"The Father of Accounting" and "The Unsung Hero of the Renaissance."

Friar Luca Pacioli was one of the most remarkable men of the Renaissance, but unfortunately was one of the least well known. This is surprising because his work as a master of math was revolutionary and brilliant, and is taken for granted nowadays, for it has changed the way that the world worked during his time, and affects us still to this day.

Brilliance in the Making

Luca Pacioli was born in Sansepuolcro, Tuscany around 1445. Brought into the world by a poor family, he didn't have a very bright future. Regardless, Luca became an apprentice to a local businessman after joining a Franciscan monastery in his hometown. However, there was something that he loved more, and that was mathematics. Not being able to deny what he loved most of all, he left his position as apprentice, and moved on to work as a mathematics scholar. Pacioli soon became friends with one of the greatest artists and writers of perspective, Piero della Francesca. This would develop into a valuable and meaningful friendship to both of them, but Della Francesca had much to offer Luca.

Starting Early

Together they traveled all over the Appenines, which is where Della Francesca gave Pacioli access to the Count of Urbino, a library of Frederigo. This library held four thousand books, and was something that would allow Luca to expand and deepen his knowledge of mathematics. Della Francesca would also later introduce Pacioli to his new mentor, Leon Baptist Alberti. Alberti didn't waste any time, and took Luca to Venice where he arranged for Luca to tutor the three sons of Antonio de Reimpose, an extremely rich merchant. This is where Luca would write his first manuscript about algebra, and dedicate it to the Reimpose boys. It was the year 1472, and Luca was only twenty-five years old. Alberiti proved to be another valuable resource, for he introduced Luca to Pope Paul II. This is there Luca got his first bit of advice that he would later come to follow. Pope Paul encouraged Luca to dedicate his life to God and become a monk. When Alberti died in 1472, Luca did just that, and took the vows of Franciscan Minor.

Making an Impact on Others

Luca's next job was at the University of Perugia in 1475. He would remain at the university for six years, and become the first lecturer to hold a chair in math at this school. It was here that Luca began to emphasize the importance of putting practical theory to use, and this is what set him apart from the rest of his peers. Pacioli wrote his second manuscript while at the University of Perugia and dedicated it to the "Youth of Perugia." After he left Perugia, he took to more traveling and wandered throughout Italy and some places just outside it, but was soon called back to the University of Perugia in 1486 by the Franciscans. It was at this time that he started calling himself "Magister", or master - which is what equals a full professorship of today.

Leaving a Permanent Mark

The next step in Luca's life is the only date of which it is positively certain. It was the year 1494, and Luca was forty-nine years old. It was in this year that he wrote his famous work "Summa de Arithmetica,Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita", which translates to "The Collected Knowledge of Arithmetic, Geometry, Proportion and Proportionality". Luca did this out of the belief that there was a poor teaching of mathematics during his time. There was a section of this book that would lead him to leave his mark on the way the entire world worked, and that was his section on accounting, entitled "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis". Some people would later go on to call this book "a catalyst that launched the past into the future". This is when Luca became the first person to explain the double-entry system, or the Venetian method. This was absolutely revolutionary and ahead of its time, and sealed him with the name "The Father of Accounting." The Summa had many accomplishments of its own, for it became the most widely read mathematical work in all of Italy, and was even one of the first books that were printed on the Gutenberg press.

Other Awesome Facts

From this incredible manuscript sprung instant and eternal fame. After his work was made known (which did not take long at all!), he was invited to Milan to teach mathematics at that Court of Duke Lodovico Maria Sforzo. Here, he would get a legendary pupil - Leonardo da Vinci. These two would remain together for seven years, and in this time would create two time-tested materpieces. Da Vinci used his artistic skills to illustrate Luca's "De Divina Proportione", or "Of Divine Proportions", his next and second most important manuscript. At the same time, Luca taught de Vinci perspective and proportionality. This knowledge would remain with him forever, and help him to create one of his greatest masterpieces, "The Last Supper", a mural on the north wall of the "Santa Maria de Gracia Dominican" cloister. This mural would become the most famous painting of the fifteenth century. The geometry that Pacioli taught da Vinci would remain with him as well, as can be seen from da Vinci's several mentions of Luca in his future notes.

Luca continued to be friends with da Vinci, and also teach and write. Then he published "De Devina Proportione" and also a work on Euclid in Venice during 1509. He also gave a very important speech that same year on his "Proportion and Proportionality". This lecture emphasized the relationship of proportion to religion, law, medicine, grammar, printing, architecture, sculpture, music and all liberal arts. He was then appointed director of the Franciscan monastery back in his hometown of Sansepolcro in 1510.

A Request That was Never Fulfilled

Luca would even be called on by Pope Leo III to the papacy in Rome to be a teacher there, but scholars do not know what happened to him. They are almost positive he never made it to Rome. Pacioli is believed to have died on June 19, 1517 in the Sansepulcro monastery.


  • http://members.tripod.com/~FlynF/pacioli.htm

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