Tartaglia was famed for his algebraic solution of cubic equations
which was published in Cardan's Ars Magna.
Tartaglia's proper name was Niccolo Fontana although he is always
known by his nickname. When the French sacked Brescia in 1512 the
soldiers killed Tartaglia's father and left him for dead with a sabre
wound that cut his jaw and palate. The nickname Tartaglia means the
'stammerer' and one can understand why he stammered.
Tartaglia was self taught in mathematics but having an extraordinary
ability was able to earn his living teaching at Verona and Venice.
The first person known to have solved cubic equations algebraically
was del Ferro. On his deathbed del Ferro passed on the secret to his
(rather poor) student Fior. A competition to solve cubic equation was
arranged between Fior and Tartaglia. Tartaglia, by winning the
competition in 1535, is famed as the discoverer of a formula to solve
cubic equations. Because negative numbers were not used there was more
than one type of cubic equation and Tartaglia could solve all types,
Fior only one type. Tartaglia confided his solution to Cardan on
condition that it not be published. The method was, however, published
by Cardan in Ars Magna in 1545.
Tartaglia wrote Nova Scientia (1537) on the application of mathematics
to artillery fire. He described new ballistic methods and instruments,
including the first firing tables.
Tartaglia also wrote a popular arithmetic text and was the first
Italian translator and publisher of Euclid's Elements in 1543. He also
published Latin editions of Archimedes works.
Biographies of mathematicians are from the
Mathematics archive at the University of St. Andrews, and are
used with permission.