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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Vieta"

Vieta, Franciscus [Astro*Index]


(1540-1603) French mathematician. Born at Fontenay-le-Comte, Poitou; died at Paris.

Educated as a lawyer, he rose to high office under Henry IV (who was initially a Protestant). When Henry converted to Catholic, Vieta made the same conversion. Working as a skilled cryptanalyst, he broke the code used by Philip II of Spain, providing France with a powerful edge during its war with Spain. Convinced that his loss of secrecy was due to the employment of sorcery by the French, Phillip II communicated his accusations of that crime to the Pope. To Vieta, mathematics was a hobby, yet he wrote a book, Isagoge in Artem Analyticam (Introduction to the Analytic Art), in which he was first to use letters to symbolize unknowns and constants in algebraic equations. For this effort he is called the father of modern algebra, notwithstanding the efforts of his predecessor, Cardano. He used the geometric method of Archimedes for computing a value of pi, using of a polygon of 393,216 sides; the value was accurate to 10 decimal places.


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine