Francesco Paresce, 1940-2019

It is with profound grief that we announce the sudden death of Francesco Paresce in Rome on the 20th of December.

An astrophysicist and inventor in his own right, Francesco Paresce was the son of Guglielmo Marconi’s eldest daughter, Degna Marconi Paresce. Born in London, he received his undergraduate degree in Physics in Rome, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. He remained at UC Berkeley for 11 years working on several projects, initially as a National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences Research Associate, then as an Assistant and Associate Research Astronomer working on NASA sounding rocket and satellite projects. In 1975, his project to build a telescope sensitive to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and able to reveal sources of cosmic EUV was accepted and put into orbit with the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Francesco moved from California to Baltimore, Maryland in 1983 as Senior Astronomer with Tenure for the European Space Agency’s Faint Object Camera on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Project. In 1995, he joined the European Southern Observatory in Munich, Germany where he served as Project Scientist for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer. He was a member of the Wide Field Camera (WFC-3) Science Oversight Committee working on fourth generation instruments installed during the Science Servicing Mission (Mission 4) for HST. More recently, as Senior Astronomer at the Astrophysics and Space Science Observatory of Bologna (INAF – OAS) he conducted research on star formation in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

In addition to his patent, number 3,395,354, he was a widely published author of more than 200 articles in peer reviewed scientific journals and his biography, “Tra Razzi e Telescopi” was published in 2005. He was a great supporter of the Fondazione Guglielmo Marconi in Bologna and Chairman of the Marconi Society for several years.

His career included cutting edge research, development of technologically advanced instruments and numerous successful projects for several space missions. He was a mentor to many early and late career scientists and colleagues, always available to give quiet advice and words of encouragement. Those who knew him personally remember a father, husband and more recently a grandfather to ten grandchildren; infinitely affectionate, attentive and proud of his family. Francesco possessed great intellect, deep humanity, and an ability to appreciate the modern world and its myriad technological advances but remained grounded by family and love of the natural world.

Francesco Paresce leaves his wife Dialta Malvezzi-Campeggi of Bologna, Italy, his three daughters – Donata, Ilaria, Camilla – and ten grandchildren.

As the lifelong development of Gugliemo Marconi’s inventive efforts was a conquer of larger and larger distances, Francesco Paresce contributed to the mission of his grandfather by trying to achieve one of the most ambitious goals ever envisaged by the human kind: understanding the universe through electromagnetic signals.

Vint Cerf, Giovanni Emanuele Corazza, Camilla Fritze, Barbara Valotti