Italian mathematician, b. around 1500; d. December 13, 1557
Tartaglia (TARTALEA), Nicolo, Italian mathematician, b. at Brescia, c. 1500; d. at Venice, December 13, 1557. His father, Michele Fontana, died in 1506, leaving his widow, two sons, and two daughters in poverty. As a result of a blow across the mouth inflicted by some French soldiers at the sack of Brescia in 1512, Nicolo stammered in his speech, thus obtaining the nickname of Tartaglia, afterwards assumed by himself. He was self-taught. In 1521, he was teaching mathematics in Verona and in 1534 he went to Venice. By 1541, he had achieved the remarkable triumph of solving the cubic equation. In a mathematical contest with Antonio del Fiore, held in 1535, he had shown the superiority of his methods to the method previously obtained by Scipione del Ferro (d. 1526) and known at that time to del Fiore alone. The glory of giving these results to the world was not for Tartaglia, as Cardan (q.v.) having in 1539 obtained a knowledge of them under the most solemn pledges of secrecy, inserted them, with some additions and with some mention of indebtedness, in his "Ars Magna", published in 1545. A long and bitter controversy ensued in which Cardan was supported by his pupil Ferrari. In 1548 Tartaglia became professor of Euclid at Brescia but returned, after eighteen months, to Venice, where he died. In his will he expressed the request to be buried in the Church of San Silvestro, which wish, according to Dr. Giuseppe Tassin ("Curiosity, Veneziane", Venice, 1864), was fulfilled.
The published works of Tartaglia include: "Nuova Scienza", dealing with gunnery (Venice, 1537, French translation by Rieffel, Paris, 1845-6); the first Italian translation of Euclid (Venice, 1543); the earliest Latin version of some of the works of Archimedes (Venice, 1543) "Quesiti ed Invenzioni Di-verse", including problems in ballistics and fortification (Venice, 1546, new ed., 1554); "Regola Generale per sollevare ogni affondata Nave, intitolata la Travagliata Invenzione" (Venice, 1551, English version published by Salusbury, London, 1564); "Ragionamenti sopra la Travagliata Invenzione" (Venice 1551); "Trattato Generale di Numeri e Misure" (Venice, 2 pts. in 1556, 4 pts. in 1560); "Trattato di aritmetica" (Venice, 1556, French tr. by Gosselin, Paris, 1578); "Opere del Famosissimo Nicola Tartaglia" (Venice, 1606); and an English translation, by Lucar in 1588, of his writings on gunnery. A letter of Tartaglia's is in the archives of Urbino and another letter and his will are in the archives of Venice.
PAUL H. LINEHAN