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Pirelli: Stories of People and Inventions: Luigi Emanueli

Anyone who walked into Luigi Emanueli’s office at Pirelli could not help but be struck by the quatrain, by the American poet Longfellow, on display behind him in block capitals: “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow / Is our destined end or way; / But to act, that each tomorrow / Find us farther than today”. Verses that convey the joy of invention and the desire to be always one step ahead of the present. A life plan for the engineer Emanueli, who during his long career became the leading player in important technical advances in Pirelli production, in both the cable and rubber sectors. Born in Milan in 1883, he joined the company in 1907 after graduating in industrial electrical engineering. At the time, his father was working with Emanuele Jona, who had helped the Milanese company to become a powerful international force in the cables sector. Pirelli gave Emanueli, like Jona, the chance to carry out research with extraordinary means put at their disposal by the company, with the aim of finding technical solutions to improve production. In particular, Emanueli studied the behaviour of insulating materials and worked on finding solutions for the problem of the dissipation of energy: at the end of the First World War, he managed to make a cable with revolutionary characteristics in the field of electric power transmission. It consisted of a cable insulated by paper impregnated with fluid oil, which eliminated the dissipation of energy at source. The so-called Emanueli cable was tested at the Brugherio plant in 1924 and could carry 132,000 volts, the highest voltage ever reached at the time, and it was immediately put to use, in 1927, to light up two large American cities, New York and Chicago. A few years later, experiments carried out at the Cislago plant, in the province of Varese, raised the power level to 220,000 volts, and this voltage was used to power the city of Paris in 1936. The cable created by Emanueli was so superlative that no further improvements were required for many years and the cable was used the world over for the transmission of ever higher voltages, reaching 500,000 volts in the 1950s.

Emanueli also worked on insulated submarine cables and telecommunications cables. Appointed Technical Director in 1917, at the age of just 34, he quickly worked his way up, becoming Central Director in 1931 and then a member of the Board in 1939. In 1944 he was entrusted with central management not only of the cable sector, but also for rubber. The latter was a relatively new sector for him, but with his characteristic drive to discover new things, he achieved significant results in a short period of time, as certified by numerous international patents.

Emanueli’s research focused on three aspects of tyre production: the idea that an inextensible belt influences the life of the tread; the possibility of arranging the ply wires radially, thus maximising their resistance; and a special configuration of the beads that would mitigate the stress caused by their movement with respect to the rims. Based on these intuitions, in 1951 Pirelli patented its own radial tyre, the Cinturato, with a belt that longitudinally tautens the rubberised plies of the casing. Emanueli’s work earned him huge numbers of international honours, including the presidency of the Italian Electrotechnical Association, the chair of a course on cables in 1929 at the Engineering Faculty of the University of London in 1929 (later repeated at the Politecnico University of Milan), and honorary membership of the Société Francaise des Electriciens in 1951.

Luigi Emanueli died on 17 February 1959. Alberto Pirelli recalled him with these words: “lofty intellect, vast culture, a mind open to the spiritual values of life, and youthful to the very end in his enthusiasm as a researcher, he alternated the inspiration of the inventive spark with trust in a patient, tenacious method of research and experimentation.” Always one step ahead, with his eye to the future.

Anyone who walked into Luigi Emanueli’s office at Pirelli could not help but be struck by the quatrain, by the American poet Longfellow, on display behind him in block capitals: “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow / Is our destined end or way; / But to act, that each tomorrow / Find us farther than today”. Verses that convey the joy of invention and the desire to be always one step ahead of the present. A life plan for the engineer Emanueli, who during his long career became the leading player in important technical advances in Pirelli production, in both the cable and rubber sectors. Born in Milan in 1883, he joined the company in 1907 after graduating in industrial electrical engineering. At the time, his father was working with Emanuele Jona, who had helped the Milanese company to become a powerful international force in the cables sector. Pirelli gave Emanueli, like Jona, the chance to carry out research with extraordinary means put at their disposal by the company, with the aim of finding technical solutions to improve production. In particular, Emanueli studied the behaviour of insulating materials and worked on finding solutions for the problem of the dissipation of energy: at the end of the First World War, he managed to make a cable with revolutionary characteristics in the field of electric power transmission. It consisted of a cable insulated by paper impregnated with fluid oil, which eliminated the dissipation of energy at source. The so-called Emanueli cable was tested at the Brugherio plant in 1924 and could carry 132,000 volts, the highest voltage ever reached at the time, and it was immediately put to use, in 1927, to light up two large American cities, New York and Chicago. A few years later, experiments carried out at the Cislago plant, in the province of Varese, raised the power level to 220,000 volts, and this voltage was used to power the city of Paris in 1936. The cable created by Emanueli was so superlative that no further improvements were required for many years and the cable was used the world over for the transmission of ever higher voltages, reaching 500,000 volts in the 1950s.

Emanueli also worked on insulated submarine cables and telecommunications cables. Appointed Technical Director in 1917, at the age of just 34, he quickly worked his way up, becoming Central Director in 1931 and then a member of the Board in 1939. In 1944 he was entrusted with central management not only of the cable sector, but also for rubber. The latter was a relatively new sector for him, but with his characteristic drive to discover new things, he achieved significant results in a short period of time, as certified by numerous international patents.

Emanueli’s research focused on three aspects of tyre production: the idea that an inextensible belt influences the life of the tread; the possibility of arranging the ply wires radially, thus maximising their resistance; and a special configuration of the beads that would mitigate the stress caused by their movement with respect to the rims. Based on these intuitions, in 1951 Pirelli patented its own radial tyre, the Cinturato, with a belt that longitudinally tautens the rubberised plies of the casing. Emanueli’s work earned him huge numbers of international honours, including the presidency of the Italian Electrotechnical Association, the chair of a course on cables in 1929 at the Engineering Faculty of the University of London in 1929 (later repeated at the Politecnico University of Milan), and honorary membership of the Société Francaise des Electriciens in 1951.

Luigi Emanueli died on 17 February 1959. Alberto Pirelli recalled him with these words: “lofty intellect, vast culture, a mind open to the spiritual values of life, and youthful to the very end in his enthusiasm as a researcher, he alternated the inspiration of the inventive spark with trust in a patient, tenacious method of research and experimentation.” Always one step ahead, with his eye to the future.

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