Birth date: 
Birth place: 
Date of death: 
Place of death: 
3 May 1860 
Ancona, Papal States (now Italy) 
11 Oct 1940 
Rome, Italy 
Vito Volterra's interest in mathematics started at the age of 11 when he began to study Legendre 's Geometry. At the age of 13 he began to study the Three Body Problem and made some progress by partitioning the time into small intervals over which he could consider the force constant. His family were extremely poor (his father had died when Vito was two years old) but after attending lectures at Florence he was able to proceed to Pisa in 1878. At Pisa he studied under Betti , graduating Doctor of Physics in 1882. His thesis on hydrodynamics included some results of Stokes , discovered later but independently by Volterra. He became Professor of Mechanics at Pisa in 1883 and, after Betti 's death, he occupied the Chair of Mathematical Physics. After being appointed to the Chair of Mechanics at Turin he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematical Physics at Rome in 1900. Volterra conceived the idea of a theory of functions which depend on a continuous set of values of another function in 1883. Hadamard was later to introduce the word 'functional' which replaced Volterra's original terminology. In 1890 Volterra showed by means of his functional calculus that the theory of Hamilton and Jacobi for the integration of the differential equations of dynamics could be extended to other problems of mathematical physics. During the years 1892 to 1894 Volterra published papers on partial differential equations , particularly the equation of cylindrical waves. His most famous work was done on integral equations . He began this study in 1884 and in 1896 he published papers on what is now called 'an integral equation of Volterra type'. He continued to study functional analysis applications to integral equations producing a large number of papers on composition and permutable functions. During the First World War Volterra joined the Air Force. He made many journeys to France and England to promote scientific collaboration. After the War he returned to the University of Rome and his interests moved to mathematical biology. He studied the Verhulst equation and the logistic curve. He also wrote on predatorprey equations. In 1922 Fascism siezed Italy and Volterra fought against it in the Italian Parliament. However by 1930 the Parliament was abolished and when Volterra refused to take an oath of allegience to the Fascist Government in 1931 he was forced to leave the University of Rome. From the following year he lived mostly abroad, mainly in Paris but also Spain and other countries. Volterra was offered an honorary degree by the University of St Andrews in 1938 but his doctor did not allow him to travel to Scotland to receive it.
Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland
