(b. Terrarossa, Massa e Carrara, Italy, 27 October 1827; d. Leghorn, Italy, 18 August 1913),
Cocchi was the son of Giuseppe Cocchi and Anna Vighi. After receiving his degree at Pisa in 1848 and further study in Paris and London, he spent several years at Pisa, working under Paolo Savi and Giuseppe Meneghini; from 1859 to 1873 he taught geology at the Institute of Higher Studies (now the University) of Florence. He belongs to that group of courageous and eager scholars who, after the proclamation of the kingdom of Italy (1861), renewed and organized the geological study and mapping of Italy through two institutions that are still active: the Italian Geological Committee (now Service), of which Cocchi was the first president and, for many years, an active collaborator; and the Italian Geological Society, of which he was a founding member and twice president.
Cocchi was responsible for the compilation of a geological map, on a scale of 1:600,000, of almost all of Italy. Exhibited at the Paris International Exposition of 1867, it was a decisive improvement on the first attempt at such a map, undertaken in 1846 by Giacinto Provana di Collegno. Tuscany, however, was always his favorite territory for geological research. During his stay in Paris, Cocchi prepared a general paper on the magmatic and sedimentary rocks of Tuscany (published in France in 1855); later he studied in depth the geology of four areas, each of which presents a continuum from the oldest to the most recent deposits of the region: Elba, where he thoroughly investigated the mineral deposits; Monte Argentario and the surrounding territory; the Magra valley and the Apuan Alps, where he was the first to recognize the presence of glacial traces; and the basin of the Upper Valdarno and the environs of Arezzo.
Cocchi also studied paleontology (from the systematic study of a family of fish, the Pharyngodopilidae, to that of two Tuscan monkeys), but he was perhaps more attracted to the then nascent study of paleoethnology. After having explored caves in the Apuan Alps and on the Leghorn coast, he had a fortunate opportunity to examine a fossil human cranium discovered in 1862 at Olmo, near Arezzo. Wishing to make an exhaustive study of this important relic, which had provoked heated discussion, Cocchi united geological and paleoethnological investigation for the first time in the closest way: this represents, without a doubt, his most original contribution to scientific progress.
Cocchi was endowed with a vast and varied humanistic knowledge. In his last years, following a trip to Finland, he became enthusiastically interested in the traditions and customs of that nation and learned its language well enough to produce the first Italian translation of the Kalevala the Finnish national epic. It was published in 1913, the year of his death.
Cocchi’s complete bibliography, preceded by biographical notices, is in Bollettino del reale Comitato geologico d’Italia, 5 (1913–1914), 1–9; and Bollettino della Società geologica italiana, 32 (1913), xcix-ci.