Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno

Many famous scientists, leaders, and thinkers have been practicing Catholics, including Blessed Francis Faa di Bruno. He is known not only for his great devotion to his faith but also to the study of mathematics. He is a great example of what people are capable of when they put their trust in God.

Francis was born in Italy in 1825 as the last of twelve children to Marchese Luigi Faà di Bruno and the Lady Carolina Sappa de' Milanesi. When Francis was born, there was a lot of anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments going around. It was a very turbulent time, which would have tested even the most fervent Catholic. However, Francis stayed true to his faith.

At first, Francis joined the Royal Army, rising through the ranks. However, he would resign to travel to Paris, where he pursued doctoral studies in mathematics and astronomy. Studying under the discoverers of Neptune, he would become a math professor at the University of Turin. Even though he was advancing his status in the scholarly realm, Francis also cared deeply about religion and asceticism. While he was pursuing his career aspects, Francis, who was friends with St. John Bosco, would establish refuges for the poor and elderly.

To further dedicate his life to religion, Francis decided to study theology, but the Archbishop would not approve of his ordination, since he was older than many of the other seminarians. It was not uncommon for younger men or boys to begin studies for the priesthood. Nevertheless, after appealing to the Pope, Francis was ordained at the age of 51.

After being ordained, Francis founded the Society of St. Zita, to provide support for maids and domestic servants, although it would eventually expand to included unmarried women. Later on in his life, he would establish another refuge, this time for prostitutes.

In mathematics, Francis's main contribution was Faà di Bruno's formula on derivatives of composite functions. He also published 40 articles in many different mathematics journals around the world.

It amazes me that one man can do so many great things. Francis definitely exemplified not only his Catholic faith, but the true essence of a Renaissance man, for he was gifted in many different areas. It just goes to show that not all great minds reject religion, but instead some of the greatest minds that have roamed this earth are the most profound examples of faith.

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