Constantinos Sietto

Associate Professor

A tribute to Renato Caccioppoli

The Department of Mathematics and Applications of the University of Naples Federico II, is named after Renato Caccioppoli (born, 20 January 1904, Naples, Italy, died, 8 May 1959 Naples, Italy) one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century. 

He was the son of Sofia Bakunin the daughter of Michail Bakunin, thus he grew up in an environment with a strong political element.  In 1931 he was appointed to the Chair of Algebraic Analysis in Padua and returned to Naples in 1934. From then, he taught group theory until 1943 and Mathematical Analysis until his death in 1959. He has worked in many fields of mathematics, extending from group theory and the theory of varieties and manifolds to the study of dynamical systems and differential equations.

In 1935, he dealt with the question introduced in 1900 by Hilbert during the International Congress of Mathematicians, namely whether the solutions of analytical elliptic equations are analytic. Caccioppoli proved the analyticity of C^2 class solutions.

In May 1938 when Hitler was visiting Naples with Mussolini, Caccioppoli, convinced an  orchestra of a tavern in Mergellina to play La Marseillaise, and made a speech against Italian and German dictators.

He was arrested, and he should have been tried by a special political court instituted by the fascists against their opponents, but managed - with the help of his aunt Maria Bakunin who was a Professor of chemistry at the University of Naples - to be declared mad and was eventually sent to an asylum. His political opposition to fascism led him to organize a strike in Naples in 1943. During these years he joined the Italian Communist Party. He also founded a cultural association, the "Circolo del cinema", a film club. He was elected a corresponding Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei, and in 1958 a National Fellow. 

The last years of his life were sad. Caccioppoli probably he was disappointed by his political hopes, probably felt that his mathematical inspiration had run out, and his wife, Sara Mancuso, eventually left him and became more and more isolated. He shot himself on 8 May 1959.

You can find more about Renato Caccioppoli here: