Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480 - 524)

Boethius is not a great mathematician, and yet despite this mathematics could not have developed in the way that it did without his decisive input.

Whether by accident or design, his contribution to the development of mathematics in Europe is crucial.

Boethius was born into a great Roman family and despite being orphaned he was well educated and grew up fluent in Greek.

He may even have travelled to Athens or Alexandria and became one of the most educated men in Rome.

The Empire had fallen and Rome was ruled by the Ostrogoth, Theodoric. Boethius went to work for him, ending up as the head of his government.

Even with this demanding position, he still found time to use his language skills to translate many Greek works into Latin.

He concentrated on the works of Plato and Aristotle but also contributed two mathematical books, one of which based was on geometry and is now lost.

His other work, Arithmetic, was not an outstanding, nor original, mathematical work. It provided an abridgement of Nicomachus’ work, parts of Euclid’s Elements and some work derived from Ptolemy’s Almagest.

But it served as the basis for the mathematics taught in monastic schools for the millennia to come.

It also ensured that mathematics was not totally forgotten as a subject in Europe and introduced medieval scholars to concepts such as Pythagorean number theory which would otherwise have been unknown.

Living during what is known as the dark ages of Europe, Boethius provides a link between the ancient world and the medieval world.

He fell out with Theodoric, perhaps over religion and was sentenced to death. While awaiting execution he wrote the Consolation of Philosophy a key medieval text before being executed in 526.