My Father Vittorio and the Lazy Eight Curve

The Cavazza Institute warmly remembers one of the members of our magazine’s Scientific Committee, Professor Vittorio Capecchi, who passed away last July 29th.
Saveria Capecchi

A highly respected sociologist, always very committed to the processes of tackling inequalities and an advocate for the most vulnerable. Recalling his strong closeness to the Institute, we are pleased to honour his memory by publishing a piece by his daughter Saveria, whom we wish to thank.


Vittorio Capecchi - BolognaMy father Vittorio could not cook an egg, change a light bulb, or ride a bicycle. He was against sports, private property, fancy dress (the reasons can be traced somewhere between Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud). He loved travelling (he especially loved Paris), cats (starting with my cat Michel), watching fish with a mask and flippers, and his daughters. He defined himself as a feminist (it was as funny as it was useless to point out his contradictions between theory and practice). But his greatest passion was books which have always been all around him: there were books in all the rooms of the houses he lived in, which were turned into libraries. He loved them all: from books on mathematics, economics, social sciences, new technologies, feminist philosophies, religions, China, to literary classics, mystery books and comics. Gifted with an extraordinary memory, his mind was a human prototype of the network of networks (Internet). Since his childhood, spent in his hometown of Pistoia, he has gathered an enormous amount of data. At 1.97 metres tall, as a boy it was suggested to him to become a basketball player, but he chose another path: mathematics and sociology, and became professor emeritus at the University of Bologna. This path became clear to him as soon as he graduated from Bocconi University with a degree in Economics and Business, and particularly after meeting sociologist Paul Felix Lazarsfeld in New York. These two passions have resulted in the foundation and direction of two magazines that are both over 50 years old: Quality & Quantity. International Journal of Methodology, and Inchiesta.

Vittorio Capecchi - Piazza Santo Stefano, BolognaQuando ero piccola, senza When I was growing up, without Google, Wikipedia and ChatGPT, I could rely on his more accurate and reliable memory, free of fake news. He could pull any quote from (almost) any book from his personal archive in seconds and, if he had not read it, he could still provide a summary of it and point out the key concepts in a short time: very useful during our schooling. When my son Filippo, a mathematics enthusiast, asked me at the age of 10 to explain to him the question of the inverted 8, the symbol of infinity, I immediately took him to speak with his grandfather, who at that time was interviewing Paolo Massimo Buscema, one of the leading experts in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Neural Networks (L'arte della previsione. An interview on artificial intelligence edited by Vittorio Capecchi, 2020). My father’s teaching has always been this: books (read and written) protect. He also explained to his youngest grandson (an age difference of 70 years) that mathematics above all protects, not because it offers certainty, but because it represents an attempt to make sense of the world. Algorithms today predict future behaviour in much the same way as the I Ching does, the book of Chinese divinatory art thousands of years old, an oracle to be consulted for answers about the future that we were initiated to right from childhood. For about ten years, my father had been writing a very well-researched book on the I Ching (also called The Book of Changes) which, while he was still energetic, he did not want to finish. He found a thousand excuses, writing prolonged indefinitely perhaps equals to the desire to live indefinitely. He was enthusiastic about life. From one day to the next, in the middle of summer 2023, he started reading The Big Sleep, a novel by Raymond Chandler, a writer he loved very much. But his experience will never disappear, just like the lazy eight curve that evokes eternity. I found out that in the I Ching the number 8 corresponds to solidarity: “Solidarity brings health. It is about joining with others to complement and favour each other while remaining united.” The answers of the I Ching are always wise and never come by accident: so many of us hold Vittorio in our hearts.


When I read The BFG by Roald Dahl a long time ago, I immediately thought of my father. I will miss my Big Friendly Giant.


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