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Francesco Maurolico (in Latin, Franciscus Maurolycus) (September 16, 1494-July 21 or July 22, 1575) was an Italian mathematician and astronomer. Throughout his lifetime, he made contributions to the fields of geometry, optics, conics, mechanics, music, and astronomy.

Born in Messina of a family of Greek origin that settled in this Sicilian city after the Fall of Constantinople (1453), Maurolico received a solid education. His father, Antonio, had been a physician in Constantinople and later became Master of the Messina mint. The Maurolico family had a villa outside the city.

In 1521, Maurolico took holy orders. In 1550, he entered the Benedictine Order and became a monk at the Monastero di Santa Maria del Parto a Castelbuono. Two years later, he was consecrated as abbot at the Cattedrale San Nicolò di Messina.

Accomplishments

Like his father, Maurolico also became head of the Messina mint and for a time was in charge of maintaining the fortifications of the city on behalf of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Maurolico tutored the two sons of Charles' viceroy in Sicily, Juan de Vega, and had the patronage of many rich and powerful men. He also corresponded with scholars such as Clavius and Federico Commandino. 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.

Works

  • Maurolico's Photismi de lumine et umbra concerns the refraction of light and attempted to explain the natural phenomenon of the rainbow. It was completed in 1521 but was published posthumously in 1622. He also studied the camera obscura.
  • His Arithmeticorum libri duo (1575) includes the first known proof by mathematical induction.
  • His Opuscola mathematica (1575) attempted to calculate the barycenter of various bodies (pyramid, parabola, etc.).
  • In his Sicanicarum rerum compendium, he presented the history of Sicily, and included some autobiographical details. He had been commissioned to write this work, and in 1553 the Senate of Messina granted him a salary of 100 gold pieces per year for two years so that he could finish this work and his works on mathematics.
  • 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 Mechanical Problems, 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 translated the ancient texts of Theodosius of Bithynia, Menelaus of Alexandria, Autolycus of Pitane, Euclid, Apollonius of Perga and Archimedes.

Death and Legacy

He died at Messina.

The lunar crater Maurolycus is named after him.

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