Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri
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Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri (Italian pronunciation: [dʒoˈvanni dʒiˈrɔlamo sakˈkɛri]; 5 September 1667 – 25 October 1733) was an Italian Jesuit priest, scholastic philosopher, and mathematician.
Saccheri was born in Sanremo. He entered the Jesuit order in 1685, and was ordained as a priest in 1694. He taught philosophy at Turin from 1694 to 1697, and philosophy, theology, and mathematics at Pavia from 1697 until his death. He was a protégé of the mathematician Tommaso Ceva and published several works including Quaesita geometrica (1693), Logica demonstrativa (1697), and Neostatica (1708).
He is primarily known today for his last publication, in 1733 shortly before his death. Now considered the second work in nonEuclidean geometry, Euclides ab omni naevo vindicatus (Euclid Freed of Every Flaw) languished in obscurity until it was rediscovered by Eugenio Beltrami in the mid19th century.
Many of Saccheri's ideas have a precedent in the 11th Century Persian polymath Omar Khayyám's Discussion of Difficulties in Euclid (Risâla fî sharh mâ ashkala min musâdarât Kitâb 'Uglîdis), a fact ignored in most Western sources until recently.
It is unclear whether Saccheri had access to this work in translation, or developed his ideas independently. The Saccheri quadrilateral is now sometimes referred to as the KhayyamSaccheri quadrilateral.
The intent of Saccheri's work was ostensibly to establish the validity of Euclid by means of a reductio ad absurdum proof of any alternative to Euclid's parallel postulate. To do this he assumed that the parallel postulate was false, and attempted to derive a contradiction. Since Euclid's postulate is equivalent to the statement that the sum of the internal angles of a triangle is 180°, he considered both the hypothesis that the angles add up to more or less than 180°.
The first led to the conclusion that straight lines are finite, contradicting Euclid's second postulate. So Saccheri correctly rejected it. However, today this principle is accepted as the basis of elliptic geometry, where both the second and fifth postulates are rejected.
The second possibility turned out to be harder to refute. In fact he was unable to derive a logical contradiction and instead derived many nonintuitive results; for example that triangles have a maximum finite area and that there is an absolute unit of length. He finally concluded that: "the hypothesis of the acute angle is absolutely false; because it is repugnant to the nature of straight lines". Today, his results are theorems of hyperbolic geometry.
There is some minor argument on whether Saccheri really meant this, as he published his work in the final year of his life, came extremely close to discovering nonEuclidean geometry and was a logician. Some believe Saccheri only concluded in such way in an intent to avoid criticism that might come from seemingly illogical aspects of hyperbolic geometry.
See also
 Saccheri–Legendre theorem
 Hyperbolic geometry
 Parallel postulate
 List of Jesuit scientists
 List of Roman Catholic cleric–scientists
References
 Martin Gardner, NonEuclidean Geometry, Chapter 14 of The Colossal Book of Mathematics, W. W.Norton & Company, 2001, ISBN 0393020231
 M. J. Greenberg, Euclidean and NonEuclidean Geometries: Development and History, 1st ed. 1974, 2nd ed. 1980, 3rd ed. 1993, 4th edition, W. H. Freeman, 2008.
 Girolamo Saccheri, Euclides Vindicatus (1733), edited and translated by G. B. Halsted, 1st ed. (1920);^{} 2nd ed. (1986), review by John Corcoran: Mathematical Reviews 88j:01013, 1988.
External links
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
