The University of Catania (Italian: Università degli Studi di Catania) is a university located in Catania, Italy, and founded in 1434. It is the oldest university in Sicily, the 13th oldest in Italy and the 29th oldest university in the world. With a population of over 60,000 students, it is the main university in Sicily.
Following the Italian Higher Education reform introduced by the law 240/10 and adopted by the University of Catania in its new Statute, Faculties have been disactivated and Departments have been reorganized. The University of Catania has now 23 Departments that, additionally to the traditional assignments of scientific research, are in charge of the organization and management of educational activities.
The university was founded by King Alfonso V of Aragon (who was also King Alfonso I of Sicily) on 19 October 1434. A charter was granted after two royal councelors (Adamo Asmundo and Battista Platamone) convinced the king to accept the founding of a "Studium Generale" in Catania, with the papal recognition arriving ten years later from Pope Eugene IV (18 April 1444). Alfonso V with this gesture wanted to compensate the city (in which there had been recently established the Royal Court) for moving the Sicilian capital from Catania to Palermo. The activity of the Atheneum actually started a year later, in 1445, with 6 professors and 10 students. The first four faculties were Medicine, Philosophy, Canon and Civil Law and Theology. Lessons were initially held in a building in Piazza del Duomo, next to the Cathedral of St. Agatha, and eventually moved to the Palazzo dell'Universita' in the late 1690s. This building remains the seat of the university to this day. The first degree was awarded to Antonio Mantello, from Syracuse, in 1449. During the course of the 16th century, approximately 20-25 degrees were awarded each year. The University (which from the 16th century was referred to as "Siculorum Gymnasium") was named "Studium Generale" because it was the only entity that could release degrees equal to those released in the old Studia of Salamanca, Valladolid, Bologna and this contributed to spread envy in the other Sicilian cities that in culture and traditions didn't feel inferior to Catania. In 1934, the university celebrated its 500th anniversary with King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy, and, in 1984 the 550th one.
In the early centuries of its existence, the university was administered by the comune (municipality) of Catania, overseen by the bishop of Catania and protected by the royal power. But with a reform operated by the viceroy in 1679 the authority of the bishop (who was "Gran Cancelliere" = "Great Chancellor") prevailed: he had the control over the lecturers, the freshmen and students' curriculum. This led to various conflicts between the civil and religious authorities. From 1818 the office of Gran Cancelliere was assigned to the President of the Great Civil Court, instead of the bishop.
Agatino San Martino Pardo, astronomer and mathematician, contributed to the calculation of the orbit of Ceres, the first asteroid discovered.
Giuseppe Mercalli, inventor of the Mercalli Scale of earthquake intensity, was professor of geology in the late 1880s.
Annibale Ricco, named Chair of Astrophysics in 1890, was the first director of the Catania Observatory. He was also Chancellor of the University from 1898 to 1900. The crater Ricco on the Moon as well as the asteroid 18462 Ricco are named for him.
Guido Fubini, author of Fubini's theorem, was a professor of mathematics in the early years of the 20th Century.
Remo Ruffini, former assistant professor at Princeton University (1971-74), was professor of theoretical physics from 1976 to 1978. He was named Space Scientist of the Year in 1992.
Paolo Maffei, director of the Catania Observatory from 1975 to 1980, was one of the pioneers of infrared astronomy and discovered 2 galaxies, Maffei 1 and Maffei 2 in 1967.