Sigfrido Leschiutta

Dr. Sigfrido Leschiutta, Metrological Expert, Time and Frequency Researcher, and Renaissance man

On May 12 2011, World Metrology Day, the international metrology community and the Italian community in particular were dealt a harsh blow when they learned of the death of Professor Sigfrido Leschiutta, a man who was widely known in a variety of cultural fields.

Metrology was his primary field of activity, with a special focus on the measure of time and frequency. Initially, he did most of his research work at the Istituto Elettrotecnico Nazionale Galileo Ferraris (IEN) – now Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) –, and later on at the Politecnico di Torino, where he taught as Full Professor. Dr. Leschiutta was president of the IEN (1994-2002), member of the International Committee for Weights and Measurements, chairman of the Consultative Committee for Time and Frequency, Chairman of the Metrology Commission of the International Union of Radio Science, and member of the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino.

Among the most significant moments in his scientific career is the first experimental verification of general relativity by comparing atomic clocks positioned at different altitudes relative to the geoid surface, one at Plateau Rosa and the other at the IEN, and the resumption of research activities on atomic frequency standards.

He also devoted his energy to the resumption of research activities on atomic frequency standards, and construction and improvement of the national time scale, which is of fundamental importance to pure and applied science. Thus he brought a more precise and reliable time to the fields of transportation, trade, banking activities, and countless other aspects of our daily life.

Later, he became interested in the new methods for clock synchronisation through satellite time transmissions. In this area of research he was frequently asked to work on projects at the European Space Agency and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, where he also served as member and chairman of the Agency’s Scientific Council, and organized a program of high resolution distance measurements to a satellite in a geostationary orbit.

These highly significant studies also served as a basis for his teaching activities. Animated by his interest in the progress of scientific knowledge, he also succeeded in attracting to the IEN scientists of international renown, so that they might transfer their experience and knowledge to the Institute. He was on the engineering faculty of the Politecnico di Torino, where he taught measurement and metrology courses, and he also taught at other institutions. As long as his health sustained him, he gave lectures at the Doctoral School of the Politecnico di Torino. In 1976, 2000 and 2006, he was in charge of the high level course “Metrology and Fundamental Constants” held at the International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” of the Societá Italiana di Fisica (SIF).

Among his interests there are also music and the study of ancient musical instruments. He enjoyed doing manual work and constructed musical instruments, radio apparatus, carpentry works.

Open minded and generous, he addressed the problems encountered in his various activities with sensitivity and a strong sense of responsibility, and always treated with spontaneous cordiality all the people he came in contact with.