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Enrico D'Ovidio

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11 Aug 1842

Campobasso, Italy

21 March 1933

Turin, Italy

Enrico D'Ovidio studied in Naples, southwest of his home town of Campobasso, where he prepared to enter the School of Bridges and Roads. He studied there for a time and attended lectures by Battaglini and Fergola whose influence made D'Ovidio become interested in an academic career.

Already at this time D'Ovidio was beginning original research in mathematics although he had not taken a standard university course. He wrote some short articles on determinants and conics and these were published in the early volumes of Battaglini 's new journal Giornale di Matematiche which was founded in 1863.

D'Ovidio began school teaching but was granted an honorary degree in mathematics by the University of Naples despite never having taken a degree course. He sat no written examination papers for this degree since it was felt that he had already proved his mathematical abilities.

In 1869 D'Ovidio published a geometry text for schools and then, in 1872, Beltrami persuaded him to enter the competition for the Chair of Algebra and Analytic Geometry at the University of Turin. D'Ovidio was reluctant to leave the Naples area of Italy where he was close to his family but he decided to enter the competition and he was offered the post.

D'Ovidio was to work for 46 years in the University of Turin. He was chairman of the Faculty of Science in 1879-80 and rector of the University between 1880 and 1885. Another spell as chairman of the Faculty of Science between 1893 and 1907 ended when he was appointed Commissioner of the Polytechnic of Turin.

Euclidean and noneuclidean geometry were the areas of special interest to D'Ovidio. He built on the geometric ideas which had been introduced by Lobachevsky , Bolyai , Riemann and Cayley . D'Ovidio's most important work is probably his paper of 1877 The fundamental metric functions in spaces of arbitrarily many dimensions with constant curvature.

D'Ovidio also worked on binary forms, conics and quadrics . He had two famous assistants, Peano (1880-83) and Corrado Segre (1883-84). D'Ovidio and Corrado Segre built an important school of geometry at Turin.

Many honours came D'Ovidio's way. He was elected to the Academy of Sciences of Turin in 1878 and to the Accademia dei Lincei from 1883. Kennedy writes in :

He was named a senator in March 1905, but there were rumours that this was due to a mix-up and that the nomination was intended for his brother Francesco, the noted philologist, who was in fact named a senator a few months later.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland