Michael Stifel

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Michael Stifel's Arithmetica Integra (1544), p. 225.

Michael Stifel or Styfel (1487 – April 19, 1567) was a German monk and mathematician. He was an Augustinian who became an early supporter of Martin Luther. He was later appointed professor of mathematics at Jena University.


Stifel was born in Esslingen am Neckar. He joined the Order of Saint Augustine and was ordained a priest in 1511. Tensions in the abbey grew after he published the poem Von der Christförmigen, rechtgegründeten leer Doctoris Martini Luthers (1522, i.e. On the Christian, righteous doctrine of Doctor Martin Luther) and came into conflict with Thomas Murner. Stifel then left for Frankfurt, and soon went to Mansfeld, where he began his mathematical studies. In 1524 upon a recommendation by Luther Stifel was called to the Tollet Palace in Tollet. Stifel returned to Wittenberg in 1527 and then married and became minister in Lochau, where George Spalatin frequently resided. Stifel married the widow of his predecessor in the ministry. The tranquil life in Lochau again led him to mathematical studies and he performed, what he called "Wortrechnung" (i.e. word-calculation), studying the statistical properties of letters and words in the bible. In 1532 Stifel published anonymously his "Ein Rechenbuchlin vom EndChrist. Apocalyps in Apocalypsim" (A Book of Arithmetic about the AntiChrist. A Revelation in the Revelation). This predicted that Judgement Day the world would end at 8am on October 19, 1533. The German saying "to talk a Stiefel" or "to calculate a Stiefel" (Stiefel is the German word for boot) meaning to say or calculate nonsense can be traced back to this incident.[1] When this prediction failed, he did not make any other predictions.

Instead in 1541 he started studying mathematics at the University of Wittenberg.


Stifel's most important work Arithmetica integra (1544) contained important innovations in mathematical notation. It has the first use of multiplication by juxtaposition (with no symbol between the terms) in Europe. He is the first to use the term "exponent" and also included the following rules for calculating powers: and . The book contains a table of integers and powers of 2 that some have considered to be an early version of a logarithmic table.[2][3] Further topics dealt with in the Arithmetica integra are negative numbers (which Stifel calls numeri absurdi) and sequences.


  1. Stiefel (einen Stiefel reden / schreiben) Retrieved 01/11/2012
  2. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  3. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}


  • Stifel, Michael (1544). "Arithmetica integra".
  • Anon. (Stifel, Michael) (1532). "Ein Rechenbuchlin vom EndChrist. Apocalyps in Apocalypsim" (A Book of Arithmetic about the AntiChrist. A Revelation in the Revelation).
  • Koetsier, Teun and Karin Reich (2005). Michael Stifel and his numerology. pp. 291–310 in Koetsier and Bergmans (2005).
  • Koetsier, Teun and Luc Bergmans (2005). Mathematics and the Divine: A Historical Study. Elsevier.

External links

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