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(1 ) ICRA, International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, and Sapienza University of Rome,

P.le Aldo Moro 5 00185, Roma (Italy)

(2 ) Universite de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Laboratoire H. Fizeau, Parc Valrose, 06108, Nice

(France)

(3 ) Istituto Ricerche Solari di Locarno, via Patocchi 57 6605 Locarno Monti, (Switzerland)

(4 ) GPA, Observatorio Nacional, Rua General Cristino 77 20921-400, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Summary.

The Jesuit scientist Christopher Clavius (1538-1612) has been the most influential

teacher of the renaissance. His contributions to algebra, geometry, astronomy and

cartography are enormous. He paved the way, with his texts and his teaching for

40 years in the the Collegio Romano, to the development of these sciences and

their fruitful spread all around the World, along the commercial paths of Portugal,

which become also the missionary paths for the Jesuits. The books of Clavius were

translated into Chinese, by one of his students Matteo Ricci Li Madou (1562-

1610), and his influence for the development of science in China was crucial. The

Jesuits become skilled astronomers, cartographers and mathematicians thanks to the

example and the impulse given by Clavius. This success was possible also thanks to

the contribution of Clavius in the definition of the ratio studiorum, the program of

studies, in the Jesuit colleges, so influential for the whole history of modern Europe

and all western World.

PACS 01.65.+g History of science.

1. Introduction

The books of Clavius traveled all around the World with Jesuits in the same years

of their publication. On the marine roads toward China, the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci

from Macerata, brought the Euclides Geometry edited by Clavius, and translated it into

Chinese. Also the Clavius name become the Chinese KeLaWeiWuSi In the territories

of Brazil from 1750 to 1759 Ignazio Szentmartonyi, Croatian of Kotiri, was measuring

the limits, for the Portuguese governement.[1] Clavius wrote also a booklet Geometria

Practica with simplified concepts for China,[2] upon request of Matteo Ricci. At Collegio

Romano in Rome, Clavius taught Mathematics for more than 40 years, from 1564, raising

a school of mathematicians astronomers and cartographers spread all over the World.

For this reason he was defined as the most influential teacher of Renaissance by George

c Societa Italiana di Fisica 1

2 C. SIGISMONDI

Sarton.[3] His books on Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Harmonics and Astronomy were

used in all the European Jesuit schools. Clavius was the mathematics instructor of

Catholic Europe as well as much of Protestant Europe.

2. Algebra

Christopher Clavius published the first edition of his algebra textbook in 1608, in

Rome, by Zannetti.[4] Leibnitz wrote a letter to Bernoulli in 1703, indicating that he

learned algebra from Clavius book. As a child, I had studied the elementary algebra of

one Lancius, and later that of Clavius .

The task of algebra, solving equations, had to realize four stages: firstly, putting the

verbally formulated, word problem, into an equation; next to reduce the equation, that

is to put homogeneous terms on the same side; thirdly to divide the highest power of the

equation by its coefficient to have the unknown not affected by coefficients other than 1;

and lastly, if necessary, to extract the respective root in order to get the value for the

unknown.

This is surprisingly unsophisticated. Basically, it corresponds to what Al-Khwarizmi

had already given as the rule: al-jabr and al-muqabala are just these reduction procedures.

Clavius, hence, does not present a theoretical program for algebra: it is rather a set

of practical rules. In fact, there do not follow systematizations of types of equations

and standard procedures for their solution. The book continues to present and discuss

examples of problems. In fact, the bulk of the remainder of the volume, with its 383

pages, consists of four chapters with an immense number of problems and their solutions.

Characteristically, the titles of these three chapters begin by Aenigmata, i.e. riddles. This

recalls the style and contents of Arab treatises and Italian treatises, from Fibonacci on,

in particular of the trattati dabbaco. Problems used to be given there in a recreational

manner.[5]

Clavius calculated and published a table of sines and cosines with 7 decimal places in

his book Astrolabium. For each value of degrees and minutes, the table gives the value of

the sine and cosine with the precision of one part in ten million. Unlike other tables then

in circulation, he was very careful to avoid errors. He showed how to interpolate to get

precise values for fractions of seconds of arc. This significantly shortened computations

in astronomy and spherical geometry.

Clavius was the first to use a decimal point, some twenty years before it became

common; the first to use parentheses to collect terms; and the first to use the plus and

minus signs + and - in Italy.

Likewise, he used no sign for equality and expressed it verbally, too. For instance, for

establishing an equation, he put: aequatio sit inter 5x + 7 & 1x.

Clavius was called the Euclid of the 16th century by contemporary scientists. The

Commentary on Euclids Elements by Clavius first edited in 1574[6] was not merely

Euclids Elements of Geometry, but a careful commentary; a compendium of all the

geometry known at the time. It contained many original theorems as well as some axioms

Euclid missed. Six other editions along his life appeared: the large number of editions

which were needed to satisfy the demand for his Euclid shows the high reputation which

the work achieved (Moritz Cantor).[3] Clavius Euclid became the standard geometry

textbook for the 17th century.

CHRISTOPHER CLAVIUS ASTRONOMER AND MATHEMATICIAN 3

(Portugal)and taught Mathematics, Geometry, Astronomy and Cartography in the Collegio

Romano, in Rome (Italy) all his life.

4 C. SIGISMONDI

Fig. 2. Here the successive symbols represent the powers of x, that is, 1, x, x2 , x3 , and so on.

As the etc. (&c) at the end of the list shows, the powers could proceed without a limit. Then

(see the image on the right), he explained the meaning of these signs, beginning from N as the

unity, and continuing with the sign for res. In fact, the strange twirl, presenting x, is a ligature

of re(s). The sign for x2 represents a z in some script font, and is derived from census, the Latin

expression used for square. Eventually, he gives a list of the first twelve signs, i.e. of the first 12

powers of the variable. It is easy to see that the terminology for these algebraic entities is derived

from geometric notions: square, cube, and building higher powers from compound forms. On

the other hand, this geometric language did not keep him from constructing an unlimited series

of powers. Actually, the letters D, E, etc. used for higher powers, were no longer taken from a

geometric context.

In the same way he did with Geometry he wrote and extended Commentary[7] to the

small textbook of John Holywood (1256): the Sphaera. The first edition appeared in

1570 in Venice. The original Sphaera was merely a list of astronomical and geographical

topics, with very incomplete treatments. And Galileo Galilei reading the Commentarius

made by Clavius could say that there was a great qualitative difference between it and the

Sphaera.[8] The Commentarius was finally the first real modern textbook of Astronomy:

almost 500 pages, with complete geometrical and mathematical treatments of all topics.

Clavius showed always an acute critical faculty. There is no difficulty that he at-

tempted to evade...neither any established authority (like Ptolemy or Kepler) which

cannot be discussed. The case of the annular eclipse of 9 April 1567, observed from

Rome and reported in the 1581 edition of the Commentarius, is remarkable. Accord-

ing to Ptolemys Almagest an annular eclipse was impossible, but Clavius assessed his

observation as of an annular eclipse, reporting this phenomenon for the first time in a

scientific publication. Kepler believed that the Moon could have an atmosphere, for this

reason send two persons to ask Clavius about the nature of that eclipse. One of them was

Fig. 3. In Geometria Practica Clavius stated and showed how to solve dozens of problems,

such as: Problem 20 (p. 214): To calculate the size of the Earth (its radius BF=DF=CF, in the

figure above) from observations at the peak (A) of a mountain whose height (AB) is known.

CHRISTOPHER CLAVIUS ASTRONOMER AND MATHEMATICIAN 5

Fig. 4. The eclipse of 1567 in a photocomposition. The appearance of a ring it is due to the

solar mesosphere, where thousands of tiny emission light yield an appearance of white light.[9]

Johannes Remus. Clavius always said that the 1567 eclipse was annular. Nowadays we

know that it was hybrid, and a long debate was held between J. Eddy and Stephenson,

Jones and Morrison on the possible change in solar diameter from 1567, at the end of

Sporer Grand Minimum, and today.[10, 11]

Another monumental opera was the apology of Gregorian Calendar,[12] where he

exemplified all consequences of the reformation of the calendar issued in 1582. Clavius

wrote also the Astrolabium,[13] and fundamental texts on sundials.[14, 15]

To him is dedicated a crater on the Moon, in the Selenography made by Giovanni

Battista Riccioli and Francesco Grimaldi in the Almagestum Novum of 1655. The crater

is the bigger in the lunar sector dedicated to Ptolemaic astronomers, and Clavius was

indeed the greatest among them.

Fig. 5. The horologium of Clavius at Collegio Romano. It works with Italic hours, i.e. sunset

corresponds to the 24th hour.

6 C. SIGISMONDI

REFERENCES

[1] Leite S., Historia da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil, Lisboa - Rio de Janeiro, 10 volumes,

1938-1950.

[2] Clavius C., Geometria Practica, Rome, 1604.

[3] Schweitzer P., Contributions of Christopher Clavius S.J. to Mathematics, Gerbertus, 2

(2012) in press.

[4] Clavius C., Algebra, Geneva, 1609.

[5] Schubring G., The Book Algebra of Christopher Clavius S.J., Gerbertus, 2 (2012) in

press.

[6] Clavius C., Euclidis Elementorum Libri XV, Venice, 1574.

[7] Clavius C., In sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco Commentarius, Venice, 1581.

[8] Sigismondi C., La Sfera da Gerberto al Sacrobosco, APRA Rome, 2008.

[9] Sigismondi, C., A. Raponi, C. Bazin and R. Nugent, arXiv:1106.2197, ( (2) 011).

[10] Eddy, J., A. A. Boornazian, C. Clavius, I. I. Shapiro, L. V. Morrison and S.

Sofia, Sky & Telescope 60, 10 (1980).

[11] Stephenson, F. R., J. E. Jones and L. V. Morrison, Astron. & Astrophys., 322 (3)

47 (1997).

[12] Clavius C., Romani calendarii a Gregorio XIII restituti explicatio, Rome, 1603.

[13] Clavius C., Astrolabium, Rome, 1593.

[14] Clavius C., Gnomonices Libri Octo, Rome, 1581.

[15] Clavius C., Horologiorum nova descriptio, Rome, 1599.

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