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Mathematical Treasure: Pietro Cataneo on Practical Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Pietro Cataneo (ca 1510–-ca 1574) is mainly remembered as an Italian military engineer who wrote several works on architecture. However, his first printed work, his 1567 Le pratiche della due prime matematiche … (Practice of the two basic Mathematics), was on mathematics. The book was addressed to the needs of merchants and in fact Cataneo urged his students to think of mathematics as a form of “merchant’s common sense.” The work, in four books, devotes the first three books to commercial arithmetic and problem-solving and the last book to applied geometry.

Here on pages 34 and 35 of Book Two, Cataneo discussed the solution of commercial problems by arithmetic:

Book Four of Cateneo’s Pratiche opens with definitions for some basic geometric concepts:

These images are presented through the courtesy of the Dartmouth College Libraries, Hanover, New Hampshire.


Index to Mathematical Treasures


Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Pietro Cataneo on Practical Mathematics," Convergence (October 2019)