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Alexander of Villedieu

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Title: Alexander of Villedieu  
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Subject: Latin mnemonics, 1175 births, 1240 deaths, List of mathematicians (A)
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Alexander of Villedieu

Alexander of Villedieu[1] was a French author, teacher and poet, who wrote text books on Latin grammar and arithmetic, everything in verse. He was born around 1175 in Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy, studied in Paris, and later taught at Dol in Brittany. His greatest fame stems from his versified Latin grammar book, the Doctrinale Puerorum. He died in 1240, or perhaps in 1250. He was a Franciscan and a Master of the University of Paris.[2]

His Doctrinale puerorum, a versified grammar, soon became a classic. It was composed around 1200, and was all written in leonine hexameters. Even after several centuries, with the advent of printing, it appeared in countless editions in Italy, Germany and France. It was based on the older works of Donatus and Priscian.

Alexander also wrote a short tract on arithmetic called Carmen de Algorismothe Poem about Arithmetic, which also reached a wide distribution.[3] A typical line from his Carmen de Algorismo, runs like this:

Extrahe radicem semper sub parte sinistra

Wherein he instructs his students: "always extract the square root by starting from the left". The poem is not very long, only a few hundred lines, and summarizes the art of calculating with the new style of Indian dice, or Talibus Indorum, as he calls the new Hindu-Arabic numerals.


  • Dietrich Reichling editor (1893), Das Doctrinale des Alexander de Villa-Dei.


  1. ^ Alexander Villedieu, Alexander de Villedieu, Alexandre de Villedieu, Alexander de Villa Dei, Alexandre de Dol, Alexander Dolensis.
  2. ^ Doctrinale puerorumExcerpt from Alexander de Villedieu's (at end)
  3. ^ While the Doctrinale was in leonine verse, the Carmen in dactylic hexameters.
    Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (Alexander de Villa Dei at end)

External links

  • Franaut entry
  • Alexander de Villa Dei - Mathematics and the Liberal Arts
  • DoctrinaleImage of 1463 printed edition of the
  • (French) Bibliographical page
  • (French) Musicological page
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