Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16: Francesco Maurolico

Francesco Maurolico
September 16, 1494 - July 21, 1575

Francesco Maurolico (in Latin, Franciscus Maurolycus) was an Italian mathematician and astronomer. Throughout his lifetime, he made contributions to the fields of geometry, optics, conics, mechanics, music, and astronomy.

Between 1548 and 1550, Maurolico stayed at the castle of Pollina in Sicily as a guest of the marquis Giovanni II Ventimiglia, and utilized the castle tower in order to carry out astronomical observations.

Maurolico's astronomical observations include a sighting of the supernova that appeared in Cassiopeia in 1572. Tycho Brahe published details of his observations in 1574; the supernova is now known as Tycho's Supernova.

In 1569, he was appointed professor at the University of Messina.

Maurolico's Photismi de lumine et umbra and Diaphana concern the refraction of light and attempted to explain the natural phenomenon of the rainbow. He also studied the camera obscura. His Arithmeticorum libri duo (1575) includes the first known proof by mathematical induction.

Maurolico published a Cosmographia in which he described a methodology for measuring the earth, which was later employed by Jean Picard in measuring the meridian in 1670.

Maurolico published an edition of Aristotle's Mechanics, and a work on music. He summarized Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum and also wrote Grammatica rudimenta (1528) and De lineis horariis. He made a map of Sicily, which was published in 1575.

Maurolico worked on ancient mathematical texts: Theodosius of Bithynia, Menelaus of Alexandria, Autolycus of Pitane, Euclid, Apollonius of Perga and Archimedes. His didn't make new translations, but working on the existing ones, he provided new and sound interpretations of Greek mathematics.

The lunar crater Maurolycus is named after him.

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