Person: Fergola, Nicola
Nicola Fergola was an Italian mathematician with a interest in developing geometry by classical methods.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Fergola studied Latin literature at the Dominican school of Thomas Aquinas and here, for the first time, he came across geometry taught by an excellent teacher.
- Fergola would be a deeply religious man throughout his life and the ascetic values he learnt as a young man also remained with him.
- Fergola began teaching philosophy at this school, which was later called the Liceo del Salvatore, in around 1770.
- This school quickly acquired a high reputation and many of the brightest boys were sent to be educated at Fergola's boarding school.
- Fergola was appointed to his first chair of mathematics on 2 November 1789, namely the chair of mathematics at the Liceo del Salvatore in Naples.
- One of the requirements in this post was that Fergola published the lessons that he taught.
- One of the interesting aspects of this work is that it presents mechanics through its historical development and Fergola gives profuse historical notes throughout the text.
- However, this is far more than a description of Newton's contributions, for Fergola also looked at the more recent contributions of Euler, d'Alembert and Lagrange.
- To understand why Fergola's contributions so often are based on his religious beliefs we need to look at this aspect of his life.
- Fergola was a deeply religious man who particularly venerated the Virgin Mary.
- Fergola lived essentially the life of an ascetic monk, eating only vegetarian meals and having none of the usual home comforts but living in a home with only the bare necessities for living.
- Fergola wrote religious as well as mathematical memoirs.
- Fergola, who was a staunch royalist, fled from Naples and lived quietly in the countryside.
- Fergola returned to take up his position again and, in recognition for his loyal support for the King, he and his pupils were given the leading chairs at the University of Naples as well as in the military and naval academies.
- One of these pupils, Vicenzo Flauti, would be particularly important in carrying on Fergola's work.
- Let us now examine Fergola's mathematical contributions, the most important of which were written to support synthetic geometrical methods which he saw as "the way of the ancients".
- Fergola Ⓣ(Brochures of the Mathematical School of Mr N.
- He published his treatise on conic sections Trattato analitico delle sezioni coniche del signor Nicola Fergola Ⓣ(Analytical treatise on conic sections by Mr. Nicholas Fergola) in 1814.
- Fergola favoured the synthetic approach.
- A vigorous argument between supporters of the synthetic method and those of the analytic method broke out in 1810 when Ottavio Colecchi (1773-1847), who taught differential and integral calculus at the Scuola di Applicazione in Naples, criticised Fergola for putting too much emphasis on pure geometry and not enough emphasis on the new methods of analysis.
- This argument became even more heated after Fergola's death when his supporters attacked the views of those supporting the analytic method.
- In September 1821 Fergola's health took a turn for the worse.
Born 29 October 1753, Naples, Kingdom of Naples (now Italy). Died 21 June 1824, Naples, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (now Italy).
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive