I wish to thank Professor Paolo Durand, Director of the International Centre of Paediatric Genetics at the Mendel Institute, for his kind words and I particularly thank him for having proposed this celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute.
Somewhat audaciously, I borrow a metaphor when I say that the real foundation stone of the Mendel Institute is the book, “The Study of Twins” here on the bookrest [Fig. 1]. This rather large volume carries works I had collected and developed in Rome over the previous years. In the main, it relates to clinical research work which for me began in an orphanage, not too far away from here on via Nomentana, where I encountered a pair of identical twin brothers, Romolo and Remo [Fig. 2]. The boys were so alike physically that I constantly confused the two and it was this experience that drew my attention to the twinning phenomenon. The book also contains a bibliographic list of over 7,900 studies carried out on the subject of twins. One of the first, of course, is that of Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton and another example from a later period is that of Chiarugi, the Florentine anatomist.
Published in 1951, “The Study of Twins” provoked such overwhelming interest in the medical world that it led me to vigorously promote two initiatives which began to take shape the following year. In 1952 the first issue of the journal “Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae” was published and the construction of the Gregor Mendel Institute of Medical Genetics and Gemellology got under way to be finally inaugurated on 6 September 1953. One of the earliest and certainly most important figures in establishing the Institute is here with us today, Dr. Ildo Avetta, the Roman architect who designed the building. Let me take this opportunity to thank him once again for his brilliant work which has drawn the attention and admiration of many over the years.
Here, before you, is the complete 40-volume series of Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae from its birth to date. [Fig. 1].