Cardan is famed for his work The Great Art which was the first Latin
treatise devoted solely to algebra.
Cardan studied at Pavia and Padua receiving a doctorate in medicine in
1525. He was professor of mathematics at Milan, Pavia and Bologna
leaving each after some scandal.
Cardan lectured and wrote on mathematics, medicine, astronomy,
astrology, alchemy, and physics. In fact his fame as a doctor was such
that the Archbishop of St Andrews, on suffering as he thought from
consumption, sent for Cardan. Cardan is reported to have visited
Scotland to treat the Archbishop who was not suffering from
consumption and made a complete recovery.
He is famed for his work Ars Magna which was the first Latin treatise
devoted solely to algebra. This book made known the solution of the
cubic by radicals and the solution of the quartic by radicals. These
were proved by Tartaglia and Ferrari respectively. Ferrari was in fact
a pupil of Cardan's.
In Ars Magna appears the first computation with complex numbers
although Cardan did not properly understand it.
Cardan's Liber de ludo aleae in 1563 was the first study of the theory
of probability. De vita propria liber in 1575 is Cardan's
autobiography. It is one of the first modern psychological
Cardan was eventually forbidden to lecture or publish books. In 1570
he was imprisoned on a charge of having cast the horoscope of Christ.
In 1571 Pope Pius V granted him an annuity for life and he settled in
Rome and became astrologer to the papal court.
Cardan is reported to have correctly predicted the exact date of his
own death. He achieved this by committing suicide.
Biographies of mathematicians are from the
Mathematics archive at the University of St. Andrews, and are
used with permission.