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Ries [Risz, Riesz, Ris, or Riese], Adam

1. Dates
Born: Staffelstein, upper Franconia, Germany, 1492
Died: Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany, 30 Mar 1559
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 67
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
He was the son of Contz and Eva Riese. It was a wealthy family. His father owned several houses, the walking mill at Staffelstein, and a vineyard.
3. Nationality
Birth: Staffelstein, upper Franconia, Germany
Career: Annaberg, Germany
Death: Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Nothing definite is known about his education. He probably attended the Latin school in Staffelstein.
1509, he was in Zwickau, where his younger brother Conradus was attending the famous Latin school.
1515, he was living in Annaberg, a mining town.
1518-1522/23, he lived in Erfurt, where he benefitted greatly from contact with university humanists, especially Georg Sturtz.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Lutheran.
Ries was a Lutheran, but he does not appear to have been the victim of persecution earlier in his career when Annaberg was ruled by the staunchly Catholic Duke Georg (Ries's name appeared on a list of Lutheran citizens that Georg had had made in 1530). In 1539, Duke Georg was succeeded by Duke Heinrich, who was friendly to Lutherans. In the same year Ries received his title (see below).
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Schoolmastering
Supposedly he sold his skills as a calculator at the market as early as 1514 and attracted some attention with his ability.
1518-22/3, worked as a Rechenmeister (mathematician) in Erfurt.
1523, he moved to Annaberg. 1525, Ries married, purchased a house, and became a citizen of Annaberg, where he held important posts in the ducal mining administration:
1525- , Rezessschreiber (recorder of yields).
1532- , Gegenschreiber (recorder of ownership of mining shares).
1533-9, Zehnter auf dem Geyer (calculator of the ducal tithes).
He also taught arithmetic and ran a highly regarded school.
The Turkish tax register of 1530 shows Ries had holdings of 74 Schock (1 gulden = 2/3 schock). For comparison, 24 people in Annaberg had more than 1000 gulden, 19 had more than 300, 150 had more than 100, and 160 had more than 50. It was the last group to which Ries belonged.
The house he bought in 1525 cost an average price of 150 gulden. He paid 50 gulden down and 30 per year. He later (1539) bought a farmstead at Wiesa from his sister-in-law for 1200 Rheinisch gulden. It included lodging, fields, meadows, woods and pools. He made a downpayment of 100 gulden and agreed to pay 30 gulden every six months.
8. Patronage
Types: Physician, Aristrocrat, Court Official
In Erfurt, the group of humanists with whom Ries was in contact met at the home of Georg Sturz, a rich physician from Annaberg. Sturze directed, in a sense, Ries's study of algebra, recommending certain authors and lending him books. Ries dedicated the manuscipt of his Coss (1525) to Sturz.
It is said that Heinrich von Elterlein was responsible for bringing Ries to Annaberg. Ries taught von Elterlein's son, Hans, mathematics.
Elector Maurice of Saxony advanced the printing costs for Rechenung nach der lenge, auff den Linihen vnd Feder (1550). He also sought printing costs from the elector for his "Practica." He even approached the emperor to obtain a privilege for the "Practica" so that he would not endure damages from a unauthorized second printing.
1539, he received the title "Churfürstlich Sächsicher Hofarithmeticus" (court mathematician) from Duke Heinrich.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Applied Mathematics, Cartography
The city of Annaberg commissioned a book, Ein Gerechnet Büchlein auff den Schöffel, Eimer vnd Pfundgewicht... (1533), which contains tables of measures and prices from which one could immediately determine the cost of more than one item when a unit cost was given, and a Brotordnung (1536?), from which one could directly determine the correct weight for loaves of bread when grain prices varied and the cost of a loaf was held constant.
He wrote a letter to the Münzmeister of Annaberg, Leupolt Holtzschucher, advocating changes in the Münzrechnung (some kind of currency reform).
His sons report that he did surveying for the elector.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Cantor, Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 28, 576-7.
  2. Fritz Deubner, Nach Adam Riese: Leben und Wirken des grossen Rechenmeisters (Leipzig-Jena, 1959).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Kurt Vogel, "Adam Riese, der deutschen Rechenmeister," Deutsches Museum. Abhandlungen und Berichte, 27, no. 3 (1959), 1-37.
  2. Willy Roch, Adam Riese: Ein Lebensbild des grossen Rechenmeisters, (Frankfurt, 1959). [no O.C.L.C. reference]
  3. Stefan Deschauer, Das zweite Rechenbuch von Adam Ries: Eine moderne Textfassung mit Kommentar und metrologischem Anhang und einer Einführung in Leben und Werk des Rechenmeisters, Erich Ch. Wittmann, ed. (Braunschweig, 1992).
  4. Hans Wussing, Adam Ries, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1992).
  5. Willy Roch, Adam Ries: Ein Lebensbild, (Leipzig, 1992).
  6. Adam Riese, Coss, Wolgang Kaunzner and Hans Wussing, eds. 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1992).
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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