Person: Severi, Francesco
Severi's most important contributions are to algebraic geometry.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- This sadness, together with financial problems, led to Cosimo committing suicide on 4 January 1889; Francesco was nine years old.
- While at school Francesco had to earn money to help out and did this with a variety of tutoring jobs.
- Severi had not studied Latin at secondary school and now required that subject to enrol for a degree in pure mathematics.
- Once in the pure mathematics course, Severi was taught by Corrado Segre, Giusepe Peano and Vito Volterra.
- In addition to his advisor Corrado Segre, Severi also benefited from the friendship of Gaetano Scorza who, although an assistant of Eugenio Bertini in Pisa, spent the year 1899-1900 as an assistant to Corrado Segre.
- Severi contrasts Scorza's personality with his own.
- After being awarded his doctorate, Severi accepted a post in Turin as assistant to Enrico D'Ovidio for the academic year 1900-01.
- She was a great support to Severi during the 52 years of their marriage; she died in 1952.
- In 1904 Severi was appointed to the Chair of Projective and Descriptive Geometry at Parma.
- After the meeting, Castelnuovo (who was not on the committee) made his way to Rome railway station, sought out Severi, who was sitting in the train for Arezzo, and gave him the good news: again an unusual proceeding.
- Severi only worked at Parma for one year, accepting the chair at Padua in 1905.
- But since this suggestion had been given in an unpublished letter, and subsequently Severi brilliantly developed the idea mentioned in it, it is not useful to make a claim of priority here.
- Severi's tenure of the chair at Padua was interrupted by the war and he volunteered for military service as soon as Italy joined the war in 1915.
- After he was demobbed, Severi returned to his chair in Padua where he remained until 1922 when he was appointed to the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Rome.
- In 1923 Gentile recommended that Severi, in addition to his role in mathematics, be appointed rector of the university.
- As a consequence, Severi resigned as rector of the University of Rome to avoid becoming criticised in an enquiry which was being set up to investigate these matters.
- Although Severi would later say that he was appalled to see his Jewish colleagues dismissed, there is considerable evidence that he was leading the call for their dismissal.
- From this period until Rome was liberated by the Allies in 1944, Severi was the leading Italian mathematician filling leading positions left vacant as his Jewish colleagues were dismissed.
- However, the Accademia dei Lincei dismissed Severi and refused to readmit him even after the favourable findings of the Commission.
- Only in 1948 when a general amnesty was enacted was Severi re-elected to the Accademia dei Lincei.
- His most important contributions are to algebraic geometry and we have seen in the quote above Castelnuovo's description of Severi's contributions in 1904-08.
- Severi, who gets the highest praise from some colleagues but severe criticism from others, criticised the work of his contemporaries as lacking rigour and relying too heavily on intuition.
- To begin with, there is the uniformly high level of his very considerable scientific production: as a rule Severi attacks only important questions of general character and usually of great difficulty.
- Severi maintains a balance between geometry and analysis - he has actually made outstanding contributions to function theory.
- After work on enumerative geometry, Severi turned to birational geometry of surfaces, a topic which Castelnuovo and Enriques has spent ten years developing before Severi began to work on it.
- Some rate Severi's discovery of a base of algebraically independent curves on any surface as his most important contribution.
- In 1907 Enriques and Severi won the Prix Bordin from the French Academy of Sciences for a work on hyperelliptic surfaces.
- We have only scratched the surface for it is impossible to give in this short article any real indication of the range of the contributions which Severi made.
- the first four of a planned six, contain 142 mathematical papers of Severi (1879-1961), principally concerning algebraic geometry (surfaces) and function theory of two (or more) complex variables.
- it was as a teacher of geometry that Severi excelled.
- Despite the incredible output of mathematics from Severi, he had an amazing number of outside interests.
- For Severi by then was (among other things) President of an Arezzo bank, head of the engineering faculty at Padua, an expert agriculturist who managed his own estate.
- Personal relationships with Severi, however complicated in appearance, were always reducible to two basically simple situations: either he had just taken offence or else he was in the process of giving it - and quite often genuinely unaware that he was doing so.
- Among the honours given to Severi we have already mention his election to the Accademia dei Lincei in 1910.
Born 13 April 1879, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy. Died 8 December 1961, Rome, 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