Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wild and Crazy Life!

Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was quite someone who lived quite a life! Here are a few tidbits from his biography: He was the result of an abortion attempt that failed. He is one of the greatest doctors who ever lived, often mentioned with Galen and Hippocrates, but he was not allowed to teach medicine in the university because his birth was illigetimate. His father was a mathematically gifted lawyer who advised Leonardo Da Vinci. Girolamo was also extremely gifted mathematically and wrote Ars Magna (The Great Art), one of the first important works on algebra. A situation related to that publication caused him to be involved in the most famous mathematical feud in history (with Tartaglia). He was an accomplished chess play and gambler (which he was forced into to remain sovlent). He is credited with having invented the combination lock and the gimbal (a device of 3 concentric rings that allow a gyroscope to rotate freely). He accomplished all this and more although he suffered from health problems all his life due to his mother having tried to abort him. He was also severely abused as a child and did not get along well with others later in life. He is credited with first having suggest a sort of touch reading for the blind and symbols for the deaf. Leibniz said of him, "Cardano was a great man with all his faults; without them, he would have been incomparable." That is high praise, coming from an arrogant polymath who was one of the inventors of the calculus!

I have become so intrigued by this man that I have just purchased his autobiography. I haven't really begun reading it yet, but I've scanned it, and it scans a bit like a blog. Here is a section I particularly like and which seems like a blog post I would write. In fact, I think I will post something similar:


Among the things which please me greatly are stili for writing . . . . Besides these, I take great pleasure in gems, in metal bowls, in vessels of copper or silver, in painted glass globes and in rare books.

I enjoy swimming a little and fishing very much . . .

In the Italian poets, Petrarch and Luigi Pulci, I find great delight.

I prefer solitude to companions, since there are so few men who are trustworthy, and almost none who are truly learned. I do not say this because I demand scholarship in all men -- although the sum total of men's learning is small enough; but I question whether we should allow anyone to waste our time. The wasting of time is an abomination.

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