science 30.11.2018 17:04

NUK to display letter by top mathematician in early December

Ljubljana, 30 November - The manuscript department of the National University Library (NUK) in Ljubljana presented a newly acquired handwritten letter by the nation's top mathematician Jurij Vega (1754-1802) on Friday. The letter, acquired at an auction at Christie's in London, will go on display for the Merry Day of Culture, on Monday.

Ljubljana
Entry detail at NUK.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
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In the letter, dated to 1795, Vega writes to his publisher that he had sent them a parcel containing the continuation of the manuscript for the second volume of his Logarithmische Tafeln while marching from Mannheim during the War of the First Coalition, according to a description available on the website of Christie's.

Vega says in the letter that he is anxious to hear from the publisher that they had received the parcel.

Tomaž Pisanski of the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics said that the letter travelled to Leipzig in a turbulent time of the French Revolution and the War of the First Coalition.

Only a few days after the letter was sent, Mannheim was seized by the French. But the city was reclaimed by the Austrian forces in November 1795 thanks to two heavy mortars devised by Vega.

The mortars had a range of 3 kilometres, double the range of artillery used at the time and the innovation earned him the Order of Maria Theresa, which he received in May 1796. He also became a baron in 1800.

"Vega was at the epicentre of European and global mathematics at that time and was without a doubt the best mathematician in Austria," said Pisanski.

"He was the first modern mathematician in this region because he was the first mathematician to publish his work. He was the first person to calculate the Pi to 140 decimals, sending it to the Sankt Petersburg academy. He held the record for nearly 50 years."

He added that Vega was educated in Ljubljana and that he left all of his work to the Carniolan provincial institutions.