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The real Da Vinci Code



The real Da Vinci Code

Lecture by Italian mathematician and essayist Piergiorgio Odifreddi

The Embassy of Italy in Wellington, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney, is pleased to present a series of lectures by the Italian renowned mathematician, logician, essayist and devotee of the history of science Piergiorgio Odifreddi. On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death, the lectures in Auckland and Wellington will explore the theme of “The real Da Vinci Code”.

"The Da Vinci Code" is just the last chapter of the secular path which led to the association of the figure of Leonardo to words like ‘genius’, ‘superlative intellect’ and ‘visionary’: a journey celebrated around the world this year on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death. In an interesting lecture, Odifreddi will explain how Da Vinci was a great artist, however a mediocre scientist and a bad mathematician. While his artistic masterpieces such as The Last Supper and The Adoration of the Magi reveal an excellent knowledge of the perspective techniques, totally innovative for his time, his codes, on the other side, appearing on a multitude of sketches of machines which are often impossible to build and, only in some rare cases, they can be interpreted, with the benefit of hindsight, as prefiguration of modern technologies Leonardo was more at ease with brushes than with numbers. However, one of those chances in life led him to meet and become good friend with mathematician Luca Pacioli, who wrote a treaty on “The divine proportion” at the end of the 15th century and asked Da Vinci to illustrate it. Leonardo as a result produced sixty drawings of solids shapes, more or less regular, in different contexts: full or skeletal, whole or truncated, normal or star-shaped. These sketches remain a unique contribution to the connection between mathematics and art, and have inspired many contemporary and later painters, from Dürer to Dali. We can find the same effect in Leonardo’s renowned drawing of the Vitruvian Man, which links the proportions of the human figure to the circle and the square, which symbolize respectively Heaven and Earth.

odifreddi genova2006Born in Cuneo in 1950, Piergiorgio Odifreddi is an Italian mathematician and logician, extremely active also as a popular science writer and essayist. Odifreddi received his Laurea cum laude in mathematics in Turin in 1973; he then specialized in the United States, at the University of Illinois and UCLA, and in the Soviet Union, at Novosibirsk State University. He taught Logic at the University of Turin and Cornell University. In 2011 he won the Galileo Award for Science Dissemination. Odifreddi’s main field of research is computability theory, a branch of mathematical logic that studies the class of functions that can be calculated automatically. He is a regular contributor to Italian science magazine Le Scienze and has also written for several general-interest newspapers such as La Repubblica, La Stampa and L'Espresso. Italian public television station RAI has hosted many of his discussions on various scientific topics. His most influential and popular books are Le menzogne di Ulisse (Ulysses' Lies, 2004), C’è spazio per tutti (There’s room for everyone, 2010) and Il museo dei numeri (The museum of numbers, 2013). He is the author of many controversial best-sellers such as Il Vangelo secondo la Scienza (The Gospel According to Science, 1999), Il matematico impertinente (The Impertinent Mathematician, 2005), Perché non possiamo essere cristiani (Why we cannot be Christians, 2007), Il dizionario della stupidità (The dictionary of Stupidity, 2016) and La democrazia non esiste (Democracy does not exist, 2018). After writing an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 and receiving a public response in 2013, Odifreddi published Caro papa teologo, caro matematico ateo (Dear Pope I’m writing to you, 2013). His latest works are Il Dio della logica. Vita di Kurt Gödel (The God of logic. Kurt Gödel’s life 2018) and Il cinico e il sognatore (The cynic and the dreamer, 2019), written with Oscar Farinetti.

University of Auckland
Tuesday, 29 October 2019, 6.00-7.30 pm

Free entry. Booking essential:

University of Wellington
Wednesday, 30 October 2019, 6.00–7:30 pm

Free entry. Booking essential:


Date: Da Tuesday, October 29, 2019 a Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Time: From 6:00 pm To 7:30 pm

Organized by : Ambasciate di Auckland e Wellington

In collaboration with : Istituto Italiano di Cultura

Entrance : Free


Università di Auckland e Università di Wellington