Person: Fichera, Gaetano
Gaetano Fichera was an Italian mathematician who worked in mathematical analysis, linear elasticity, partial differential equations and several complex variables.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Giuseppe Fichera had graduated with his laurea in mathematics from the University of Catania in 1921.
- He had been a student of Bernardino Gaetano Scorza, who taught at Catania from 1916 to 1920, and Giuseppe had become an expert on the theory of group representations.
- After Scorza moved to Naples, Giuseppe Fichera became an assistant to Mauro Picone who was appointed Head of Mathematics at Catania in 1921.
- However, Giuseppe Fichera remained a close friend of Picone all his life and this was to have a considerable beneficial effect on the young Gaetano.
- However, by the time Fichera was studying with her, Nalli had become interested in tensorial calculus.
- After two years at the University of Catania, Fichera went to Rome in 1939 to study with Mauro Picone.
- Therefore, the output of Gaetano Fichera belongs in part to pure mathematics, in part to its applications to physical mathematics.
- However, the war was to have a far greater impact on the young Fichera for, in February 1943 when he reached the age of 21, he was called up to fight.
- Fichera refused to join the Italian army because it collaborated with Nazi Germany.
- After being called up into the army on 1 February 1943, Fichera deserted but he was captured in September 1943 by Nazi troops and imprisoned in Teramo.
- After a while Fichera was sent, still as a prisoner of the Germans but by now condemned to death, to Verona but he managed to escape from there on his third attempt and headed for Emilia-Romagna where he came across a group of partisans.
- The partisans questioned Fichera who told them that he was a mathematician.
- This immediately made them suspicious but one of the group, Giorgio Pescarini, was a mathematics teacher and he questioned Fichera to test whether he really was a mathematician.
- Of course, his answers quickly convinced Pescarini, and therefore the whole group of partisans, that Fichera was genuine.
- Fichera later jokingly remarked that this event effectively proved that mathematics could be useful in everyday life.
- Fichera lived with the partisans in Alfonsine near Ravenna, fighting against the Germans, as the end of the war approached.
- When they asked if there was someone who spoke English, Gaetano came forward and spoke to the three British soldiers in a very nonchalant manner.
- Finished questioning the British thanked Gaetano and all of us, saluted us, and left taking the prisoners with them.
- For us it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Gaetano, although so young, as well as being a graduate in mathematics, could speak two foreign languages with ease, something very rare in those days.
- After the German surrender, Fichera remained in Alfonsine with the partisans for several months.
- Back in Rome, Fichera resumed working for Picone where he became 'Libero Docente' in mathematical analysis in 1948; this is similar to the habilitation and gives the right to lecture in universities.
- The methods Fichera used were based on those which had been developed by his teacher Picone.
- Renato Caccioppoli, who was at the University of Naples, was one of the referees who recommended Fichera for this chair.
- He had also been a referee one year earlier when Fichera received his 'Libero Docente'.
- After this Fichera and Caccioppoli remained close friends until Caccioppoli's death in 1959.
- In 1956 Fichera moved to Rome when appointed to the chair of mathematical analysis at La Sapienza, the University of Rome.
- Fichera had by no means a narrow view of his subject and was led to contribute to other parts of mathematics, one being the theory of functions of several complex variables ...
- The results of Gaetano Fichera in this field give useful information on the analytical structure of the 'memory kernel'.
- In addition to this work in pure mathematics and mathematical physics, Fichera also made some important contributions to the history of mathematics.
- Fichera was an outstanding lecturer, giving fascinating valuable lectures.
- Also in 1954, Fichera published the two volume treatise Trattato di analisi matematica Ⓣ(Treatise on mathematical analysis).
- In 1985 Fichera published another book based on his lectures on mathematical physics, namely Problemi analitici nuovi nella fisica matematica classica Ⓣ(New analytical problems in classical mathematical physics).
- Fichera was a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and received their prestigious Antonio Feltrinelli Prize in 1976.
Born 8 February 1922, Acireale, Catania, Sicily, Italy. Died 1 June 1996, Rome, Italy.
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