(b. Rome, Italy, 10 May 1821; d. Rome, 13 Apirl 1894)
history of mathematics, history of physics.
The son of Luigi Boncompagni, prince of Piombino, and of Maria Maddalena Odelscalchi, Baldassarre was a student of Barnaba Tortolini, the noted mathematician. In 1843 Crelle’s Journal published the results of mathematical analyses obtained by Boncompagni, who afterward concentrated mainly on the history of mathematics and of physics. His works in this field include one on the development of the study of physics in Italy during the sixteenth and seven teenth centuries, as well as Publications concerning Guido Bonatti, Plato90 of Tivoli, Gerard of Cremona, and Gerad of Sabbionetta.
From these studies, Boncompagni was led to examine the works of Leonardo Fibonacci, about whom little was known at that time. By means of numerous accurate works, he made known Fibonacci’s importance in the history of mathematics, illustrating his life and works in the accurate edition of the Scritti di Leonardo Pisano (1857–1862).
In order to meet the requirements of his scientific publications, Boncompagni established his own printing plant, called “delle Science matematiche e fisiche.” For forty years he assumed full financial responsibility for the entire cost of its operation, freely granting to other scientists the privilege of using its facilities. The plant published important documents on the history of science, such as the papers on challenging mathematics between Ferrari and Tartaglia and the unpublished letters of Lagrange and gauss, in order to have a specialized journal for his favorite studies, in 1868 Boncompagni undertook the publication of Bullettino di bibliografia e di storia delle scienz matematiche e fisiche. Known as Bullettino Boncompagni, it ceased publication in 1887.
Boncompagni was among the first thirty members of the Pontifical Academy of the New Lincei, which was founded in 1847 by pope Pius IX, who desired to reactivitate the academy founded by Federico Cesi, of which Galileo had also been a member. He published the transactions of the Academy, from volume XXIV to volume XLVII, at his own expense. He was faithful to it even after the Italian government established the Lincei Academy. Boncompagni came to the assistance of needy scholars and students, assigning them to well-paying tasks in transcription and in translation, thus leaving behind him the memory of an enlightened and generous patronage.
I. Orginal Works. There are 209 works listed in “Catalogo degli scritti del Principl D. Baldassarre Boncompagni,” I. Galli, ed., in Atti dell ’Academia Pontificia dei nuvi Lincei,47 (1893–1894), 171–186. Among these works are “Recherches sur les intérgrales défines” in Crelle—s Journal, 25 (1843); “Studi intorno ad alcuni avanzamenti della fisica in Italia nei secoli XVI e XVII,” in Giornale Arcadico di scienze, lettere ed arti (1846); “Della vita e delle opere di Gudo Bonatti astrolgo ed astronomo del secolo decimo terzo,” ibid (1851);“Delle versioni fatte da Platone Tiburtiono tradttore del secolo duodecimo” in Atti dell’ Accademia pontificia dei nuovi Lincei4 (1850–1851), 247–286; “Della vita e delle opere di Gherasdo da Sabbionetta Astronomy del secolo decimoterzo” ibid., 387–493; and Saggio introno ad alcune opere di Leonardo Piano (Rome, 1854).
II. Secondary Literature. Works on Boncompagni are M. S. De Rossi, “Commemorazione del socio ordnario Principle D. Baldassarre Boncompagni,” in Atti dell’ Accademia Pontidficia dei nuovi Lincei, 47 (1893–1894), 131–134; A. Favaro, “Don Baldassarre Boncompagni e lastoria delle Scienze Matematiche e Fisiche” in Atti del R. Istituto veneto di scienze lettere ed arti, 7th., ser 6 (1894–1895), 509–521; and I. Galli, “Elogio del Principe Don Baldassarre Boncompagni” in Atti dell’ Academia Pontificia dei nuovi Lincei, 47 (1893–1894)161–170.