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Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti
Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti
Born 21 May 1855
Died 31 May 1926
Nationality Italian
Alma mater Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Children Mabruc Robecchi Bricchetti
Scientific career
Fields Explorer, geographer, cartographer naturalist.

Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti (21 May 1855 – 31 May 1926) was an Italian explorer, geographer, cartographer and naturalist.


Robecchi Bricchetti was the illegitimate son of Ercole Robecchi, a land owner from Zerbolò, and a young seamstress, Teresa Brichetti. He grew up with his mother and used her name until his father recognized the paternity after a lengthy legal battle. In 1874 Luigi changed his family name to Robecchi Bricchetti.

Robecchi Bricchetti enrolled at the faculty of Civil Engineering at the University of Pavia and then continued his education at the University of Zurich and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, where he eventually graduated.

He was a person of many cultural and scientific interests (ethno-anthropology, geography, geology, zoology, etc.), with an excellent knowledge of languages, including German and Arabic, which he spoke fluently. He dedicated himself intensively to study and combat widespread slavery in Africa.

A classic nineteenth-century explorer, he returned to his home in Pavia from his travels with a large number of objects and African documents. During his last trip to Africa in 1903 he freed a Somali bantu woman and her son from slavery and brought them with him to Pavia. He later legally adopted the boy, who took the name of Mabruc Robecchi Bricchetti. Robecchi Bricchetti died in Pavia in 1926.

Travels and explorations

Robecchi Bricchetti spent much of his time travelling to Africa. He was the first European explorer to visit extensively the Horn of Africa region, also referred to as Benadir, to which he gave its current name of Somalia.

In 1885 he travelled to Egypt, from where he reached the Oasis of Siwa in the Libyan desert. finds In 1888 he travelled to Zeila in Somalia. He then crossed the Danakil Desert, and arrived in Harrar, Ethiopia, where he lived for several months and conducted a series of scientific studies . He collected many poems circulating in the region at the time including some that covered the sage Guled Haji and the demise of the powerful Sultan Hersi Aman.

In 1890 he returned to Somalia where he explored the then unknown region of Hobyo. His journey covered an area of more than two thousand kilometers until he reached Alula, and is documented by a large number of maps and photographs that he put together during the trip.

Between 1890 and 1891 he led an expedition to the unknown territory of Migiurtinia, where he produced significant cartographic and ethnographic observations. In 1896 he made a new crossing of the Libyan desert up to the Oasis of Siwa. His last known trip to Africa was in 1903.

The scientific collection

Robecchi Bricchetti's collection of insects was initially assigned to a team of specialists (Charles Emery for ants, Raffaello Gestro for the beetles, Pietro Pavesi for spiders and scorpions, Paolo Magretti for wasps and grasshoppers, Arturo Issel for the shells, etc.). The reptiles were sent to the herpetologist George Albert Boulenger at the British Museum. As a tribute, Boulenger dedicated to Robecchi Bricchetti a pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon robecchii, now considered a subspecies of Rieppeleon kerstenii ) and an agama (Agama robecchii ). He was also honoured by the ichthyologist Decio Vinciguerra, who named a catfish after him. (Clarias robecchii, synonym of Clarias gariepinus)

Robecchi Bricchetti left a will where he donated the majority of his archive to the Ethnographic and Anthropological Museum in Florence and the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome. The Natural History Museum, Pavia, received his photo-archive, his library and a selection of weapons and items collected during his thirty years of travels and explorations.

The Robecchi Bricchetti Museum in the Visconti Castle (Pavia) is dedicated to him.

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