Something to do tomorrow (besides eating the Beef n Brew slice): the Math And… seminar is very pleased to welcome Arielle Saiber from Bowdoin for our Fall 2009 lecture. Arielle is an Italianist of very broad interests, with academic papers on Italian literature, the early history of algebra and geometry, Dali’s illustrations for Dante, and the polyvalent discourse of electronic music. Tomorrow there will only be time to unite the first two.
23 Oct 2009, 4pm, Van Vleck B239: Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin, Italian)
Title “Nicollo Tartaglia’s Poetic Solution to the Cubic Equation.”
Niccolo Tartaglia’s (1449-1557) solution to solving cubic equations, which renowned mathematician and physician Girolamo Cardano wanted but Tartaglia resisted, led to one of the first intellectual property cases in Western history. Eventually, Tartaglia agreed to give Cardano what he so desired, but only if the latter promised he would not publish it. Cardano promised, and Tartaglia sent him the solution. Wasting little time, however, Cardano published the solution (along with a ‘general’ solution that he himself developed). Tartaglia was, not surprisingly, furious and began a vicious battle with Cardano’s assistant, Ludovico Ferrari (Cardano refused to engage Tartaglia directly). But vitriolic polemics aside, there is something else rather curious about this ordeal: the solution Tartaglia gave Cardano was encrypted in a poem. This talk looks at the motives behind his “poetic solution” and what it says about the close relationship between ‘poeisis’ and ‘mathesis’ in this period of mathematics’ history.