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Francisco de Melo

Francisco de Melo (ca. 1490-1536) was a Portuguese scholar of the first half of the sixteenth century, well known for his multiple contributions in science, diplomacy and university administration. During his studies in Paris he prepared mathematical works to be offered to the Portuguese King, Manuel I. It was known since the beginning of the XIXth century that a copy of Francisco de Melo's mathematical works was at the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, in Lisbon. It was obvious, however, that this manuscript (BNP, Cod. 2262, nowadays fully digitized) was a later copy and not the original one, offered to the King.
But where could the original be?
Around the year 2002 I got interested in this manuscript and was able to uncover some of its mystery. In a note I handed to the National Library, I stated that the original was very likely "somewhere in Sweden". And I forgot about it.

A few years afterwards I teamed up with Bernardo Mota, a brilliant young scholar, former PhD student of mine and now a co-worker. We decided it  would be a good project to transcribe, translate and annotate Melo's mathematical works. We prepared to this task by studying in detail the sixteenth century literature on optics and Bernardo started transcribing the text, from the Lisbon copy. But events soon took a surprising turn.

In early March 2012 I got a phone call from the Biblioteca Nacional informing me that someone in Germany had found an important Portuguese mathematical manuscript. Was I interested in looking into this matter? I most surely was. When they send me more information it was immediately obvious that what been found in Germany was Melo's original manuscript. The person who noticed the manuscript and realized how important it was, and got in contact with the National Library was Dr. Jürgen Geiss, a manuscript expert at the Staatsbibliothek Berlin. Jürgen has always been extremely helpful and we owe him a great deal.

Newspaper Público (Nicolau Ferreira, Descoberto códice português do século XVI, 20 May 2012) gave attention to this matter.
Here's a picture of Bernardo (right) and me, with the Lisbon copy in between.

Recently Bernardo and I started a project, financially supported by FCT, to completely transcribe, translate and analyze Melo's works -- Bernardo is the PI, leading the work. We now have an Internet site - Francisco de Melo and the Euclidean Tradition in Portugal - where we collect information about this topic and give some news about our progress.


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