Person: Giannini, Pietro
Pietro Giannini was an 18th century Italian mathematician who spent most of his career in Spain. He wrote several articles and books, the most important being the four volume work Curso matemático written in Spanish.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Pietro Giannini was born in Italy, in the municipality of Pescia, which today is in Pistoia but at the time of his birth was under the Gran Duchy of Tuscany.
- According to the usage of the word in the eighteenth century, it appears most likely that, in the case of Giannini, 'abate' indicates a person with an extensive religious education who had not been ordained.
- Giannini later cited Vincenzo Riccati various times in his Curso Matemático Ⓣ(Mathematical course) and continued to develop ideas introduced by Vincenzo Riccati.
- It is likely that Giannini then studied with him in Bologna, where he resided until the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773.
- As well as being a disciple of Vincenzo Riccati, it is known that Giannini corresponded with Giordano Riccati, since an oration at Giordano Riccati's funeral mentions Giannini as one of his correspondents.
- When Giannini was born, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a dependency of Austria.
- In the third part, De sectione determinata Ⓣ(On determinate sections), Giannini tries to recreate Apollonius of Perga's De Sectione Determinata Ⓣ(On determinate sections), starting from the commentaries of Pappus of Alexandria in his Collection and exclusively using geometric methods known to the Ancient Greeks.
- Giannini demonstrated that he had a broad education in mathematics.
- Viviani informed him of the existence of Giannini, under the instruction of Countess Corsi.
- Gazzola wanted to know much more about Giannini and his work and so asked Viviani to send him all of Giannini's publications.
- Gazzola knew that Giannini would have much trouble being accepted at the College in Segovia because he was a foreigner.
- Gazzola, convinced of Giannini's abilities, decided to pay for his journey from Florence to Segovia; he treated it as a personal initiative.
- He even committed to providing adequate funding to the College of Artillery so that Giannini would be able to do his work.
- Clearly he was making every effort he could to attract Giannini to Spain.
- With Viviani's help, the Spanish consulate in Livorno, Silva, organised Giannini's travel to Spain.
- The journey was most likely made at the end of November or beginning of December of 1774, because as soon as Giannini arrived, he wrote to Viviani saying how contented he was with the welcome he had received.
- From December 1774 to April 1776, when Giannini was appointed as a professor in the Royal College, he must have stayed in Gazzola's house in Madrid, as there is no news of his activity in Spain.
- Giannini used his time in Madrid to learn Spanish for when he arrived in Spain he could not speak any; yet, when he started his work in the College of Segovia in 1776, he clearly demonstrated a great proficiency for Spanish; the language presented no difficulties.
- Giannini must have written this essay shortly after arriving in Spain as it was entirely written in Latin, and his later works were always written in Spanish, as was typical of Spanish intellectuals of the time.
- It was probably Gazzola who put Giannini in contact with Rubín and Campomanes, as it appears very unlikely that Giannini would have been acquainted with the existing Spanish intellectual élite, and he demonstrated a particular lack of ability to form social relationships.
- Aside from this article, there is virtually no evidence of Giannini's presence in Spain until, on 6 March 1776, the Spanish king awarded, "the appointing of Don Pedro Giannini in the College of Segovia as proposed by Gazzola, under the orders of the first professor of mathematics, with a salary of 350 Reals per month." Giannini was also contracted on 6 March 1776 to give lectures in the College of Cadets.
- Cipriano de Vimercati, Giannini's predecessor, was listed by the Academy of Marines as "Captain of the Infantry, Lieutenant of the Artillery, and first professor of the Academy of the Artillery at Segovia.".
- Giannini was eventually named as "el Primer Profesor Dn Pedro Giannini" at the general meeting of 30 October 1777, and from this moment he attended all administrative meetings (as was required of his position, save those for which he was unwell, or had books to prepare).
- Giannini was also in charge of the library of the College and maintained a record of all books kept there.
- Giannini was also likely responsible for the lack of books by Spaniards in the Artillery's library.
- It is clear that Giannini improved the quality of teaching and the stability of classes at the College of Artillery, but he did not make many changes to the syllabus.
- Giannini also demonstrated his lack of social skills in the production of this book as, though 750 copies of the first volume were printed in 1779 in Madrid, it was not seen and distributed in Segovia until late 1780, since Giannini deposited all the books with Gazzola, who died in May of that year.
- He even had trouble with the other professors in 1781, as they would not use the course Giannini had provided, until they were forced to by Gazzola's replacement, Count Lacy.
- In 1780 in using the publishing house of Antonio Espinosa, Giannini published a 45-page research work titled Opúsculos matemáticos Ⓣ(Mathematical pamphlets) in Spanish.
- In England, it was reviewed by The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature (London, 1781), which mentioned Giannini as professor at Segovia, and as having published a good work in Parma in 1773.
- In Italy Efemeridi litterarie di Roma Ⓣ(Ephemerides of Rome) (1781) also reviewed it, adding that in a time when Spaniards were boasting about their prowess within Italy, it was good to see an Italian showing his ability in Spain, urging that "Mr Giannini continue honouring the name of Italy, as he is doing, in foreign lands." In Spain, it was simply noted in the Gazeta de Madrid (23 January 1781) that Giannini's works were being sold in Madrid in the Bookshop of Martínez in Carretas street.
- During the first years of his time at the College, Giannini counted on the support of Count Gazzola, but with his death on 4 May 1780, Giannini lost his great defender.
- Thankfully for Giannini, Lacy decided to follow Gazzola's line on most issues, including having faith in the first professor, and this quietened some of his detractors, who had progressed from simply disliking him as a foreigner, to also disliking him as a mathematician whom they claimed had no place in a military institution.
- In the end, all but Giannini agreed that the solution (which they sent to Count Lacy) was to lessen their focus on mathematics.
- That is to say, he agreed with Giannini.
- In all other matters he declared that they would continue with Giannini's system.
- The content of the classes was not discussed again for many years, with the changes continuing at least until Giannini left the College.
- The College was also fairly underfunded and understaffed as a result of the war between Spain and England that lasted from 1779 to 1783, with Giannini's various requests to take on more staff to match with the greater number of cadets being rejected by Count Lacy "at least until the war is over".
- Lacy also declared a need for more staff in order that the cadets feel that they have sufficient knowledge of theoretical and practical elements of the courses, and also because "most abandon their studies after leaving the College; they lack the teaching to carry out the commission of the institution." This also brought out a new dispute between Giannini and the other professors, showing that the argument about course content was not over.
- Everyone agreed that a fourth year of study should be added, but many of the professors thought that calculus should be the last thing taught in that year and that artillery and fortification should be taught after algebra or geometry, whereas Giannini was of the opinion that artillery and fortification should be the last things taught, after all the mathematics was done.
- Count Lacy essentially agreed with Giannini and said that differential calculus would be taught first with those parts of mechanics that are easiest, with artillery and fortification coming later.
- Giannini personally took out the money for the printing and binding of this third volume from the College's funds, and also took some more to cover the costs of the third volume, though this was not published until 1795.
- Despite this, the head of accounts for the College declared that sales of the second volume had covered the cost of its printing by 24 July 1783, and for this reason, more money was given to Giannini for his third volume.
- The second volume was well received, at least in Italy, as the Giornale de'Letterati (1783) explained its content, and listed various names such as Barrow, Newton, Clairaut, Maclaurin, Saunderson, Wolff, Simson, Bezout, and Euler who had clearly been influences on the work, though whose concepts Giannini had reduced to more general principles.
- Lacy was particularly pleased with this book, and it also appeared in Italy, with the Giornale de'Letterati (1784) mistakenly calling it the third volume of Giannini's Curso Ⓣ(Mathematical course), saying "this work, interesting in many places, will always be read with both utility and pleasure in mind by all those with an interest in mathematics, while also giving us a clear understanding of the quality of the author, who has a obvious place in this most sublime of the sciences." It was also reviewed in Opuscoli scelti sulle scienze e sulle arti: tratti dagli atti delle academie Ⓣ(Selected booklets on the sciences and the arts: taken from the proceedings of the Academies) (1785), and in Rome in Efemeridi litterarie di Roma Ⓣ(Ephemerides of Rome) (1785).
- Practicas de Geometria y Trigonometria Ⓣ(Practices of geometry and trigonometry) built on Giannini's two previous works and facilitated their practical use.
- Firstly, Giannini explains instruments for measuring angles, in the second part, methods for finding distances, in the third, raising planes, and measuring surfaces, in the fourth a way of measuring volumes, and in the fifth levelling.
- Little else is known of this period, except that Giannini missed some teaching in 1784 to finish Practicas de Geometria y Trigonometria Ⓣ(Practices of geometry and trigonometry), and that when the many distinguished guests (of which Giannini was one) stepped outside a house after a banquet, the house collapsed, though thankfully nobody was injured.
- Generally the only information in the notes of the College during this period is on topics in which Giannini had no interest, with the exception of a few disciplinary issues.
- Giannini also rarely intervened in admissions, with only one or two cases where he judged whether or not some students were capable of joining the institution.
- Giannini was also on a short break on 28 June 1785, given as unwell, the note explaining that he was indisposed as he had been "hit by a horse." He was also missing in the rolls of the 8th, 9th, 11th, and 14th of July of 1785, but had returned by the 28th.
- As mentioned earlier, Giannini's salary was less than that of his predecessors, and this was discussed from 1786 into the early part of 1787.
- This discussion was ended by a letter from Lacy stating that "an order from the King has mandated that Don Pedro Giannini Primer Professor ...
- He received an annual salary of 12000 reals, as a result of His Majesty having had his attention brought to Giannini's merit and great performance in his role." This 12000 (including bonuses) was a great increase on Giannini's income, which had started at 8000, and then risen to 9600 in the years between his hiring and this even greater augmentation.
- Ten years after his initial appointment it is evident that Giannini found himself isolated.
- Giannini, however, had no interest in anything but work.
- It does appear, though, that Giannini's relations with Galiano were no less cold than with his other colleagues.
- Giannini appeared also as a sort of intermediary between the College, its professors, and the scientists of other countries of Europe, but he had no relationships with any in Spain.
- Lacy had died in 1792 and sadly Giannini had much less support from his successors, of whom there were five before the turn of the century.
- It is probable that this lack of support is what lead Giannini to make his request to receive an army commission on 22 July 1794, with a letter of his announcing his request and informing us of the great qualities he had gained in teaching high level calculus and mechanics to 270 alumni of the College of Artillery, and in the direction of the other areas of mathematics, over a period of 18 years, as well as printing his Curso Ⓣ(Mathematical course) and speaking of other works that had merited the praise of the intelligentsia.
- This effectively meant Giannini simply now had more work to do for the same salary.
- He asked again in September 1796 for the increase in salary that he had not been given on his appointment before, explaining that he had now printed the volume of differential calculus and "that the other four books that he had published had not only merited the praise of the intelligentsia of Europe, but also that they were used for teaching in foreign lands, and that more than 300 cadets had learned from him the most difficult areas of science, such as high level calculus and mathematics." He confirmed that he made 12000 reals and that other professors all made between 18000 and 30000 and asked for the "full salary of his rank." In a communication of 4 August 1796 "His majesty gives Giannini the full salary of Comisario de Guerra, completely in charge of the mathematics course." Giannini also asked for 450 more reals per month in 1799, and the King gave him 350, on 20 August of that year.
- It is hard to say if it was because of his salary or the lack of understanding between him and the other officials, but Giannini was not enjoying his time in Segovia.
- The king responded on 9 October, saying that he would not transfer Giannini until he had finished his book.
- In the fourth part Giannini explains properties of second order differentials, and some of even higher order.
- Giannini must have lost many of his contacts in Europe after the publication of Prácticas in 1784.
- There is no information about Giannini's activities between 1800 and 1803.
- Even in the records of the College of meetings during this time that we have, Giannini does not appear among the staff.
- Giannini was simply a good mathematician who aided the military education of nobles of Spain with great success.
- The professors had to be in the military, and the first professor at least a captain, but Giannini had no military training whatsoever.
- During his final years, Giannini worked revising the records of the army.
- From the year 1795 Pedro Giannini appeared in the Estado Militar de España Ⓣ(Military establishment of Spain) as a 'Comisario de Guerra', and then was elevated to the rank of 'Comisario Ordenador' (essentially equivalent to a quartermaster but of a higher rank), according the Gazeta de Madrid on 13 May 1803.
- The last news we have of Giannini's life is related to his role in the army.
- According to Agustín Alcaide Ibieca, Giannini was among the troops stationed in Aragón against the French, but after this nothing is known about his life.
Born about 1740, Pescia, Pistoia (now Italy). Died about 1810, Spain.
View full biography at MacTutor
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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