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Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli (sometimes Paciolo) (1446/7–1517) was an Italianmarker mathematician and Franciscan friar, collaborator with Leonardo da Vinci, and seminal contributor to the field now known as accounting. He was also called Luca di Borgo after his birthplace, Borgo Santo Sepolcromarker, Tuscany.


Luca Pacioli was born in 1445 in Borgo San Sepolcromarker, a small Tuscan town and belonged, being the son of Bartholomeus Pacioli, to a middle class family. His first teacher was no less a person than the painter Piero della Francesca, who, typically for ItalianHumanism, masterfully connected mathematics, science and art. In 1464 Luca Pacioli became employed as a private teacher by a rich Venetian merchant by the name of Ailtonio de Rompiasi. Together with Rompiasi's sons he attended the lectures of the mathematician Domenico Bragadino in the Scuolo di Rialto, a school of great importance for the history of Aristotelianism. Most probably he also worked as Rompiasi's bookkeeper. In 1470 Pacioli stayed in Romemarker at the house of the famous architect, philosopher and mathematician Leon Battista Alberti. This move to Rome was advised by his teacher Piero, who had worked together with Alberti in the church of Sail Francesco in Rimini during the fifties. In 1473 Pacioli became a Franciscan Minor under the name Frater Lucas de Borgo San Sepulcro.

In 1475, he started teaching in Perugia and wrote a comprehensive textbook in the vernacular for his students during 1477 and 1478. It is thought that he then started teaching university mathematics and he did so in a number of Italian universities, including Perugia, holding the first chair in mathematics in two of them. He also continued to work as a private tutor of mathematics and was, in fact, instructed to stop teaching at this level in Sansepolcro in 1491. In 1494, his first book to be printed, Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita, was published in Venice. In 1497, he accepted an invitation from Lodovico Sforza ("Il Moro") to work in Milanmarker. There he met, collaborated with, lived with, and taught mathematics to Leonardo da Vinci. In 1499, Pacioli and Leonardo were forced to flee Milan when Louis XII of France seized the city and drove their patron out. Their paths appear to have finally separated around 1506. Pacioli died aged 70 in 1517, most likely in Sansepolcro where it is thought he had spent much of his final years.


Pacioli published several works on mathematics, including:
  • Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita (Venicemarker 1494), a textbook for use in the schools of Northern Italy. It was a synthesis of the mathematical knowledge of his time and contained the first printed work on algebra written in the vernacular (i.e. the spoken language of the day). It is also notable for including the first published description of the method of bookkeeping that Venetian merchants used during the Italian Renaissance, known as the double-entry accounting system. Although Pacioli codified rather than invented this system, he is widely regarded as the "Father of Accounting". The system he published included most of the accounting cycle as we know it today. He described the use of journals and ledgers, and warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets (including receivables and inventories), liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization's balance sheet and income statement, respectively. He demonstrated year-end closing entries and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. Also, his treatise touches on a wide range of related topics from accounting ethics to cost accounting.
  • De viribus quantitatis (Ms. Università degli Studi di Bologna, 1496–1508), a treatise on mathematics and magic. Written between 1496 and 1508 it contains the first reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is the first work to note that Leonardo was left-handed. De viribus quantitatis is divided into three sections: mathematical problems, puzzles and tricks, and a collection of proverbs and verses. The book has been described as the "foundation of modern magic and numerical puzzles", but it was never published and sat in the archives of the University of Bologna, seen only by a small number of scholars since the Middle Ages. The book was rediscovered after David Singmaster, a mathematician, came across a reference to it in a 19th-century manuscript. An English translation was published for the first time in 2007.[2721]
  • Geometry (1509), a Latin translation of Euclid's Elements.
  • De divina proportione (written in Milan in 1496–98, published in Venice in 1509). Two versions of the original manuscript are extant, one in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, the other in the Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire in Geneva. The subject was mathematical and artistic proportion, especially the mathematics of the golden ratio and its application in architecture. Leonardo da Vinci drew the illustrations of the regular solids in De divina proportione while he lived with and took mathematics lessons from Pacioli. Leonardo's drawings are probably the first illustrations of skeletonic solids, which allowed an easy distinction between front and back. The work also discusses the use of perspective by painters such as Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forlì, and Marco Palmezzano. As a side note, the "M" logo used by the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New York City is taken from De divina proportione.

Translation of Piero della Francesca's work

The majority of the second volume of Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita was a slightly rewritten version of one of Piero della Francesca's works. The third volume of Pacioli's De divina proportione was an Italian translation of Piero della Francesca's Latin writings On [the] Five Regular Solids. In neither case, did Pacioli include an attribution to Piero. He was severely criticized for this and accused of plagiarism by sixteenth-century art historian and biographer Giorgio Vasari. R. Emmett Taylor (1889–1956) said that Pacioli may have had nothing to do with the translated volume De divina proportione, and that it may just have been appended to his work. However, no such defence can be presented concerning the inclusion of Piero della Francesca's material in Pacioli's Summa.


Pacioli also wrote an unpublished treatise on chess, De ludo scacchorum (On the Game of Chess). Long thought to have been lost, a surviving manuscript was rediscovered in 2006, in the 22,000-volume library of Count Guglielmo Coronini. A facsimile edition of the book was published in Pacioli's home town of Sansepolcro in 2008. Based on Leonardo da Vinci's long association with the author and his having illustrated De divina proportione, some scholars speculate that Leonardo either drew the chess problems that appear in the manuscript or at least designed the chess pieces used in the problems.


  1. Lauwers, Luc & Willekens, Marleen: "Five Hundred Years of Bookkeeping: A Portrait of Luca Pacioli" (Tijdschrift voor Economie en Management, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 1994, vol. XXXIX, issue 3, p.290)[1]
  2. The Met Store (Metropolitan Museum of Art shopping catalog), "Renaissance 'M' Bookmark" The Museum claims this origin in its descriptions of many souvenir items decorated with this logo, which it calls the "Renaissance M".
  3. Times Online: Renaissance chess master and the Da Vinci decode mystery
  4. International Herald Tribune: Experts link Leonardo da Vinci to chess puzzles in long-lost Renaissance treatise
  5. Winnipeg Free Press: Chess
  6. Experts link Leonardo da Vinci to chess puzzles


  • Pacioli, Luca. De divina proportione (English: On the Divine Proportion), Luca Paganinem de Paganinus de Brescia (Antonio Capella) 1509, Venice
  • Taylor, Emmet, R. No Royal Road: Luca Pacioli and his Times (1942)
  • Luca Pacioli: The Father of Accounting
  • Full Biography of Pacioli (St.Andrews)
  • Lucas Pacioli - Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Libellus de quinque corporibus regularibus, corredato della versione volgare di Luca Pacioli [facsimile del Codice Vat. Urb. Lat. 632]; eds. Cecil Grayson,... Marisa Dalai Emiliani, Carlo Maccagni. Firenze, Giunti, 1995. 3 vol. (68 ff., XLIV-213, XXII-223 pp.). ISBN 88-09-01020-5

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