Rome: The University of Padua has elected Daniela Mapelli as its new rector, the first woman to hold the top post at the institution since it was founded in 1222.
Mapelli, a professor of psychology, will be installed on 1 October, beginning her six-year term in time for the university’s 800th anniversary next year.
A native of Lecco in northern Italy, the 55-year-old Mapelli saw off competition in June for the rectorate from another woman, law professor Patrizia Marzaro.
Making reference to the rows of portraits of past rectors – eight centuries of male faces – Mapelli said: “From next October we will finally be able to say ‘men and women who led the University of Padua.'”
The election of Mapelli comes a year after Rome’s Sapienza University appointed Antonella Polimeni as its first rector since the university was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303.
Padua is the second-oldest university in Italy, after Bologna, and the fifth-oldest surviving university in the world.
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Copernicus and Galileo carried out their studies at the university, and in 1678 Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia became the first woman to graduate there, with a degree in philosophy.