Enzo Ferroni was born in Florence on March 25th, 1921. He graduated in Chemistry at the University of Florence in 1945. In the 1950s, he started working on colloid and surface chemistry at the Free University of Brussels, with R. Defay and I. Prigogine (Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977), then at the CNRS Center in Bellevue with J. Trillat of the Académie de France. In 1954 he became a lecturer in Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence, and later becsme Full Professor in Cagliari; from 1964 to 1996, he was the chair of Physical Chemistry at his Alma Mater. In Florence, Enzo Ferroni achieved the highest academic positions: Director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry, of the Department of Chemistry over the first three years from its foundation, Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Natural Mathematical Sciences, and finally Chancellor of the University from 1976 to 1979.

In 1997 he was awarded Emeritus of Physical Chemistry by the Minister for University and Scientific Research. In 1993 he founded CSGI, the Italian Center for Colloid and Surface Science, and served as CSGI President until 2006. On April 7, 2007, he died just after his 86th birthday.

In 1967 he received the Gold Medal for School, Culture, and Art from the Minister of Education, for "his generous efforts for the safeguard and recovery of the artistic and cultural heritage of Florence, damaged by the flood of November 4, 1966”. In 1977 the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Leone, designated him Grand Officer of the Order.

His scientific activity resulted in more than 300 scientific publications in the field of interfaces, surfaces, colloids, electron spectroscopy, epitaxial growth of crystals, and physical-chemistry methods applied to the conservation of Cultural Heritage. In many of these fields, he was able to perform applied research projects with industries, such as on copper-based stainless alloys, flotation, concentrated aqueous dispersions of coal, high vacuum technology for the study of solid-gas interfaces. He was also involved in textile technology, in collaboration with the Prato District.

Enzo Ferroni was a member of numerous scientific societies and national and international academies, including the Weizmann Institute, the International Energy Agency, the World Monument Fund, the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry, the Italian Chemical Society, the American Chemical Society, the Societé Française de Chimie Physique, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Faraday Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Societé Chimique de France, the Academy of Drawing Arts of Florence founded by Michelangiolo, the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Beyond his seminal contributions to Materials Chemistry and Soft Matter (he collaborated for a long time with the 1963 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Giulio Natta and established a fruitful relationship with the 1991 Nobel Prize in Physics Pierre Gilles de Gennes), Enzo Ferroni can rightfully be considered the pioneer in the application of chemistry to the conservation of Cultural Heritage. His interest and passion for the preservation of works of art were born in the sad and dramatic moments following the Florentine flood of 1966. In those days, as he liked to remember, he felt compelled by "civic duty." He promoted, amidst the indifference and skepticism of many of his colleagues, the fruitful union between hard science and restoration. His approach was peculiar and visionary, not limited to simple diagnostics, but rather aimed at designing and applying innovative materials techniques - which will later prove to be revolutionary - for the preservation of works of art, in particular wall paintings. With the great fresco restorer Dino Dini, he invented a method for the desulfation of frescoes based on the double and subsequent application of ammonium carbonate and barium hydroxide, a technique that bears their names and is now applied all over the world. He then invented the “tributylphosphate method” to detach the “Ultima Cena” by Taddeo Gaddi in the Cenacle of Santa Croce, invaded by the Arno water, and again microemulsions and autogenous mortars for the wall paintings of the Brancacci Chapel, just to name a few of his truly memorable contributions.

For many years Enzo Ferroni was a worldwide famous conservation scientist - as the British newspaper The Independent wrote in the Obituary- working in a country where the complex world of the conservation of cultural heritage neglected or even distrusted “hard science”. If nowadays things have changed, we should be grateful Enzo Ferroni and his pivotal contribution to mature the concept of scientific restoration. In 1995 he concluded a plenary conference at the 1st International Congress on Science and Technology for the Safeguard of the Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean Basin' with these words:

Any conservation intervention, both on movable and immovable artworks, should be aimed not only at restoration, but also identify the optimal conditions to prevent future degradation; that is, it must prevent, as far as possible, further restoration interventions. We could take as a golden rule of preventive conservation, the words of John Ruskin who wrote in the 1849: 'The fundamental principle of modern times is to first neglect cultural heritage, to restore it at a later stage. If we take proper care of our monuments, then we will no longer need frequent restorations. We must safeguard our cultural heritage with eager concern; we must preserve it to the best of our ability and at all costs and protect it from deterioration ... and let us do that with affection, an attitude of reverence and continuously, and so that the future generations will still be able to stay under its shadow ...'".

If hundreds of thousands of visitors still linger under the shadow of Gaddi, Angelico, or Masaccio, we should be grateful to his intuition, his naïve approach, and his selfless passion. In short, Enzo Ferroni was able to understand and put into practice the fundamental link between scientific thought and practical-manual action of restoresr, establishing a unique partnership with them, in particular with Dino Dini. We can condense this approach in Leonardo da Vinci's motto "study Science and then follow the practice originating from Science".

The pioneers at that time were few, they did not have lasers, Fourier Transform spectrometers, ultra-sophisticated particle accelerators, chromatographs, PCR techniques, environmental scanning electron microscopes, latest generation x-ray diffractometers, and whatever else we have available nowadays; in the words of Primo Levi, a chemist famous for literary reasons and his human tragedy, they were "helpless, solitary and on foot…; they did not work as a team but alone, amid the indifference of their times”... and they tackled each subject without help, with their brain and hands, reason and imagination."

Luigi Dei, 2012