**Scipione del Ferro** was an Italian mathematician who is famous for being the first to find a formula to solve a cubic equation.

- Scipione del Ferro's parents were Floriano and Filippa Ferro.
- Floriano Ferro was employed in paper making which, because of the invention of printing in the 1450s, became an important trade at this time due naturally to a vastly increased demand for paper.
- Of Scipione del Ferro's education little is known but it is probable that it was at the University of Bologna which was founded in the 11th century and so was a long established and famous university four hundred years before del Ferro was born.
- We know that del Ferro was appointed as a lecturer in arithmetic and geometry at the University of Bologna in 1496 and that he retained this post for the rest of his life.
- No writings of del Ferro have survived.
- This must be due, at least in part, to his reluctance to make his results widely known, preferring to communicate them only to a few close friends and students.
- This notebook passed to del Ferro's son-in-law Hannibal Nave when del Ferro died in 1526.
- Hannibal Nave took over del Ferro's lecturing duties at the University of Bologna in 1526 and also his name since he adopted the name of dalla Nave alias dal Ferro.
- The outstanding problem which del Ferro solved was to find a formula to solve a cubic equation similar to the formula which had been known since the time of the Babylonians for solving quadratic equations.
- In del Ferro's time, although such solutions were known, they were not known in this form.
- There has been much conjecture as to whether del Ferro came to work on the solution to cubic equations as a result of a visit which Pacioli made to Bologna.
- Pacioli taught at the University of Bologna during 1501-02 and discussed mathematical problems with del Ferro at that time.
- Some time after Pacioli's visit to Bologna, del Ferro solved one of the two cases of this classic problem (but as we mention below, he may have solved both cases).
- The subsequent developments in the story of the solution of the cubic, namely the contest in 1535 between Antonio Maria Fior (a student of del Ferro) and Tartaglia, then the involvement of Cardan, are told in detail in our biographies of Tartaglia and of Cardan.
- As far as this biography of del Ferro is concerned we should stress that it was Cardan's discovery that del Ferro had been the first to solve the cubic and not Tartaglia which made him feel that he could honour his oath to Tartaglia not to divulge his method and still publish the solution in Ars Magna Ⓣ(The great art) for there Cardan considered he is giving del Ferro's method, not that of Tartaglia.
- The story that Fior was the only person to whom del Ferro divulged his solution is common in most histories of mathematics, yet it is false.
- As we have seen above the solution was written down by del Ferro and certainly was known to Nave.
- Pompeo Bolognetti, who lectured at the University of Bologna on mathematics from 1554 to 1568, also had access to the original solution by del Ferro as well as the solution as given by Cardan in Ars Magna Ⓣ(The great art) which had been published by then.
- Bombelli, who published his Algebra in 1572, also had access to details of del Ferro's work which no longer exists today.
- From the Cavaliere Bolognetti, who had it from the Bolognese master of former days, Scipione dal Ferro.
- From research on this and the other manuscripts, Bortolotti concluded that, contrary to the widely held belief that del Ferro only solved one case of the cubic, that indeed he solved both cases.
- We know a little about other work by del Ferro.
- We also know that del Ferro worked on another problem which was popular in his time, namely examining which geometrical problems could be solved with a compass set in a fixed position.
- Ferrari, in a letter to Tartaglia, states the del Ferro worked on such problems but he did not give any details of del Ferro's results.
- It is sad that del Ferro's notebook has not survived.

Born 6 February 1465, Bologna (now Italy). Died 5 November 1526, Bologna, Papal States (now Italy).

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Algebra, Origin Italy

**O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F**: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive