Francesco Cassani was born on 20th of april 1906 in Vailate, near Cremona, the son of Luigia Rocchi and Paolo Cassani, from whom he inherited a passion for mechanical things.
The father of Francesco, founder of the Same company together with Eugenio Cassani, was the proprietor of a mechanical engineering workshop that had been making farm machinery for two generations and during the First World War supplied munitions to the Army and the Navy.
Together with younger brother Giovanni Eugenio, born in 1906, Francesco divided his time between the family business and evening classes at various technical institutes in Milan, until 1932, when he took over the reins of the business full time. In the meantime, during 1920, the family had moved its workshop from Vailate to Treviglio, in the province of Bergamo, where in 1927 the Cassani brothers officially presented a farm tractor, the “Cassani 40”, at the Cantoni Agricultural Institute; the machine attracted interest as it was powered by a diesel engine, a form of propulsion that in the late 1920s was beginning to find application in industrial, military and rail vehicles. The tractor won the national “Italian farm tractor” competition in 1927 and, although it never went into production, it still enabled the Cassani brothers to acquire expertise in the field of high speed diesel engines.
The Cassani brothers, and especially Francesco, the engineering mastermind of the company, were firm believers in diesel technology and wanted to extend its use to new sectors. In the late 1930s, an early model of a Cassani engine was used as a replacement for the petrol engine of a Fiat truck used by the military, whilst a second prototype was installed in the speedboat “Este 1”, which won the “Duke of Genoa” offshore race from Venice to Trieste.
In 1937, moreover, the Cassani brothers had secured an order from the Italian Air Force for three new high speed propulsion units- eight-cylinder barrel engines built to an original design – which, on paper, were expected to be appreciably lighter and therefore suitable for use in aviation. The pre-production engines were built at the “Odero Terni Orlando” workshops in La Spezia, but their installation and use would be prevented in 1940, with Italy entering the Second World War. However, the experimental work enabled Francesco Cassani to reflect on the importance of thermodynamics, and in particular of the injection system, where performance issues were concerned, and in 1936 the brothers set up a company to develop and manufacture injection pumps: “Spica” (acronym for “Società pompe iniezioni Cassani”- Cassani Injection Pumps Company). Significantly, the production of injection pumps for diesel engines at this time was almost entirely in the hands of the German company Bosch, which supplied all the major engine manufacturers. The Cassani brothers were not intimidated, however, and succeeded in breaking an established monopoly with their product. In 1938, Admiral Arturo Ciano and the entrepreneur Luigi Orlando joined Spica. They took over the company and transferred the business to Livorno, keeping the Cassani brothers as privileged collaborators- a position endorsed in 1939 not least when considering the recognition accorded to Francesco Cassani by the National Research Council at the time of the Leonardo da Vinci celebrations, namely a certificate and a silver medal acknowledging the technical value of his research and his many patents in the field of engines for land, sea and air. In 1941, on the death of Luigi Orlando, the company was acquired by the Industrial Reconstruction Institute and put under the control of Alfa Romeo, which entrusted Francesco Cassani with setting up the first Research Centre studying fuel feed systems for internal combustion aircraft engines.
However Cassani, after a few months in this new position, elected to go back to his roots and focus on agricultural mechanization. lt was a decision that led him and his brother Eugenio to set up the Same company in 1943. After the death of Eugenio in 1959, Francesco lived on until 1973; in 1960 he received an Honoris Causa degree from the University of Pisa, faculty of industrial engineering, mechanical section, in recognition of his activity as pioneer, innovator and creator in the field of mechanical engineering. On 2 June 1962 he was named Cavaliere del Lavoro and in March 1965 he received the “Oscar of agriculture”, an award promoted by the International Exhibition of Verona. Then he received the “Mercurio d’oro”, given to companies considered worthy of recognition and, in 1972 the “Seminatore d’Oro”, given by the President of the Republic and dedicated to pioneers and architects of agricultural mechanization worldwide. In 1973, the Museum of Science and Engineering in Milan dedicated a room to Francesco Cassani and his company.
The spiritual will of Francesco Cassani
In the event of my death, I want my heir to remember that SAME with the help of my poor, dear brother Eugenio was created not to make a profit but to give Italy a prestigious industry in the field of tractors and combustion engines.
I want to tell the man who runs SAME to be inspired as far as possible by the concept of unity and to avoid initiatives that take SAME away from its core. The company was founded on the construction of tractors and it must continue in this vein, striving to improve construction, without neglecting the steadfast pursuit of cost-effectiveness and modern machinery.
In the future, competition will be even fiercer, so continuity as well as updated products are essential.
The people who work with me today in the technical field, in sales and administration are trustworthy […]. I advise avoiding business and financial speculations.
I would recommend not making the factory too big and always having a financial safety net, to deal with the crises that can always affect a company.
To all staff, I would like to extend my affection and thanks for their dedication to SAME.
I recommend to the person taking over from me to act, inspired by my values of being an enthusiastic, humble and tenacious worker.
To act with the utmost impartiality with staff and make every effort to stop any rivalry among co-workers; workers must rise through the ranks based on merit and be inspired by the sincerest loyalty and honesty to everyone.
As technology develops, the development of gas turbines is an interesting prospect. It would be advisable above all to follow the experience of other companies before venturing into studies that would be economically disastrous.
I would have many other things to say but I would like to end, giving the people who will continue my work a message to run the company in a healthy and honest way, trusting in their wisdom and integrity.
May God bless you and help you, rewarding you for the work you will soon perform.