same incredible ability !
I am really not knowlegable in music, but I can assure you that listening to Him play the piano has always been for me, and for all of those who had the fortune to know Him, an intense emotion and people that are much more authoritative in the matter can confirm that Giorgio has been at the very least an exceptional pianist.
Giorgio and I became friends and We started to frequent each other a little later starting from the summer 1983. I had just completed my High School final exam and I was preparing myself for the entrance exam in Physics at the SNS in Pisa and I decided to ask Giorgio for some information on the school and most of all some advice for the preparation for the entrance exams (it goes without saying that His precious suggestions and His guidance have been of capital importance in the correct orientation of my studies and not only in that particular circumstance).
a very strange coincidence I made my first entrance in the SNS in Pisa
on the very same day in which Giorgio was going to be urgently tranferred
to Faenza for a surgery that offically was said to be a removal of a
stomach ulcer, but that in reality was a gastric carcinoma, the disease
that later would lead Him to death.
After a short time, apparently completely recovered, Giorgio was again in Pisa and was dedicating Himself with full energy to the study of physics and music. During my period of study in Pisa I really met many exceptional people, but in all sincerity noone that could cope better than Giorgio, in a completely natural way, with the forced and crazy study requirements of the school together with the additional workload that He was imposing on Himself for the study of piano.
The steps of His career have been fast and dazzling as His own life: in 1984 He graduated in theoretical physics with full marks under the supervision of Prof. Barbieri with a thesis that was considering some important aspects of supersymmetry in high energy physics (one of the most ambitious theories for the unification of fundamental forces of nature that had been formulated just a few years before and that still now is waiting for experimental confirmation); after a few months, always in 1984, He was able to win one of the places reserved for the Ph.D. in Particle Physics at SNS in Pisa; in 1986 He finally crowned His music studies obtaining the Diploma of Piano.
It is exactly in the period between 1984 and 1986 that I hold the most intense memories of Giorgio as a friend and as a master. We used to meet practically everyday and we were spending full hours of our free time together in long discussions on theoretical physics at the end of which I always left relieved from some deep doubt or after having understood some important topic of contemporary physics (in such a competitive and ruthlessly selective environment as the SNS, I will never forget how much Giorgio's words ment to me both as inspiration and especially as encouragement !).
Very often I was exploring in His company the labirinthic corridors of the library of the school, where Giorgio was guiding me with extreme competence advising me on the choice of some texts and introducing me to some scientific journals. Sometimes I was following Him in the late evening/night at the end of a day full of study, when He was hiding in the silence of the Coats of Arms' Hall in the old part of the building ... to play piano.
In those areas, as in physics, where our interests were totally shared, we could undertand each other "at a glance". Anyway it is not really simple for me to describe now even only the main traits of Giorgio's character: what I can say is that Giorgio was a reflexive and reserved person, not so much visible in public, where frequently the only thing that matters is the superficial eloquence, but that was able to instill and communicate to others the intense and profound enthusiasm with which I have always seen Him when dealing with all the aspects of existence: study, music and free time.
This does not mean that Giorgio had a superficially optimistic view of life. On the contrary, for example very often He used to say to friends that He did not know of any great pieces for piano that were not also intrinsically sad, and it is not the case that most of His preferred pieces were fascinatingly melancholic.
Anyway, if we would like to stress some of the main characteristics of Giorgio's personality, I think we should indicate an extreme sensibility and receptivity for the things of life that was disclosing in His intellectual curiosity, as well as in the equilibrium that was typical of His relationships with other, and that I think could allow Him to perceive in a very clear way the positive values of existence.
Because of my relocation to Bologna at the beginning of 1986 our meetings became unfortunately more irregular, but always extremely important. At the beginning of 1987 Giorgio publish on Nuclear Physics His first scientific work on the theoretical study of the production of supersymmetric Higgs particles in the decay of the Z0 boson.
On 25 June 1988 Giorgio marries Alessandra Veronese, that at that time was also a Ph.D. student in History at the SNS in Pisa and with Her He moved to the USA at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley where in the meantime He had won a scholarship. There He conducted an intense research activity that led in 1988 to the publication on Physical Review, in collaboration with Prof. Gunion, of two more papers in which some mechanisms for the production and relevation of supersymmetric Higgs bosons were examined.
Everything was going in the best of ways and noone could have predicted what was going to happen. It was destiny that after having known Giorgio, in order of time, as physicist, as pianist and as friend and had to finally meet also the man.
In July 1989, when He was going to complete His Ph.D. thesis, Giorgio fell ill again, the disease that was thought to be succesfully defeated suddenly reappeared localized to the bones and most virulent than ever. What followed this tragic event has been described to me several times by Giorgio's relatives and although it accompanies me since more than three years now, it continues to be something completely devastating, that I am not completely able to express, but that maybe the words of Giorgio's wife, Alessandra, might be able to communicate:
"When Giorgio fell ill again ... I decided to tell Him the truth, against the advice of the physicians. Giorgio has never had a single moment of despair, we decided that we would fight together with all our resources against the disease and so we did. We lived the last months of His life as if in front of us we had one hundred years, with Giorgio that continued to do all the same things that He used to do, playing piano, working on physics and criticizing in the kitchen.
I must say that the most beautiful gift that my husbad gave me, apart from all the sweet memories of our life together, has been to face the disease and the idea of death with the strength, the will to fight and at the same time the resignation with which He did.
He was able to comfort the people that loved Him, to accomplish everything that He wanted and believed to be right to complete, defending His Ph.D. thesis standing in front of the committee three days before dying. And it is in this way that I want to remember Him, when He discusses with all His energy and defends all the things that He believes in".
So happend that after having succesfully discussed His final Doctoral thesis on 27 September 1989, with which Giorgio was completing His extraordinary career of researcher, on 30 September 1989 Giorgio was bringing to completion His own life: His last and best masterpiece.
The most beautiful wish that I think I can offer to You all and also to myself is to be able to pass through life and all its adversities with the same enthusiasm, the same equilibrium and the same elegance that Giorgio had.