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Ceva, Giovanni

1. Dates
Born: Milano, 1647 or 1648 (DBI and Loria say probably December 1647)
Died: Mantua, 3 or 13 May 1734
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 87
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
I find only that Carlo Francesco Ceva was rich and famous.
I accept the information: wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Pisa
He received his first education in a Jesuit college in Milano. He studied then in Pisa where he was a student of D. Rossetti and A. Marchetti, both students of Borelli. There is no mention of a degree.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Hydraulics
Ceva's most important mathematical work was De lineis rectis (Milan, 1678). In this work he used the properties of the center of gravity of a system of points to obtain the relations of the segments. He also published Opuscula mathematica (Milan, 1682), Geometria motus (Bologna, 1692), De re numeraria (Mantua, 1711), and other works.
Much of his mathematical work had a practical bent--e.g., hydraulics. This became more pronounced as the years passed. His final work, and his most important one, was Opus hydrostaticum, 1728.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government
Possibly taught at the University of Pisa. He must have done something before 1686 (when he was nearly forty). However, there does not seem to be any documentary evidence.
He went to Mantua about 1686 in the service of the Gonzagas, and he continued to serve the city government after the Austrians took over (which I think was 1707).
At the time of his death his name was carried in a register of the salaried employees of the royal court as "Commissario dell'arciducale Camera et mathematico cesareo". Loria says also that he was Commissario Generale dell'Acque.
Obviously this is ambiguous. I could list his support as patronage; with personal physicians I do that. Nevertheless it appears to me that Ceva was more a technical employee than a client.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official, City Magistrate
He was in the service of the Mantuan court as a technical expert, at least by 1686. His first book after he went to Mantua concerned hydraulics, building on Castelli's work. Even before he moved to Mantua, he dedicated his first book (1678) to Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga. Although I found no explicit statement, I cannot believe that this did not have some relation to his ultimate appointment.
I do not know the details of Austrian administration after they took over ultimate control of Mantua; I suspect that they retained some Dukes, though apparently not the Gonzaga, as their puppets. At any rate, Ceva immediately made his peace with the new order. A later work is dedicated to the president and quaestors of the Mantuan Camera. He was on the Mantuan Commission of Water.
He dedicated other mathematical works to Card. Ricci.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Applied Mathematics
De re numeraria attempts to solve the conditions of equilibrium in a plurimetallic monetary system in a small territory (such as Mantua)--a pioneering work in mathematical economics.
As the spokesman for Mantua, he opposed the plans of Bologna and Manfredi to divert the Reno into the Po early in the 18th century. Ceva's opposition succeeded in stopping the project.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Dizionario biografico degli italiani.
  2. F. Argellati, Bibliotheca scriptorum mediolanensium, 1, 542-3.
  3. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, (Modena, 1870), 1, 542-3.
  4. Gino Loria, "Per la biografia de Giovanni Ceva", Rendiconti dell'istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere, 48 (1915), 450- 452.
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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