The rise of Geology as a historical science, which began in the second half of the sixteenth century and culminated more than two centuries later, has its roots in Florence, thanks to the grand-ducal collection of the city symbol of the Renaissance, and the observations of those ingenious scholars like, among others, Leonardo da Vinci and Nicolaus Steno.
The Department of Earth Sciences at University of Florence, is the natural descendant of the Istituto di Studi Superiori e Pratici di Perfezionamento in which Igino Cocchi held the Chair of Mineralogy, Geology and Palaeontology from 1860 to 1873. Cocchi was the main proponent of the need to straighten out Italy to Europe with a modern geological knowledge of the territory and its natural resources, a main goal to be achieved through the geological survey of the peninsula and islands. The Department of Earth Sciences of University of Florence is still a national excellence in scientific research and international relations within the field of Geosciences.
The Earth Sciences Department currently consists of 44 units of permanent academic staff, 27 units of technical and administrative staff and about 100 units of temporary research staff (PhD students, research fellows, visiting researchers). The Department's activities are carried out in tight collaboration with other University units (Natural History Museum, Science Library) and the CNR (National research Council - Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources).
Academic staff and researchers of the Earth Sciences Department are engaged in many teaching courses, for the most part belonging to the School of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences (Master of Science in Geological Sciences, Natural Sciences, Technologies for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage). At the Department is also active a PhD program in Earth Sciences.
Researchers of the Earth Sciences Department are engaged in numerous research projects and technological development in different areas of the world, with a long tradition of research in the Mediterranean Basin, East Africa and Latin America. The main research activities cover a broad spectrum of disciplines including (in a non exhaustive list) the prediction and prevention of geological hazards (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, floods), the exploitation and protection of natural resources (hydrocarbons, mineral deposits, water resources), the study of the palaeoclimate and palaeoecology, the paleontological study of Quaternary faunas, the interpretation of the genesis of the Apennines and other peri-Mediterranean mountain chains, the conservation and restoration of cultural and geo-environmental heritage, the study of systematic mineralogy, crystal chemistry and gemmology, the study and analysis of volcanic processes.