L’eredità scientifica di Adriana Fiorentini, la “signora” italiana della scienza della visione
The scientific legacy of Adriana Fiorentini, the Italian “lady” of vision science

published in July - December 2023 - pH - issue n.2
Marco Piccolino

“IIn any attempt to integrate many diverse approaches to a particular problem [...] one must cross the artificial boundaries that we have marked out around the various areas of knowledge and disciplines of science. The course of action is determined by the problem to be investigated rather than the particular discipline to which one belongs; where the problem leads one must follow.” (Ratliff, 1965).
For a variety of reasons, this quotation, from a book written in 1965 and entitled Mach Bands: Quantitative studies on neural networks in the retina, might be an appropriate opening statement for an article trying to outline the beginnings of Adriana Fiorentini’s scientific life. Graduated in physics in Florence, in 1948, and initially involved in research on physical optics and astronomy at the National Institute of Optics of Arcetri, in her scientific career Adriana promptly “followed the problem”, as soon as she got intrigued by astronomical images whose perceptual appearances seemed not to correspond to the physical distribution of light. In this new path of research, she promptly turned toward a psychophysical approach to the study of vision and rapidly became one of the world leaders in the study of “Mach bands”, a phenomenon discovered in the second half of the nineteenth century by an Austrian scholar, Ernst Mach.