Dr Alessandra Petrocchi

  • Mathematical Cultures
  • Non-Western Cultures of Science
  • Oriental Studies
  • Manuscript Studies
  • Linguistics & Philology
  • Romance Studies
  • Digital Humanities

My current primary project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, examines the circulation of mathematical ideas and manuscripts during the medieval period across Asia and the Mediterranean world. This cross-linguistic study investigates the transmission of Indo-Arabic numerals from India to the West via Arabic sources and analyses a variety of mathematical works written in Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Arabic, and Italo-Romance dialects over a 600-year period. My research explores issues relating to translation, appropriation, and adaptation, and in doing so it tries to break new ground in elucidating knowledge transfer across cultures, languages, and religious communities. Recently I have started employing modern linguistic frameworks to the study of mathematical works written in Sanskrit and the early Italian vernaculars; modern Linguistics offers, for instance, a particularly fruitful terrain for analysing meta-discursive elements and how didactic language and mathematical conceptualizations have shaped syntactic structures. At present, I am involved in several publication projects exploring a wide range of topics, such as a linguistic history of vernacular arithmetic in Renaissance Italy, a comparative study of late medieval mathematical manuscript cultures, and knowledge transfer through Arabic>Latin>Old Italian translation of mathematical works. I have developed a strong interest in Digital Humanities, online exhibitions, and educational projects to engage the public in the History of Science  across cultures.

Featured Publication

Alessandra Petrocchi, The Ganitatilaka and its Commentary: Two Medieval Sanskrit Mathematical Texts (Routledge, 2019)

The Gaṇitatilaka and its Commentary: Two Medieval Sanskrit Mathematical Texts presents the first English annotated translation and analysis of the Gaṇitatilaka by Śrīpati and its Sanskrit commentary by the Jaina monk Siṃhatilakasūri (13th century CE). Siṃhatilakasūri’s commentary upon the Gaṇitatilaka is a key text for the study of Sanskrit mathematical jargon and a precious source of information on mathematical practices of medieval India; this is, in fact, the first known Sanskrit mathematical commentary written by a Jaina monk, about whom we have substantial information, to survive to the present day.

In presenting the first annotated translation of these two Sanskrit mathematical texts, this volume focusses on language in mathematics and puts forward a novel, fresh approach to Sanskrit mathematical literature which favours linguistic, literary features and textual data. This key resource makes these important texts available in English for the first time for students of Sanskrit, ancient and medieval mathematics, South Asian history, and philology.

Critically Revised Sanskrit edition with Introduction, Annotated Translation, and Explanatory Analysis.

This book provides the first English annotated translation and analysis of two medieval Sanskrit mathematical texts. The existing Sanskrit edition has also been revised.

For more information see Routledge


Chapters in Edited Volume:

  • ‘The Bhutasamkhya Notation: Numbers, Culture, and Language in Sanskrit Mathematical Literature’. In On Meaning and Mantras: Essays in Honor of Frits Staal, edited by G. Thompson and Richard K. Payne, 2016. Berkeley: Institute of Buddhist Studies and BDK America, pp. 477–502

Journal articles:

  • ‘Medieval Literature in Comparative Perspective: Language and Number in Sanskrit and Latin’. Journal of Medieval Worlds, 2019: 1 (2), pp. 57‒76
  • ‘Calendars, Rituals, and Astral Science in India: A Case Study’. Asian Literature and Translation, 2017: 4 (1), pp. 33–73
  • ‘Mercantile Arithmetic in Renaissance Italy: A Translation and Study of Selected Passages from a Vernacular Abbaco Work’. Ceræ: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 2016: 3, pp. 1-30.