Since 1963, the national university that bears the name of our biography this week has contributed to the training of professionals in various specialties, particularly related to the world of science. Over the years it has expanded its faculties and today it ranks among one of the most prestigious public higher education institutions. When mentioning his name, we immediately recognize this house of studies, whose main premises are located in the Lima district of San Miguel. However, little is known about the life and work of this renowned character of the national intelligentsia. In this new installment of our biographical series “And who was it?” We will talk about the wise polyglot, mathematician and university professor Federico Villarreal.
Federico Villarreal was the first Peruvian who can be considered a mathematical expert. This renowned scholar of exact sciences was born in Túcume, department of Lambayeque in 1850. From an early age, Federico Villarreal showed a special interest in mathematics, an aptitude that helped him to receive the title of educator by the departmental commission of public instruction. from Trujillo when he was barely twenty years old.
Three years after being recognized as a tutor by the important Trujillo institution, Villareal's investigative nature led him to discover a method to solve Newton's binomial and raise any polynomial to any power, something that until then had not been achieved within the group of Peruvian professors specialized in mathematics.
With the thesis Formulas and methods that must be completed in pure mathematics he graduated as a Bachelor in 1879 from the Mathematical Section of the Faculty of Sciences of the National University of San Marcos . A year later he would graduate successfully sustaining the thesis Effects of refraction on the disk of the stars. Finally, in 1881 he achieved the degree of Doctor of Mathematics with the presentation of a thesis on the classification of third degree curves.
In addition to his genuine vocation for mathematics, Federico Villarreal was an exemplary citizen with great affection for his native land, as was demonstrated during the War of the Pacific in 1879. He was His intervention in the Battles of Morro de Chorrillos, San Juan and Miraflores was highlighted, where he was seriously wounded in his attempt to repel the invasion of the Chilean army that besieged the city of Lima. During the military conflict, which lasted four years and pitted Peru and Bolivia against the neighboring country to the south, Chile, Villarreal reached the rank of second lieutenant in the 18th Infantry Battalion.
At the age of 31, Villarreal, the first professional scientific mathematician in Peru, applied to the old School of Engineers, graduating as a civil engineer and later as a mining engineer. Villarreal, who in his lifetime was a person not only with excellent academic training but also with an aptitude and attitude that could well have been attributed to philosophical positivism, always looked for ways to be linked to the field of education.
The thesis on the classification of curves of third degree, served the young scholar to teach the courses of Mathematics, Astronomy and Mechanics in the Faculty of Sciences of the his alma mater. Federico Villarreal is credited with having written more than six hundred articles, all on scientific topics, oriented to their use in practice, such as the construction of bridges, railways, roads, as well as writings on sanitary engineering.
During his time as a teacher, Federico Villarreal ventured into a wide variety of fields, becoming known for his work on topics such as, for example, the volume of regular polyhedrons, methods of integration by transfers, and its explanations and calculations on the theory of bending of beams and on the resistance of columns.
Federico Villarreal's role as a historian is less well known, but in 1902 a book appeared, in two parts, on the history of Lambayeque during the time of the conquest. In the first part, Villarreal wrote about the 19 expeditions to the north coast of Peru, dealing specifically with this volume about the effective captains that made up the trips. In the second part, he deals with the arrival of the first parish priests, friars and religious, giving an equally detailed description of the members of the clergy.
Federico Villarreal was a noted polyglot who, in addition to having in-depth knowledge of several Western languages (English, French), managed to function correctly and acquired considerable linguistic competence within the universal attempt to unify languages, Esperanto. In the first decade of the last century, he contributed to editing the only magazine (named Anteneunesperantistoy) regarding Esperanto in Peru, always with the aim of disseminating knowledge to the largest possible audience.
Federico Villarreal is considered the first true Peruvian positivist scientist, a scholar who always used the scientific method in order to reach the conclusions of all the research and work that he made. On June 3, 1923, Federico Villarreal ceased to exist and with him, Peru lost a character whose life was dedicated to constant discovery and inquiry.