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Giovanni Battista Guccia

Benedetto Bongiorno and Guillermo P. Curbera
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Alice Petillo
, on

This is a biography of the Italian mathematician Giovanni Battista Guccia (1855-1914), founder of the Circolo Matematico in Palermo and its publication, Rendiconti (del Circolo Matematico di Palermo). The introduction outlines each of the book’s six chapters as an overview. The book is supported by an extensive bibliography, an index of names, appendices, and photos of important documents and of many persons mentioned in the text.

The authors lead off with an account of the Guccia family, which essentially bought its way into the Sicilian nobility in 1797 and could boast such interesting personages as the Prince of Lampedusa, Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi, an accomplished amateur astronomer with some of the best telescopes available in his day. Giovanni B. Guccia himself held the title Noble Marquis of Ganzaria.

The discovery of the asteroid Ceres in 1801 by Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi inspired many astronomers of the time and was part of the growing interest in science. Italy was home to the oldest universities in the world, beginning with that of Bologna in 1088. Studying at the University of Palermo, Guccia distinguished himself, moved to Rome, and completed his thesis under the direction of notable mathematician Luigi Cremona.

The 1800s were a time of upheaval and great social and scientific change. It saw the formation of a unified Italy and the beginning of international cooperation in mathematics research, reflected in the formation of various mathematical societies and congresses in Europe and the U.S.A. Guccia was not only a brilliant mathematician, but an adept organizer, editor, proofreader, and printer.

The writing is engaging, touching on many facets of the international mathematics community, especially in Italy. The book is not math-intensive so is accessible to any reader, and will particularly reward students of 1800s Italy. This book will be of interest to professional mathematicians as well as those interested in the history of international cooperation in the mathematical sciences.

Alice Petillo is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Marymount University.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.