Born in Vigevano on 17th November 1811, he followed in the footsteps of his father when he graduated in Pharmacy at the University of Pavia in 1834.
In 1837 he took over the management of the pharmacy Antica Farmacia di Brera, in Milan, and began his first experiments on the therapeutic use of Cannabis.
In 1849 he advertised the sale in the pharmacy of his own galenical Cannabis-based preparations.
In 1853 he opened the first pharmaceutical laboratory in Italy.
This business met with considerable success: his products were in increasing demand, in particular his magnesia and extract of tamarind.
In 1859 Carlo Erba decided to restructure production on a larger scale and expand his market outside of Italy. Commercial success forced him in 1867 to open a new factory in Milan; in a few years it would become the largest chemical-pharmaceutical plant in the country.
A scientist and entrepreneur, Carlo Erba was a key figure in Milan in the mid-nineteenth century and used the fruit of his success for the benefit of the community.
He donated vast sums to the Politecnico di Milano for the development of a school of Electrical Engineering. He supported numerous philanthropic activities, ventures and medical research. He understood the importance of electrical power and promoted and participated in the foundation of the Edison company.
Carlo Erba had a profound love of Lake Como and commissioned the construction of the motorboat Anna from the Taroni boatyard in Carate Urio. It was the largest petrol-driven lancia built on the lake, luxuriously fitted out with quilted Capitonnè seating in wine red silk and even toilet facilities.
Carlo died on 6th April 1888 appointing his younger brother Luigi Erba, a musician, as his heir to take his place as manager of the company.
In 1907 the Carlo Erba company had 1200 factory workers, with an impressive line of products spread across the sectors of pure chemicals, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.
The daughter of Carlo Erba would marry Duke Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone and their son, Luchino Visconti di Modrone, was to become one of the most important directors, screenwriters and cultural figures of the twentieth century.
Many artists were guests in the Cernobbio residence Villa Erba on Lake Como where a young Luchino Visconti would sometimes spend his summer holidays, and who knows how many of them had the pleasure of taking a trip on board Anna.
Villa Erba is a house we truly love.We all gather there, brothers and sisters, and it is like when we were children living in the shadow of our mother - Luchino Visconti
Anna is a gift from Donna Uberta Visconti sister of Luchino Visconti.