Apparently, the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) has a short history as it was founded just in 2006. Actually, it has quite an age since it was created by the merger of two research centres, the Istituto Elettrotecnico Nazionale Galileo Ferraris and the Istituto di Metrologia Gustavo Colonnetti, both established in Turin in the last century.
The history of these institutes and the history of the Italian metrology have moved forward together. In Italy, the development of the science of measurement was stimulated by industries appearing in the Piedmont region in the second half of the nineteenth century. Turin, which in 1865 had lost its role of Italy's capital city in favor of Florence, found a new calling as industrial city.
A dedicated committee studied how to transform the former capital of the Italian kingdom in an industrial metropolis based on the British model. The project was successful: in a few years, ministries and embassies gave way to factories and laboratories.
These were the years of the second industrial revolution, when the growth of productive and commercial activities made Europe and United States of America increasingly aware that a unified system of weights and measures was necessary.
In 1875, seventeen countries, Italy included, signed in Paris the Metre Convention, the international treaty that laid the basis to create a shared language to express measurements: the International System of units.
The following step was the foundation of national metrology institutes in all the signatory countries.
Already in 1882, the scientist Galileo Ferraris, attentive to the metrological needs of industry, called for laboratories that could preserve and reproduce the standards of the electric measures.
In 1929 Giancarlo Vallauri, professor at Politecnico di Torino and successor of Galileo Ferraris as director of the Electrical School, took up this idea. His purpose was to create a research centre to support university laboratories as well as industry.
The construction of this centre started and, in 1934, a Royal Decree ratified the foundation of the Istituto Elettrotecnico Nazionale (IEN) entitled to Galileo Ferraris. Vallauri was its first President.
Over the years, IEN's research activities expanded from the electrical domain to the fields of time and frequency, optics, acoustic and materials science.
In the fifties, Gustavo Colonnetti, then President of the Italian Research Council, proposed to create a metrology institute in order to integrate IEN’s activities and to support the industrial development. Respectively in 1956 and in 1957, the Istituto Dinamometrico and the Istituto Termometrico were therefore established.
In 1968, both Institutes together with other laboratories in charge for length, mass and volume measurements became sections of a new Metrology Institute entitled to Gustavo Colonnetti, its major contributor (IMGC) .
IEN and IMGC continued to work in parallel until 2006, when the merger of both into INRIM has simplified the organisation of the Italian metrology.