Girolamo Cardano

Born: 24 Sept 1501 in Pavia, Duchy of Milan (now Italy)
Died: 21 Sept 1576 in (now Italy)

[Mathematiker Bild]

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Cardan is famed for his work Ars Magna which was the first Latin treatise devoted solely to algebra.
Girolamo Cardano's name was Cardan in Latin and in English he is sometimes known as Jerome Cardan.

Cardan studied at Pavia and Padua receiving a doctorate in medicine in 1525. He was professor of mathematics at Milan, Pavia and Bologna leaving each after some scandal.

Cardan lectured and wrote on mathematics, medicine, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, and physics. In fact his fame as a doctor was such that the Archbishop of St Andrews, on suffering as he thought from consumption, sent for Cardan. Cardan is reported to have visited Scotland to treat the Archbishop who was not suffering from consumption and made a complete recovery.

Cardan is famed for his work Ars Magna which was the first Latin treatise devoted solely to algebra and is one of the important steps in the rapid development in mathematics which began around this time (and still continues today). Ars Magna made known the solution of the cubic by radicals and the solution of the quartic by radicals. These were proved by Tartaglia and Ferrari respectively. Ferrari was in fact a pupil of Cardan's.

In Ars Magna appears the first computation with complex numbers although Cardan did not properly understand it.

Cardan's Liber de ludo aleae in 1563 was the first study of the theory of probability. De vita propria liber in 1575 is Cardan's autobiography. It is one of the first modern psychological autobiographies.

Cardan was eventually forbidden to lecture or publish books. In 1570 he was imprisioned on a charge of having cast the horoscope of Christ. In 1571 Pope Pius V granted him an annuity for life and he settled in Rome and became astrologer to the papal court.

Cardan is reported to have correctly predicted the exact date of his own death. He achieved this by committing suicide.

The picture above is from the title page of the first edition of his Arithmetic .

References (27 books/articles)

A page from a work by Cardan:

The title page of Ars Magna (1545)

References elsewhere in this archive:

Tell me about Cardan's work on the cubic equation

There is a Crater Cardanus on the moon. There is also a Rima Cardanus. You can see a list of lunar features named after mathematicians.

Other Web sites:

Rice University, USA
Pisa, Italy
University of Virginia, USA

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JOC/EFR December 1996