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Biographical Information

Name: Gustavo Colonnetti
Born on 8 November 1886 in , Torino, Piedmont, Italy, Europe
Deceased on 20 March 1968 in , Torino, Piedmont, Italy, Europe

Short biography of Gustavo Colonnetti

He concluded his civil engineering studies under Camillo Guidi in 1908 and his mathematics studies under Corrado Segre in 1911 at the Politecnico di Torino. In 1910 he was certified to teach engineering sciences at universities and one year later was appointed to teach applied mechanics at the Shipbuilding University in Genoa. The year 1914 saw him take over the chair of applied mechanics and engineering sciences at the School of Engineering in Pisa, where in 1918 he became director. Colonnetti was appointed to teach higher applied mechanics at the Politecnico di Torino in 1920, and was head of this establishment from 1922 to 1925. He succeeded Camillo Guidi in the chair of engineering sciences at the Politecnico di Torino in 1928. From 1936 onwards he was a member of the Papal Academy of Sciences. As an active member of the Catholic movement, Colonnetti rejected membership of the Fascist Party and in September 1943 fled to Switzerland, where together with other intellectuals he founded and took charge of a college for Italian students in exile at the University of Lausanne. During his period of exile he wrote political and cultural articles for the magazine Gazzetta ticinese under the pseudonym “Etegonon”. Colonnetti returned to Italy in December 1944. In the post-war years he was active for the Democrazia Cristiana. He founded the Metrological Institute of the National Research Council of Italy, serving as president from 1946 to 1956. Afterwards, Colonnetti was responsible for engineering sciences at the Politecnico until being granted emeritus status in 1962. He was a member of several academies at home and abroad, and the universities of Toulouse, Lausanne, Poitiers and Liège awarded him doctorates. Among his many scientific writings, his contributions to elastic theory are most prominent. For example, more than once he worked on applications and possible extensions of the theorems of Menabrea, Castigliano and Betti; the theorem that bears his name is closely linked to these [Colonnetti, 1955]: the first theorem of elastic theory (Betti’s reciprocal theorem) is paired with the second theorem of elastic theory (Colonnetti’s theorem). Therefore, Colonnetti can be counted among the leading advocates of structural mechanics in the transition from the invention to the innovation phase of structural theory.

Main contributions to structural analysis:

L’équilibre des corps déformables [1955]

Source: Kurrer, Karl-Eugen The History of the Theory of Structures, Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektur und technische Wissenschaften GmbH, Berlin (Deutschland), ISBN 3-433-01838-3, 2008; p. 723


  1. Colonnetti, Gustavo (1926): Appareil système Colonnetti servant au tracé des lignes d'influence de la poutre continue. In: Bulletin technique de la Suisse romande, v. 52, n. 12 (5 June 1926).


  2. Colonnetti, Gustavo (1960): Les déformations héréditaires. In: Bulletin technique de la Suisse romande, v. 86, n. 12 (4 June 1960).


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