Marta Fattori (1942-2021): in memoriam

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of the distinguished Italian historian of philosophy, Marta Fattori, who was closely associated with Constance Blackwell, founder of ISIH. Hilary Gatti writes:

            Marta Fattori’s sudden and unexpected death last July has left many people mourning and disorientated. Professor Emeritus of the Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, she had served for many years as Dean of the prestigious Facoltà di Filosofia and then of the enlarged Facoltà di Filosofia, Lettere, Scienze Umanistiche e Studi Orientali. The many students whose work and careers in the history of philosophy she continued to follow closely will sadly miss her constant and generous attention, while her former colleagues will lack an expert point of reference which often involved important personal friendships.

           Professor Fattori was still working on a number of projects involving British scholars and institutions. A long-standing member of the Editorial Board of the Oxford Francis Bacon edition, she was a close collaborator and friend of its foundingDirector, Graham Rees, and was still actively working on Bacon’s Latin texts when she died. She also enjoyed a scholarly relationship with Constance Blackwell and was an early member of the International Society for Intellectual History as well as a recent contributor tothe Intellectual History Review. She maintained on-going contacts with the Warburg Institute where a number of her ex-students in the history of philosophy had the privilege of completing their studies.

           In Italy, besides her university career, she cultivated strong links with the Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, a section of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche founded and directed for many years by Tullio Gregory . As a member of its Academic Board, she coordinated a number of research projects for its Study Centre. As well as contributing to and editing several of the volumes of their three-yearly conference papers, she published in their series some of her most important work, such as Il lessico del ‘Nuovo Organon’ di Francesco Bacone (1980, 2 vols.) and Linguaggio e filosofia nel Seicento europeo (2000).

           Added to her life-long engagement with Francis Bacon’s works and their importance as a stimulus in the development of modern science, Marta Fattori was noted for her in-depth study of the early modern philosopher of education, Iohannes Amos Comenius. She had obtained her first university degree while studying with Aldo Visalberghi, an internationally renowned Professor of Pedagogy known also for his anti-fascism and involvement with the Italian Resistance Movement. Even after she had moved over to the field of History of Philosophy, Fattori continued her pedagogical studies by editing an edition of the works of Comenius in Italian and dedicating to him a full-length Italian language monograph translated into French as Comenius. Philosophie moderne et prophétisme (2018).

           When, in 1998, the Vatican opened the Archivio della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede to historical research, Professor Fattori began a systematic enquiry into the censorship operated by the Catholic Church on philosophers and their works through its Inquisitional trials and Index of Prohibited Books. Some of the results of this meticulously documented research have already appeared as separate articles, but full-length books were in the making at the time of her death. It is sad to think that, should they eventually appear, they will now be published posthumously.

           At times, Marta Fattori had to fight against physical disabilities. They taught her to be patient, resilient and dedicated to establishing her democratically progressive values and purposes in the rapidly evolving world of higher education. Her friends will miss her generous hospitality, and the pungent irony of her conversation.      

Hilary Gatti (hilary.gatti@fondazione.uniroma1.it)

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