First NamePaolo
Last NameBrenni
Phone055 27577521


  • Actual position (since 2001): researcher at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, IGG, Firenze, consultant and collaborator of the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica and of the Museo Galileo
  • 1992-2001: Two five-years contracts with the CNR (IGG, Firenze), collaborator of the Museo Galileo and Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica
  • 1988-90 : researcher CNRS in Paris at the Centre de Recherche en Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques of the Cité des Sciences et des Techniques
  • 1983-1987: Contract with the Province of Firenze for restoring the collections of scientific instruments of the Istituto Tecnico Salvemini
  • 1981-1983 : Consultant and collaborator for the restoration of the Museum of Physics of the Pavia University
  • 1981: PhD in experimental physics at the University of Zürich.


  • History of scientific instruments, of their makers and of their (18th-20th c.)
  • History of the precision industry in Europe
  • History of technology of science
  • History of science at the national, international and universal exhibitions (19th c.)
  • Activity of cataloguing collections of historical scientific instruments
  • Restoration and conservation of historical scientific instruments (in Italian and foreign collections)
  • Collaboration with several Italian and foreign museums in the frame of projects concerning the study and the cataloguing of historical scientific heritage
  • Author of various catalogues of historical instruments collections and of about 200 scientific articles
  • Responsible of various temporary scientific exhibitions (Florence, Paris, etc.)
  • Author of about 100 videos illustrating the use and the function of 19th century scientific instruments. See:
  • Participation at many congresses, workshops and seminars, as speaker or/and organizer
  • Referee for various scientific journals  (Nuncius, Notes and Records of the Royal Society, Annals of Science, etc.)
  • Examiner and expert in occasion of various examinations (phD, post graduate courses, etc.)


  • Chairman and invited key-note speaker at numerous international congresses
  • Recipient of G. Sarton chair and medal of the University of Gand in 2000
  • Recipient of the Bunge’s Price of the Jenemann Stiftung in 2002
  • Corresponding member of the Classe di Scienze Fisiche ed Economiche of the Ateneo di Scienze, Lettere e Arti of Bergamo (2010)
  • Recipient of Marc-Auguste Pictet Medal of the Société de Physique et d’Histoire Naturelle of Geneva Ginevra in 2013
  • Dal 2014 è corresponding member of the Académie Intérnationale d’Histoire des Science


  • President of the Scientific Instrument Society since 2005
  • President of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (2002-2013)
  • Vice-president of the Division of History of Science and Technology of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (2009-2013)
  • Vice-president of the directive board of the SISFA (Società Italiana di Storia della Fisica e dell’Astronomia) since 2014
  • Member of the Comité d'histoire de l'électricité et de l'énergie (EDF)


  •  “Prometheus’ Tools, Instrument and Apparatus Used in Atmospheric Electricity Research and Experiments”, in Heering Peter, Hochadel Oliver, Rhees David J. (editors), Playing with Fire Histories of the Lightning Rod,  American Philosphical Society, Philadelphia, 2009, (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol 99, part 5), pp. 230-255
  • “Les courants à haute fréquence aprivoisés à travers la darsonvalisation et les spectacles publics  (1890-1930)” in Le corps humain et l’électricité, Annales d’histoire de l’électricité, N.8 Decembre 2010, pp. 53-71
  • “The evolution of theaching instruments and their use between 1800 and 1930”, in P. Heering, R. Wittje (editors), “Learning by Doing Experiments and Instruments in the History of Science Teaching”, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2011, pp. 281-315. Also published in: “Science & Education”, Volume 21, Number 2, 2012, pp. 191-226
  • “From workshop to factory: the evolution of instrument-making industry, 1850-1930” in: Buchwald Jed Z.,Fox Robert (editors), The Oxford Handbook of The History of Physics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013, pp. 584-650
  • “Some considerations about the Prices of Physics Instruments in the Ninetheenth Cantury”, in A.D. Morrison Low, S.J. Schechner, P. Brenni (editors) How Scientific Instruments have Changed Hands, Bill, Leiden, Boston, 2016, pp. 57-87. (History of Science and Medicine Library Vol. 56, Scientific Instruments and Collections, Studies Published under the Auspices of the Scientific Instrument Commission, General Editor Giorgio Strano)