1. Home
  2. /
  3. Stories
  4. /
  5. Tullio Levi Civita

Tullio Levi Civita

(Padua, 29.03.1873 – Rome, 29.12.1941)

He graduated from the University of Padua in 1894 with a dissertation entitled ‘Sugli invarianti assoluti’.
His supervisor was mathematician Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, with whom he worked over the next years to develop a new global vision of geometry: the absolute differential calculus on which the essential mathematical basis for Einstein’s theory of general relativity is based.

Levi Civita had an important exchange of correspondence on the subject with the German physicist until the entire first half of 1915. This also included the (famous) observations that the same Civita posed to Einstein with regard to the first version of general relativity.

From these letters it is clear how Levi Civita succeeded in identifying and suggesting to Einstein the correct structure of the curvature tensor to insert into the field equations of general relativity. When Einstein announced his final version, in late 1915 he wrote: “It [General Relativity] is a true triumph of the methods of absolute differential calculus founded by Gauss, Riemann, Christoffel, Ricci and Levi Civita”.

In 1898, he was appointed professor of Rational Mechanics in Padua, position he held until 1918.

He moved to Rome in the same year where he was appointed professor of higher analysis and later professor of Rational Mechanics. He held the position until 1938, when racial laws deprived him of his professorship.

Levi Civita is not only considered the worldwide mathematical disseminator of general relativity, but his contributions have also been essential for the development of Tensor Calculus and for the theory of parallel Transport which carries his name, and which would be the founding element of the modern theory of Connections. Levi Civita was also the author of a large number of scientific texts that made important contributions to the field of pure and applied mathematics, of analytical and celestial mathematics, of electromagnetism, optics and hydrodynamics.