Catholic Scientist of the Past

Bonaventura Cavalieri

August 16, 1598 to November 30, 1647

Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598 to November 30, 1647) Cavalieri was a priest of the Jesuate order (not to be confused with the Jesuits). He is a significant figure in the history of mathematics. His greatest contribution was his so-called “method of indivisibles.”  This was a technique for computing the volumes and areas of geometric figures, including ones with curved boundaries, by dividing them into infinitesimal parts, and it was an important step on the road to the discovery of calculus later by Newton and Leibniz.  Leibniz himself later wrote, “In the sublimest of geometry, the initiators and promoters, who performed a yeoman’s task, were Cavalieri and Torricelli. Later others progressed even further, using their work.”  Galileo wrote, “few, if any, have delved as far and as deep into the science of geometry as Cavalieri.”

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