The story of how Italian Renaissance mathematicians solved cubic equations has elements of skullduggery and intrigue. The method originally found by Scipione del Ferro and independently by Tartaglia, was published by Girolamo Cardano in 1545 in his book *Ars Magna*. The method, often called Cardano’s method, gives the solution of a depressed cubic equation *t*^{3}* + p t + q = *0. The general cubic equation can be reduced to this form by a simple linear transformation of the dependent variable. The solution is given by

Cardano assumed that the discriminant Δ = ( *q */ 2 )^{2} + ( *p */ 3 )^{3}, the quantity appearing under the square-root sign, was positive.

Raphael Bombelli made the psychedelic leap that Cardano could not make. He realised that Cardano’s formula would still give a solution when the discriminant was negative, provided that the square roots of negative quantities were manipulated in the correct manner. He was thus the first to properly handle complex numbers and apply them with effect.

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