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The Collection, initially denominated "Collezione dei Lieviti Vinari dell’Istituto di Microbiologia Agraria e Tecnica" (acronym IMAT) was founded at the beginning of the past century when the Italian Schools of Agriculture decided to include Microbiology, a subject still in its infancy, in their curricula. Interestingly, this was several decades before the School of Medicine introduced Medical Microbiology as a subject separate from General Pathology (at the end of World War II) or that of Biological Sciences, which waited until 1960.

In 1906 the "Scuola Superiore di Agricoltura" of Perugia summoned Prof. Gino de' Rossi, a young teacher of Hygiene at the Medical School of the University of Pisa, to take the first chair of "Microbiologia Agraria e Tecnica". He immediately abandoned the study of pathogenic bacteria for microorganisms of agro-industrial interest. Gino de' Rossi can be attributed with the first yeast accession into the collection: a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolated in 1912 from fermenting grape must.

The IMAT Collection underwent significant development and expansion from the beginning of the 1930's. The main reason for this was the need of conservational support for the extensive yeast ecology surveys initiated by Prof. De' Rossi and continued by his successor Prof. Tommaso Castelli, together with his collaborators (Augusto Capriotti, Corrado Cantarelli, Alessandro Martini and others) which would extend over a period of more than 40 years. As it is the case for many working collections, IMAT was born almost spontaneously with the primary task of conserving the innumerable cultures isolated and classified between 1933 and 1971. These came from several thousand samples of fermenting grape must, soil, air and water, compost and manure, human and animal organs, foods, alcoholic beverages, ensiled grains, wild fruits, insects, caverns, flowers and honey, among other sources.

From the years 1950 to about 1970 the Collezione IMAT survived thanks to a small contribution of the Italian National Council for Research (CNR), which wisely and with commendable continuity granted funds every year with the promise of eventually considering the possibility of forming a national collection of microbial cultures. Cultures were conserved on malt agar slants at room temperature with a renewal frequency of 3 to 4 months. The first and second editions of the official catalogue of the Collezione IMAT were published in 1955 (with 1,200 strains) and 1965 (with 2,100).



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