Girolamo Cardano, Italian astrologer and mathematician, 16th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was a mathematician, astrologer and physician. What is known as 'Cardan's formula' for solving cubic and quartic equations may actually have been devised by Scipione da Ferro, or by Niccolo Tartaglia who accused Cardano of plagiarism. Cardano cast Edward VI's horoscope and was imprisoned for heresy by the Inquisition. He recanted and was given a pension by Pope Pius V. Cardano wrote prolifically on philosophy, music, medicine and astronomy as well as mathematics, physics and astrology. His most famous work was 'Ars Magna' in which he published the controversial formula. He also wrote 'De propria vita', a candid autobiography, and died shortly after finishing it.