On the 8 of September 2000, Ruggiero de Ritis, professor of Physics at the University Federico II of Naples, founder and leader of the local group of gravitational physics,  passed away at the age of 56, prematurely leaving friends, colleagues and students.

Ruggiero’s had very broad cultural and scientific interests. During his thesis work (on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics) he developed a deep interest for the philosophical foundations and implications of modern physics; an interest which has marked all his subsequent work, even the most technical part of it. Immedialy after graduation, at a time when the topic was still rather neglected from the scientific community, he started to work in the field of general relativity  and, attracted by his strong scientific personality, many young researchers begun to collaborate with him, establishing the first nucleus of the future group of Gravitational Physics. 
Over the years, the group grew involved in the fields of gravitational theory with torsion, inflationary cosmology, scalar-tensor theory, gravitational lensing, the nature of cosmological constants, the problem of the cosmic distance scale and, last but not least, Einstein’s epistemology. 

In 1994, Ruggiero and his group begun to collaborate with the Capodimonte Observatory and started the SLOTT-AGAPE international project bringing to the Observatory a set of competencies and of international partnerships of which the Institute is still greatly benefiting.

To commemorate his activity, the Observatory decided to name after him a yearly series of lectures, The Ruggiero De Ritis Lectures, to be held every year by a leading authority in the fields of theoretical and observational cosmology, general relativity and epistemology.