Franciscus Maurolycus


Mathematician, Astronomer, Scholar (1494 – 1575)

His surname Maurolycos (Μαυρόλυκος) means “Black Wolf” in Greek, indicating his Greek descent. His parents fled from Constantinople after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to Messina, Italy where Francesco Maurolyco was born during the dawn of the Renaissance. Maurolyco was an important representative of the scientific Renaissance who promoted mathematics and astronomy.

The first years of his career he worked as a scholar, teaching mathematics to the sons of the hegemonic family of Palermo and in the Lyceum of Messina. As professor of mathematics in the University of Messina, Maurolycus taught theory of music. Later in his life he devoted himself in writing original mathematical and astronomical treatises, the most important of which are Grammatica rudimenta, Cosmographia, Arithmetica, De Sphaera Liber Unus, De momentis aequalibus, Photismi de Lumine et Umbra, Diaphana, De conspiciliis, Opuscula Mathematica and Problemata Mechanica.

These treatises contain Maurolycus’ original works on the conic sections, the theory of numbers, numerous astronomical observations such as Maurolyco’s supernova (renamed to Tycho’s supernova), geometry and trigonometry. He studied the physics of the rainbow, optics, reflection and refraction of the light, examined the mechanical problems of Archimedes, worked on the quadratic equations and solid geometry and provided the first proof of mathematical induction.

Maurolyco worked on the restoration of ancient Greek mathematical texts. He completed the restoration of books IV and V of Apollonius’ of Perga Conics, translated into Latin the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Theodosius, Menelaus, Autolycus, Apollonius of Perga and wrote commentaries on pre-existing mathematical treatises.

Mathematics and astronomy were not his only interests. He published a collection of poems called Rime, wrote a book on the history of Sicily entitled Sicanicarum reum compendium, served as head of the mint of Messina and was appointed chief of the fortification projects of Messina. He was rightfully called “the brightest light of Sicily” by his contemporaries.


  1. “Mavrolykos, Fragiskos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1926. Print.
  2. Francesco Maurolyco. School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Web. September 9, 2016.
Franciscus Maurolycus

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