The still-standing aqueducts, bathhouses, and other public works of both ancient republic and empire testify to the engineering and architectural skills of the Romans. The rebirth of science during the Renaissance brought the daring speculations of Leonardo da Vinci (including discoveries in anatomy, meteorology, geology, and hydrology, as well as a series of fascinating though ultimately impractical designs for a "flying machine"), advances in physics and astronomy by Galileo Galilei, and the development of the barometer by Evangelista Torricelli. To later Italian scientists and inventors the world owes the electric battery (1800), the electroplating process (1805), and the radiotelegraph (1895).
In 1987–97, Italy had 1,318 scientists and engineers and 798 technicians per million people engaged in research and development. Expenditures on research and development during that period totaled 2.2% of GDP. The National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche—CNR), founded in 1923, is the country's principal research organization. CNR institutes and associated private and university research centers conduct scientific work in mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, technology, engineering, medicine, biology, and agriculture. Especially noteworthy are the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, in Rome, and the Enrico Fermi Center for Nuclear Studies, in Milan.
Italy has 47 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. The Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenzo, founded in 1930, is located in Florence. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 30% of university enrollment.