Scipione Del Ferro


Scipione Del FerroScipione del Ferro (Bologna, 6 February 1465 – Bologna 5 November 1505) was an Italian mathematician, who first discovered a method to solve the cubic equation. He taught at the university of Bologna from 1496. He discovered the solution to the cubic equation in 1505, but he held it hidden, revealing it only to his students.

            Maintaining the formula secret, he regularly  astonished the public and his colleagues by solving problems that they suggested in that period under the porch of the church of Santa Maria dei servi in Bologna.

            These mathematical challenges gave credit and prestige to the winners who, therefore, enjoyed the protection of noblemen. Thanks to this, from 1496 to 1510 Scipione del Ferro’s wages increased from 25 to 150 lira. Before dying, del Ferro revealed the solution to a student Antonio Maria Fior. Later on, a contest was arranged between Fior and Tartaglia in which contestants had to solve problems in a fixed time. While Tartaglia solved all the problems suggested by Fior, the latter did not solve any. The reason being that at the time negative numbers were not considered and there were as many types of equations as combinations of positive and negative coefficients. Therefore Fior only had a method for the solution of a particular type of cubic equation, Tartaglia possessed a solution for every type. Gerolamo Cardano learned about the challenge and invited Tartaglia promising that he would introduce him to a powerful patron only to find out the solution. In his work ARS MAGNA Cardano, after giving complete details of the pedantic methods of algebra at the time, states that it was del Ferro who was the first to solve the cubic equation, and that the solution he gives is del Ferro's.


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