Person: Tricomi, Francesco Giacomo
Francesco Tricomi studied differential equations which became very important in the theory of supersonic flight. He wrote a number of excellent books which were translated into several different languages.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Arturo Tricomi, born in Palermo on 15 September 1863, was an engineer and architect who became an extraordinary professor of Ornamental Design and Architecture at the University of Cagliari and in 1906 moved to the University of Naples where he taught ornamental design in the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences.
- Francesco studied first at the local Technical Institute where he was taught mathematics by Alfredo Perna, an excellent teacher who had published papers such as L'immaginario i ed i numeri alternati i, j, k nello studio delle deformazioni infinitesime delle curve piane e delle curve storte Ⓣ(The imaginary i and the alternating numbers i, j, k in the study of the infinitesimal deformations of plane and skew curves) (1898) and Le equazioni delle curve in coordinate complesse coniugate Ⓣ(The equations of curves in conjugate complex coordinates) (1903) in the Rendiconti del Circolo Matematico di Palermo.
- At first Tricomi had not found mathematics interesting for, as a student, he was interested in practical science problems.
- Tricomi studied first at the University of Bologna, where he enrolled in chemistry classes in 1913.
- In August 1916 Italy declared war on Germany and, around the same time, Tricomi, then at the University of Naples, was called up for military service.
- Tricomi was involved in the fighting at Monte Grappa in December 1917.
- Tricomi, always at the centre of hostilities, was involved in the fighting at Piave in June 1918.
- Rather remarkably, despite all this involvement in fighting with the Italian army, Tricomi had been able to continue with his studies and he had been awarded a degree in mathematics from the University of Naples on 16 April 1918.
- Always someone of independent thought, the environment at Naples at that time was too authoritarian for him and, with a strong recommendation from Ugo Amaldi, he was appointed as an assistant to Francesco Severi in the chair of analytical geometry at the University of Padua in 1921.
- The reason for the move was simply that Severi had been appointed to the chair of algebraic and infinitesimal analysis at the University of Rome and he invited Tricomi to follow him.
- We have already mentioned Tricomi's very independent nature so, despite this collection of world-leading mathematicians, he was always going to work alone without having anyone tell him what to do.
- Soon after arriving in Rome, Tricomi had submitted his first paper for publication, namely Su di un'equazione integrale di prima specie Ⓣ(On an integral equation of the first kind) which appeared in the Rendiconti del Circolo Matematico di Palermo in 1922.
- Tricomi competed and was offered the chair which he accepted and took up the appointment in February 1925.
- Enrico D'Ovidio had retired from the University of Turin in 1922 and in November 1925 Tricomi was called to the University of Turin as an extraordinary professor of algebraic analysis and in charge of complementary mathematics.
- The sympathies of Tricomi went without hesitation to the first group, also because of the solid friendship that bound him to Fubini and Alessandro Terracini.
- However, Tricomi was also strongly appreciated by Peano who, as early as 1925, proposed to him to exchange his teaching of complementary mathematics with that of infinitesimal calculus.
- One consequence was that it led to Tricomi giving all the support he could to people and organisations which fascism opposed.
- Gino Fano was one of Tricomi's colleagues at Turin and, because of the racial laws, he was deprived of his chair in 1938.
- Tricomi did his utmost to assist Fano, getting books and journals for him so that he could continue his mathematics.
- Tricomi also helped his colleague Alessandro Terracini (1889-1968) publish the high school algebra textbook Algebra elementare ad uso dei licei Ⓣ(Elementary algebra for high school use) (1940) under Tricomi's name.
- When there, Tricomi continued to help Jewish colleagues and friends, such as Guido Castelnuovo and Federigo Enriques both of whom had been forced into hiding but were running an illegal school instructing Jewish students who were suffering discrimination.
- After Rome was freed by the Allies, Castelnuovo asked Tricomi to remain in Rome and help him with the reconstruction of mathematics in the university there.
- Tricomi returned to Turin in 1944 where he resumed his university teaching.
- In the late 1930s, Tricomi had begun to publish books, many of them based on lecture courses he was giving at Turin.
- In 1946 Harry Bateman died and Arthur Erdélyi headed a team, which included Wilhelm Magnus and Tricomi, working at the California Institute of Technology to publish the vast range of material left by Bateman.
- Tricomi participated in the International Congress of Mathematicians at Cambridge, Massachusetts in September 1950 while in the United States.
- This was not the first International Congress of Mathematicians that Tricomi had attended, for he had been at Bologna in 1928 and Zurich in 1932 when he gave the lecture Periodische Lösungen einer Differentialgleichung erster Ordnung Ⓣ(Periodic solutions of a first order differential equation).
- In late 1950 Tricomi left the United States and returned to Turin to continue his remarkable research output.
- Tricomi was an editor of Aequationes Mathematicae from the time the journal was founded in 1968 until his death.
- Tricomi had a deep interest in problems concerning the history of mathematics and he published many important articles on this topic.
Born 5 May 1897, Naples, Italy. Died 21 November 1978, Turin, 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