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Saint Vincent, Gregorius [Gregory of Saint Vincent]

1. Dates
Born: Bruges, Belgium, 8 Sept. 1584
Died: Ghent, 16 Oct. 1667
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 83
2. Father
Occupation: No Information
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Belgian Area
Career: Belgian Area, It, Czechoslovakian
Death: Belgian Area
4. Education
Schooling: Douai, Collegio Romano, Louvain; D.D.
He entered the Jesuit college of Bruges in 1595 and from 1601 studied philosophy and mathematics at Douai. After 1607, Clavius recognized his talents and arranged for him to remain in Rome to continue his studies in philosophy, mathematics, and theology. In 1612 he went to Louvain to complete his theological studies. There is no mention of any specific degrees, but he receive the equivalent of a B.A. in Jesuit institutions, and as an ordained Jesuit professed of the fourth vow, he would have had a doctorate in theology.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
In 1605 he became a Jesuit novice and was received into the order in 1607. In Louvain, six years later he was ordained a priest.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Subordinate: Astronomy, Mechanics
As an established mathematician he presented a theory of conics from Commandino's editions of Archimedes (1558), Apollonius (1566), and Pappus (1588). He also developed a useful method of infinitesimals. His Theoramata mathemaica scientiae staticae, (Louvain, 1624), was defended by two of his students, Gualterus van Aebst and Johann Ciermans.
Two other students, Guillaume Boelmans, and Ignaz Derkennis aided him in the preparation of his Problema Austricum on the quadrature of the circle. He requested permission from Mutius Vitelleschi, general of the order, to have his manuscript published in Rome. In 1625 he was called to Rome to modify the work upon Christoph Grienberger's (Clavius' successor) request. He returned two years later with no settlement of the issue.
The following year he was called to Prague as the imperial confessor of Emperor Ferdinand II. He suffered a heart attack. Upon recovery he requested an assistant and received Theodor Moret. He continued his research until he fled to Vienna from the advancing Swedes. He left behind many of his papers, which he only received from a colleague ten years later. He published these papers as the Opus geometricum in Antwerp, 1647. When the controversy over the quadrature of the circle in the Opus subsided, he took up another classical problem, the duplication of the cube. He suffered a second heart attack in 1559 and died from a third attack in 1667. His work was completed by A.A. Sarosa. His last pupil, Joachim van Paepenbroek supervised the publication of Gregorius'treatise, Opus ad mesolabum.
Among his earlier works are Theses cometis (1619) and Theses mechanicae (1620).
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Secondary: Patronage
He was assigned to teach Greek for several years first at Brussels (1613), then Bois-le Duc (1614), and finally Coutrai (1615). From 1616-17 he was assigned as chaplain with the Spanish troops stationed at Belgium.
He became the companion of Francois de Aguilon in the home of the Jesuits in Antwerp. He taught for three years at the Jesuit schoool becoming the successor to Aguilon.
From 1621-5 he established himself as a mathematician at Louvain. (I find no indication that this means an academic appointment at the university.)
He was the Emperor's chaplain from 1626-32.
He became a mathematician at Ghent (in the Jesuit college) from 1632 until his death in 1667. He was a private tutor to members of the society while at Ghent. For part of the year in 1653 he was vice rector of the college.
8. Patronage
Types: Scientist, Court Official
Clavius recognized his unique talents. (After some hesitation, I am listing this as patronage. I do not list the rest of the order's utilization of Gregory's talents.)
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
In 1630 he was offered a position by the Madrid academy but because of his poor health he declined the offer.
  1. Biographie nationale (Belgian).
  2. Looy, Herman van, "Chronologie et analyse des manuscrits mathématiques de Gregoire de Saint Vincent (1584-1667)," Archivum Historium Societatis Jesu, 49 (1980), 279-303.
  3. English translation, in Historia Mathematica, 11 (1984), 57-75. QA21.H673
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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