18th century military engineers applied mathematical knowledge to the construction of horseshoe-shaped fortresses

Share this information

Josep Lluís i Ginovart presented his study on this topic at the International Congress ICOFORT in Cartagena 

18th century military engineers applied mathematical knowledge to the construction of horseshoe-shaped fortresses
Geometrical drawing of the Sant Jordi Castle, in Ametlla de Mar

18th century Spanish military engineers built a series of horseshoe-shaped fortifications, based on the mathematical knowledge of the Royal Corps of Military Engineers (1711) and the Barcelona Academy of Mathematics (1720), institutions created by King Philip V and that entailed the introduction of enlightened thought in Spain. These are the findings of the study "Background, layout and design of the non-polygonal fortification in Spanish military defence”, undertaken by the Director of UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, Josep Lluís i Ginovart, together with the student Cinta Lluís i Teruel. The conclusions of the study were presented at the International Congress of the International Scientific Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage (ICOFORT), held in Cartagena on 23-26 October. 

"Based on their knowledge of arithmetic and geometry, the engineers of the era constructed a series of batteries in the shape of a horseshoe to serve as a powder artillery platform. The dissemination of the ellipse layout, using the rope method and the oval method, in the military architecture treaties at the end of the 16th century, pose the debate regarding the scale of these fortifications," explains Josep Lluís i Ginovart. "The research concludes that, in this case, the classic discussion of the ellipsis et ovum is purely linguistic from the point of view of applied mathematics, since the geometric approaches to these fortifications show that the difference at this scale of construction is negligible,” he concludes.

ICOFORT is supported by the Friends of Montjuic Castle Association and the Spanish Ministry of Defence. This international academic conference is aimed at promoting the dissemination of knowledge of the Spanish military heritage of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Josep Lluís i Ginovart is a member, in addition, of the International Committee International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which, through the UNESCO, is currently writing the ICOFORT Charter on Fortifications and Linked Heritage: Guidelines for protection, conservation and interpretation