The Galileo Project
site map

Ceva, Tomasso

1. Dates
Born: Milano, 20 Dec. 1648
Died: Milano, 3 Feb. 1737 (Ramat puts the two dates as 1649 and 1736, but others, including Sommervogel, do not agree.)
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 89
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
I find only that Carlo Francesco Ceva was said to be wealthy and famous.
I accept the information: wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italy
Career: Italy
Death: Italy
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order, D.D.
In 1663 entered the Society of Jesus. Apparently he was educated entirely within the order. It seems clear that he had the equivalent of a B.A. As a full Jesuit he would have had a doctorate in theology.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Entered the Society of Jesus in 1663. He spent the whole of his adult life within the order.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Subordinate: Natural Philosophy
Ceva's Opuscula mathematica(1699), summarizing all of his mathematical work, dealt with gravity, arithmetic, geometric- harmonic means, the cyloid, division of angles, and higher order conic sections and curves.
Ceva's contribution to mathematics was, however, modest.
His first scientific work, De natura gravium (1669), dealt with physical subjects--such as gravity and free fall--in a philosophical way. If I have understood some rather opaque prose, he accepted some Newtonian ideas. However, he was later the author of Philosophia novo-antiqua (1704), which tried to yoke experimental philosophy to Scholasticism, anti-Copernicanism, and anti-Cartesianism. (Recall that he was a Jesuit.) Ramat calls the Philosophia one of the last efforts of Scholasticism against the new philosophy.
Ceva was a fairly important literary and theological figure, and much more into these fields than into science.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1663.
At an early age he became professor of mathematics and rhetoric at Brera College in Milan (a Jesuit college), and he taught there for more than forty years.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official, Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official
He lived in Milano, enjoying the protection of the Spanish and later the imperial authorities. Ceva was more of a Jesuit humanist than a mathematician, and he ground out lots of Latin prose celebrating various official events staged by the ruling authorities in Milano.
He dedicated his Latin poem, Iesus puer (which was translated into at least German and Italian and was much republished), to Joseph I, King of the Romans (the later Emperor). Joseph named Ceva Caesarian Theologian early in the 18th century. (Ceva dedicated other editions of Iesus puer to prelates.) It appears that like his brother in Mantua, Ceva adapted to imperial rule immediately, and among his compositions were lives of members of the Hapsburg family.
He dedicated works also to Signora Teresa Borromeo, Guzman (the Spanish governor of Milan), the Marquis Ottavio Gonzaga, and Card. Giovanni Badoaro.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
He designed an instrument to divide a right angle into a specified number of equal parts.
He also prepared stage effects, such as artificial fire, for official pageants in the early 18th century. Frankly I do not known how to categorize this, and I am far from sure that I want to call it technology.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He had a close friendship with the mathematician P.P. Caravaggio and his son. G. Saccheri was his student.
Ceva frequented the Accademia dei Vigilanti, promoted by the Countess Clelia Borromeo, and through her he was in correspondence with Viviani and G. Grandi.
He was made a fellow of the Arcadia in 1718.
  1. R. Ramat, "La critica del padre Ceva," Civilta moderna, 10 (1938), 385-95, and 11 (1939), 139-66. (Reprinted in Sette contributi agli studi di storia della letturatura ilatiana, (Firenze, 1947), pp. 5-44. Carlos Sommervogel, ed. Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, (Brussels, 1891), 2, 1015-24. Dizionario biografico degli italiani. F. Argellati, Bibliotheca scriptorum mediolanesium, pp. 417-20. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, 1, 543-4.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Guido Grandi, Geometrica demonstratio theorematum Hugenianum circa logisticam, seu logarithmicam lineam, addita epistola geometrica ad P. Thomam Cevam, (Florence, 1701).
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
Last updated
Home | Galileo | Biography | Chronology | Family | Portraits |
Science | Christianity | Library | About | Site Map | Search

Please note: We will not answer copyright requests.
See the copyright page for more information.