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Finding Aid for the Enrico Volterra Papers 1910-2009, bulk 1930-1973
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Enrico Volterra Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1910-2009, bulk 1930-1973
    Collection number: 10235-MS
    Creator: Volterra, Enrico 1905-1973
    Extent: 3 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: The scientific and personal correspondence of Enrico Volterra (1905-1973) from the collection known as the Papers of Enrico Volterra in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology. He was the son of the distinguished Italian mathematician Vito Volterra. He emigrated from Italy circa 1937, first to England, and finally to the US. He was trained as an engineer and taught at several universities, ultimately settling at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was professor of engineering mechanics and aerospace engineering. The papers contain the autograph collection assembled by Vito Volterra.
    Physical location: California Institute of Technology, Institute Archives
    Languages represented in the collection: EnglishItalianFrench


    The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Enrico Volterra Papers, 10235-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    The autograph collection of Vito Volterra, which originally passed to his son Enrico Volterra, was donated by Enrico's daughter, Virginia Volterra, in 2003. Edith L. Duenk Volterra, Enrico's widow, donated the remainder of the papers--which constitutes the bulk of the collection--to the Caltech Archives on November 9, 2006.


    Enrico Volterra was born June 11, 1905 in Rome, shortly after his father's appointment as Senator of the Kingdom of Italy. The family belonged to Italy's intellectual elite. His mother, Virginia Almagià, was an accomplished pianist and astute businesswoman, and his father, Vito, was professor of mathematics at the University of Rome and the undisputed head of the Italian school of mathematics until Mussolini became dictator in 1925. Enrico was one of six children, two of whom died shortly after birth. After graduation from the city's prestigious Liceo Classico Torquato Tasso, Volterra entered the University of Rome, where he received the degree of civil engineer with highest honors in 1928. That same year he also obtained his professional abilitazione in bridges and roads at the Polytechnic School of Engineering in Naples.
    In the period 1930-1938, Volterra held a variety of industrial, research, and academic positions at home and abroad. After serving as assistant to the Chair of Marine Construction at Rome in 1930, he hastened to Paris and the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, where he did research on using photoelastic methods to analyze materials. Later that year, Volterra returned to Rome to start working as a civil engineer in the technical office of the Italian concrete and iron firm Ferrobeton; he worked there for five years and designed many bridges and buildings for this company. In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Instruction had awarded him a postdoctoral fellowship, which allowed him to study rational mechanics under the Roman mathematician Tullio Levi-Civita's direction.
    In January 1933, he obtained the libera docenza in the science of structures from the University of Rome. Awarded an Italian government fellowship for study abroad, Volterra spent 1933 in Switzerland, where he worked in Professor Mirko Ros's materials testing laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, doing research on concrete and reinforced concrete. He also collaborated with Ros that year testing the structures for the new Palace of Nations in Geneva, the headquarters of the League of Nations.
    Following his return to Rome in January 1934, Volterra became Levi-Civita's assistant. He also served as lecturer in graphical statics (1934-1938) and rational mechanics (1936-1938) for engineering students at Rome, and lectured on structures (1937-1938) as well in the university's school of architecture. Volterra remained active as a project engineer during these years, working on road construction in Sicily and various Egyptian construction projects in Alexandria.
    The 1938 anti-Jewish racial laws ended Volterra's Italian university career. In February 1939, he left Italy and went to England. That September, when Britain declared war on Germany, Volterra was interned for several months on the Isle of Man. Later, with the help of colleagues at Cambridge University, Volterra became a member of King's College, Cambridge, joined the university's engineering laboratory as a research student, and received a PhD in Mechanics from Cambridge University in December 1941. Between 1943 and the end of World War II, he carried out research on plastics and rubber-like materials, under the direction of the versatile Trinity College applied mathematician G. I. Taylor.
    In June 1946 Volterra returned briefly to Rome. While there, he served as a consultant to the National Research Council's Institute for Applied Mathematics, resumed teaching architectural students at the university, and served as an advisor to the government's ministry of public works.
    Volterra's move to the New World came in 1949. Appointed associate professor of mechanics at Illinois Institute of Technology, he taught there for four years, followed by five years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He joined the engineering faculty as professor of engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin in 1957.
    Enrico Volterra married Edith Duenk in 1952. They had two daughters. He died in Austin on June 29, 1973.
    Biographical Note by Judith R. Goodstein.

    Scope and Content

    The Enrico Volterra collection is divided into four series, organized in eight archival boxes. Series 1, Correspondence, contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence organized in alphabetically ordered folders. It makes up over half of the collection. Most of the letters are written in Italian and English. The Italian correspondents are more closely related to Enrico Volterra's personal life, especially during the time when he lived in Italy, while the English correspondents are more related to Volterra's work as an engineer at University of Texas at Austin.
    Series 2, Biographical, Scientific and Printed Material, groups a small amount of biographical documents together with a sampling of Volterra's scientific activity, such as patents, and the publishing of his textbook, Advanced Strength of Materials. The series also includes several printed materials such as news clippings, magazines and reprints of scientific works of Volterra's acquaintances.
    Photos and Portraits, Series 3, contains mostly photos of Volterra's father, mathematician Vito Volterra, especially from the 1920s and 1930s. Photos related to Enrico are only a small portion and were taken when he was in his thirties.
    Series 4, the Vito Volterra Autograph Collection, contains autographs mostly of famous nineteenth-century scientists, principally Italian and French, arranged in alphabetical order by name. The autographs are predominantly in the form of letters and were either sent to Vito Volterra as part of an exchange of correspondence or purposely purchased by him for his collection. The autograph collection was inherited by Enrico Volterra from his father and has been placed within this collection of Enrico Volterra papers for the purpose of convenience. It was originally donated separately by the Volterra heirs.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Correspondence
    • Series 2. Biographical, scientific and printed material
    • Series 3. Photos and Portraits
    • Series 4. Vito Volterra Autograph Collection

    Related Material

    Vito Volterra Historical Files.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    California Institute of Technology
    Levi-Civita, Tullio, 1873-1941
    Nádai, Arpád, 1883-1963
    Segrè, Emilio
    Taylor, Geoffrey Ingram, Sir, 1886-1975
    Volterra, Vito, 1860-1940
    Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963
    Whittaker, E. T. (Edmund Taylor), 1873-1956
    Civil engineering

    Genres and Forms



    Civil engineers