The Chemical Educator (Oct, 2007) has an article on the 150th Anniversary of Italian-Armenian Giacomo Luigi Ciamician’s Birth, who was the Founder of Green Chemistry.

Although Ciamician (Chamichian) was nominated for the Nobel Prize nine times, he never received any. Back then, I guess, working for sustainable energy was not the coolest thing.

The article is available by registration only at


Giacomo Luigi Ciamician was born on August 25, 1857 in Trieste, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian empire…. Ciamician was very proud of his Armenian origin and heritage. The family claimed descent from Michele Ciamician, the great eighteenth-century historian of the Armenian people [20]. In about 1850 Ciamician’s family moved from Istanbul to Trieste, where there was a thriving Armenian community and where they had ties with one of the Mechitarist bishops.


It was quite natural that a scientist who had devoted his life to photochemistry, the chemical transformations induced by light, would consider the possibility of using solar radiation as a source of energy as an alternative to the coal that was the primary fossil source of energy during the last decades of the nineteenth century. How long would coal be sufficient for human needs? The English economist and logician (William) Stanley Jevons (1835–1882), several years before Ciamician did so, had suggested that the English coal mines would one day be exhausted. At the same time, in 1899, future (1903) Nobel chemistry laureate, Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927), a Swedish forerunner of today’s environmentalists, had suggested that the increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide caused by the combustion of fossil fuels could cause an increase in the earth’s temperature. The use of solar heat to produce electricity with thermoelectric devices had also been advocated by Antonio Pacinotti (1841–1912), Professor of Physics at the Università di Pisa. In this international, intellectual milieu Ciamician was invited to give a lecture at the inauguration of the 1903–1904 academic year of the Università di Bologna. He chose as its title “The Chemical Problems of the New Century”:

The problem of the use of the energy irradiated from the Sun is assuming and will assume increasing importance. When such a dream will be realized, the industries would be carried again to a perfect cycle, to engines that produce work with the force of the daylight that is free and does not pay taxes [43].