Luca Pacioli

Last updated
Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli
Portrait of Luca Pacioli , traditionally attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495 (attribution controversial). [1]
Bornc. 1447 [2]
DiedJune 19, 1517(1517-06-19) (aged 69–70)
Sansepolcro, Republic of Florence
OccupationFriar, mathematician, writer
Known for Summa de arithmetica ,
Divina proportione ,
double-entry bookkeeping

Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli (sometimes Paccioli or Paciolo; c. 1447 19 June 1517) [3] was an Italian mathematician, Franciscan friar, collaborator with Leonardo da Vinci, and an early contributor to the field now known as accounting. He is referred to as "The Father of Accounting and Bookkeeping" in Europe and he was the first person to publish a work on the double-entry system of book-keeping on the continent. [4] He was also called Luca di Borgo after his birthplace, Borgo Sansepolcro, Tuscany.



A woodcut of Pacioli which appears throughout the Summa de arithmetica Luca Pacioli in the Summa.jpg
A woodcut of Pacioli which appears throughout the Summa de arithmetica

Luca Pacioli was born between 1446 and 1448 in the Tuscan town of Sansepolcro where he received an abbaco education. This was education in the vernacular (i.e., the local tongue) rather than Latin and focused on the knowledge required of merchants. His father was Bartolomeo Pacioli; however, Luca Pacioli was said to have lived with the Befolci family as a child in his birth town Sansepolcro. [6] He moved to Venice around 1464, where he continued his own education while working as a tutor to the three sons of a merchant. It was during this period that he wrote his first book, a treatise on arithmetic for the boys he was tutoring. Between 1472 and 1475, he became a Franciscan friar. [6] Thus, he could be referred to as Fra ('Friar') Luca.

In 1475, he started teaching in Perugia, first as a private teacher, from 1477 holding the first chair in mathematics. He wrote a comprehensive textbook in the vernacular for his students. He continued to work as a private tutor of mathematics and was instructed to stop teaching at this level in Sansepolcro in 1491. In 1494, his first book, Summa de arithmetica, geometria, Proportioni et proportionalita , was published in Venice. In 1497, he accepted an invitation from Duke Ludovico Sforza to work in Milan. There he met, taught mathematics to, collaborated, and lived with Leonardo da Vinci. In 1499, Pacioli and Leonardo were forced to flee Milan when Louis XII of France seized the city and drove out their patron. Their paths appear to have finally separated around 1506. Pacioli died at about the age of 70 on 19 June 1517, most likely in Sansepolcro where it is thought that he had spent much of his final years. [6]


The first printed illustration of a rhombicuboctahedron, by Leonardo da Vinci, published in Divina proportione De divina proportione - Vigintisex Basium Planum Vacuum.jpg
The first printed illustration of a rhombicuboctahedron, by Leonardo da Vinci, published in Divina proportione
Woodcut illustrating the proportions of the human face from the second part of Divina proportione, which covers the Vitruvian system Pacioli De Divina Proportione Head Equilateral Triangle 1509.jpg
Woodcut illustrating the proportions of the human face from the second part of Divina proportione, which covers the Vitruvian system

Pacioli published several works on mathematics, including:

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 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 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.

Impact on accounting and business

Pacioli dramatically affected the practice of accounting by describing the double-entry accounting method used in parts of Italy. This revolutionized how businesses oversaw their operations, enabling improved efficiency and profitability. The Summa's section on accounting was used internationally as an accounting textbook up to the mid-16th century. The essentials of double-entry accounting have for the most part remain unchanged for over 500 years. "Accounting practitioners in public accounting, industry, and not-for-profit organizations, as well as investors, lending institutions, business firms, and all other users for financial information are indebted to Luca Pacioli for his monumental role in the development of accounting." [11]

The ICAEW Library’s rare book collection at Chartered Accountants' Hall holds the complete published works of Luca Pacioli. Sections of two of Pacioli's books, 'Summa de arithmetica' and 'Divina proportione' can be viewed online using Turning the Pages, an interactive tool developed by the British Library [12] .


Luca Pacioli also wrote an unpublished treatise on chess, De ludo scachorum (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 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. [13] [14] [15] [16]

See also


  1. "THE ENIGMA OF LUCA PACIOLI'S PORTRAIT". RitrattoPacioli. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  2. Di Teodoro, Francesco Paolo (2014). "PACIOLI, Luca". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). 80. Treccani. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  3. Profile of Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli
  4. Diwan, Jaswith. Accounting Concepts & Theories. London: Morre. pp. 001–002. id# 94452.
  5. MacKinnon, Nick (1993). "The Portrait of Fra Luca Pacioli". The Mathematical Gazette . 77 (479): 132, 160. doi:10.2307/3619717.
  6. 1 2 3 "Pacioli biography". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  7. Heeffer, 2010
  8. A Napierian logarithm before Napier, John J O'Connor and Edmund F Robertson
  9. McDonald, Lucy (10 April 2007). "And that's renaissance magic ..." The Guardian . Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  10. 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".
  11. Smith, Murphy (2018). "Luca Pacioli: The Father of Accounting". Rochester, NY. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2320658.
  12. "Turning the Pages: ICAEW's collection of rare books". ICAEW. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. Times Online: Renaissance chess master and the Da Vinci decode mystery
  14. International Herald Tribune: Experts link Leonardo da Vinci to chess puzzles in long-lost Renaissance treatise
  15. Winnipeg Free Press: Chess
  16. Experts link Leonardo da Vinci to chess puzzles