Francesco Faà di Bruno

Born: 29 March 1825 in Alessandria, Piemonte, Italy
Died: 31 May 1907 in Naples, Italy

Show birthplace location

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page

Francesco Faà di Bruno studied at the Royal Military Academy of Turin with the aim of making a career in the army. He began his education in 1841, then he was commissioner in the army in 1847. However by 1853 he had decided to leave the army and take up the study of mathematics.

Faà di Bruno travelled to Paris where he studied at the Sorbonne under Cauchy who [1]:-

... he admired, not only for his genius, but also for his religious fervour and his philanthropy.
At the Sorbonne he was in the same classes as Hermite. After graduating he returned to Turin where he studied for his doctorate, which he obtained in 1861.

In 1871 Faà di Bruno became a professor at the University of Turin, being appointed to the Chair of Higher Analysis there in 1876. His most famous mathematical work was one on binary forms which he published in 1876. This became better known in 1881 when Max Noether published a German edition of Faà di Bruno's work.

However, Faà di Bruno had interests other than mathematics which took up much of his time and undoubtedly prevented him undertaking more mathematical research. After his time studying in the Sorbonne, Faà di Bruno did much charity work on his return to Turin.

At this time Faà di Bruno came in contact with Giovanni Bosco. Bosco had been ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1841 in Turin and began to work there to help boys who came to look for work in the city. Bosco provided boys with education, religious instruction, and recreation. He eventually he headed a large establishment containing a grammar school, a technical school, and a church, all built through his efforts. In Turin Bosco and others founded the Society of St Francis de Sales in 1859.

Influenced by Giovanni Bosco, Faà di Bruno was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Rome on 22 October 1876. Faà di Bruno founded a religious order for girls similar to the one founded by Bosco for girls, the Conservatorio del Suffragio. In order to provide work for the girls, Faà di Bruno had the idea that they could train as typesetters. He purchased a printing press and set up the Tipographia Suffragio. There a number of mathematics books were published including one by Faà di Bruno himself on elliptic functions. In 1898 the printing press was purchased by Peano for 407 lire and he printed the Rivista di Matematica on it for several years.

Bosco was made a Saint on 1 April 1934. Already by this time there was a movement to canonise Faà di Bruno and in 1955 the Sacred Congregation of Rites officially accepted the claim for Faà di Bruno to be canonised. Faà di Bruno was made a Saint on 14 June 1971.

In [1] Faà di Bruno is described as follows:-

Faà di Bruno was tall and not always well dressed, but he was simple and good natured. He was of a solitary disposition and spoke seldom (and not always successfully in the classroom). He cultivated music and was said to be a good pianist.

Reference (One book/article)

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page
History Topics Index Famous curves index
Chronologies Birthplace Maps
Mathematicians of the day Anniversaries for the year
Search Form Simple Search Form Search Suggestions

JOC/EFR December 1997