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Mathematical Treasure: Cataneo’s Two Primary Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Pietro Cataneo (ca. 1510-1574) was an Italian architect; however, his first published book was devoted to mathematics: Le Pratiche delle due prime Matematiche (The Practice of the Two Primary Mathematics) of 1559. These two “mathematics” were arithmetic and geometry. The book became very popular and would serve as a model for later texts.

Here on page 9 begins a discussion of the various algorithms for performing multiplication. Within the scope of arithmetic book topics, this is rather advanced knowledge. Here three algorithms are considered:

  • per scapezzo, distributing, separating and multiplying by the parts;
  • per crocetta, by the cross; and
  • per biricuocolo, in Florence, the name of a pastry that bore a resemblance to the computational configuration.

On page 69 begins a discussion of the right triangle.

This material was obtained through the courtesy of the Peabody Library of Johns Hopkins University.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Cataneo’s Two Primary Mathematics," Convergence (July 2016)