Person: Ferrari, Lodovico
Ferrari was an Italian scholar who started as Cardan's secretary and went on to devise the solution of the quartic equation.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Lodovico arrived at Cardan's house on 30 November, a fourteen year old boy ready to take over his cousin Luke's position and become a servant.
- Ferrari repaid his master by helping him with his manuscripts and, when he was eighteen years old, he began to teach.
- When Cardan generously resigned his post at the Piatti Foundation in Milan to make way for him in 1541, Ferrari easily defeated Zuanne da Coi, his only rival for the post, in a debate and, at the age of twenty, became a public lecturer in geometry.
- Cardan and Ferrari made remarkable progress on the foundations that Tartaglia had unwillingly given them.
- Ferrari discovered the solution of the quartic equation in 1540 with a quite beautiful argument but it relied on the solution of cubic equations so could not be published before the solution of the cubic had been published.
- Despairing of ever publishing their ground breaking work, Cardan and Ferrari travelled to Bologna to call upon their mathematical colleague, Annibale della Nave, who had been appointed there on the death of Scipione del Ferro.
- Cardan and Ferrari satisfied della Nave that they could solve the ubiquitous cosa and cube problem, and della Nave showed them in return the papers of the late del Ferro, proving that Tartaglia was not the first to discover the solution of the cubic.
- Cardan published both the solution to the cubic and Ferrari's solution to the quartic in Ars Magna Ⓣ(The great art) (1545) convinced that he could break his oath since Tartaglia was not the first to solve the cubic.
- Tartaglia was furious and Ferrari wrote to Tartaglia, berating him mercilessly and challenging him to a public debate.
- Tartaglia was extremely reluctant to dispute with Ferrari, still a relatively unknown youngster, against whom even a victory would do little material good.
- Tartaglia wrote back to Ferrari, trying to bring Cardan into the debate.
- Ferrari and Tartaglia wrote fruitlessly to each other for about a year, trading the most offensive personal insults but achieving little in the way of resolving the dispute.
- To establish he was the man for the job, Tartaglia was asked to journey to Milan and conclude the contest with Ferrari.
- Ferrari was confident of success, despite his inexperience in such matters, and brought a large crowd of friends and supporters.
- He was unwilling to give Ferrari time to respond to his criticisms and when he did, it was Ferrari who got in the more telling blows.
- Ferrari clearly understood the cubic and quartic equations more thoroughly than his opponent who decided that he would leave Milan that very night and thus leave the contest unresolved, so victory went to Ferrari.
- On the strength of this challenge, Ferrari's fame soared and he was inundated with offers of employment, including a request from the emperor himself, who wanted a tutor for his son.
- Ferrari fancied a more financially rewarding position though, and took up an appointment as tax assessor to the governor of Milan, Ferrando Gonzaga.
Born 2 February 1522, Bologna, Papal States (now Italy). Died 5 October 1565, Bologna, Papal States (now Italy).
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Tags relevant for this person:
Algebra, Origin Italy
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive