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Bombelli, Rafael

1. Dates
Born: Bologna, January, 1526
Died: Rome?, 1572
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 46
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
Antonio Bombelli was a wool merchant. Fantuzzi says that Bombelli was born to a noble family, but I think that is just conventional talk. None of the other sources bear that out.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Bologna, Italy
Career: Italy
Death: Rome? Italy
4. Education
Schooling: No University
All that is known about Bomelli's education is that his teacher was Pier Francesco Clementi of Corinaldo, an engineer-architect, who drained swamps.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Bombelli was the last of the algebraists of Renaissance Italy. His only published work, Algebra, gave a comprehensive account of the existing knowledge of the subject, enriching it with Bombelli's own contributions. The influence that his Algebra had in the Low Countries was great. Leibniz called him an "outstanding master of the analytical art."
Bombelli worked at reclaiming land and at least one other engineering task, but there is nothing to indicate that he furthered the sciences of hydraulics and engineering.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage
He spent the greater part of his working life as an engineer-architect in the service of his patron, Monsignor Alessandro Rufini, a favorite of Paul III who was later the Bishop of Melfi. By 1551 Bombelli had begun to work for Rufini in the reclamation of the Val di Chiana marshes; the work ended in 1560. In 1561 he took part in the attempt to repair the Ponte Santa Maria in Rome, an effort that failed.
8. Patronage
Type: Eccesiastic Official
His patron was Monsignor Alessandro Rufini, a Roman nobleman and bishop of Melfi. Bombelli dedicated his Algebra to Rufini.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Civil Engineering
He took part in the reclamation of the Val di Chiana marshes and in the attempt to repair the Ponte Santa Maria Bridge.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. S. A. Jayawardene, "Unpublished Documents Relating to Rafael Bombelli in the Archives of Bologna" in Isis, 54 (1963), pp.391-395 Jayawardene, "Rafael Bombelli, Engineer-Architect: Some Unpublished Documents of the Apostolic Camera," Isis, 56 (1965), pp.298-306.
  2. Dizionario biografico degli italiani.
  3. G.M. Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d'Italia, (Brescia, 1753- ), 2, pt. 3, 1509.
  4. G. Fantuzzi, Notizie degli scrittori bolognesi, (Bologna, 1781- 94), 2, 282-3. Paul L. Rose, The Italian Renaissance of Mathematics, (Geneva, 1975), pp. 146-8.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Bortolotti, Archiv für Geschichte der Mathematik, 11, 470.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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