Enzo O. Macagno
non-UI grad

Faculty Staff 2008

Enzo O. Macagno

Enzo O. and Matilde C. Macagno, 58MS, have advanced the University of Iowa's reputation as a world leader in water science and technology through their seminal and internationally acclaimed research on the work of one of the world's true geniuses—Leonardo da Vinci.

After meeting as students at the Universidad de La Plata in Argentina, the couple married in 1941. Enzo's academic work in Argentina and Europe centered on the fields of fluid mechanics and hydraulics and, in 1956, he accepted an offer to join the Iowa Institute of Hydraulics Research (IIHR) in the UI School of Engineering while Matilde finished her M.S. in mathematics at the UI. Enzo taught in the engineering school until his retirement in 1984, and Matilde served first as a research scientist at the IIHR and then as a mathematics teacher in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They are both now professors emeriti.

In the 1960s, Enzo began to study da Vinci's writings and drawings, developing a lifelong scholarly interest in the Renaissance artist and scientist. With Italian as his native tongue, Enzo trained himself to read da Vinci's cryptic version of the Italian language, and he came to understand that some of da Vinci's most original work was pioneering in the realm of fluid mechanics and its applications.

Combining his expertise in fluid mechanics and the humanities, Enzo slowly unraveled da Vinci's scientific ideas about fluid flow and transport phenomena. To better understand these concepts, Enzo performed many of the experiments described in da Vinci's notebooks and explored the artist's theories with students in the classroom.

After retirement, Enzo increased his pursuit of these studies. As Matilde accompanied him on research trips to Europe, she, too, became immersed in the subject, discovering various previously overlooked art forms in da Vinci's drawings related to water dynamics. Analyzing the representation of water by artists and scientists, she wrote a series of articles about the geometry of water.

Enzo has recorded his critical analyses of da Vinci's work in fluid mechanics in a series of 22 monographs, some of them co-authored by Matilde, published by the IIHR between 1986 and 2006.

At the ages of 94 and 89 respectively, Enzo and Matilde continue to pursue this monumental work together. As mathematics professor Raúl Curto says of his colleagues, "Spending an evening with the Macagnos is an unforgettable experience. They both have a particularly attractive way of telling stories, sharing their knowledge, understanding national identities and cultures, and, above all, promoting the values of education to society as a whole."

With admiration and applause, the University of Iowa proudly bestows this award upon Enzo and Matilde Macagno in celebration of their long-term commitment to scientific inquiry, education, and research.

Matilde Macagno is a life member of the UI Alumni Association.