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Famous Women Mathematicians Whom We Can Never Forget

Famous Women Mathematicians
The field of mathematics has seen some really outstanding woman power. There are numerous women geniuses who have made their mark in this very intellectual field.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.― Hypatia
Whenever we take the past into consideration, we assume that women always took a backseat when it came to intellectual subjects, and that it was men who pursued them and in turn imparted them to the rest of the society.
However, there indeed were women who made their mark in the fields of intellect, and set a standard for the future generations to attain. Hence, we were extremely pleased to come across a list of amazing women who pursued mathematics, science, and philosophy back in the olden days. Though this list certainly isn't exhaustive, we have tried to name and present some of the greatest female mathematicians in the world.
Hypatia
Hypatia portrait
Hypatia is believed to be the first woman mathematician whose contribution to the field is immensely significant.
She was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around 350 CE and was a recognized scholar. Besides being a mathematician, she was also an astronomer and philosopher, and was believed to impart the theories of Plato and Aristotle to students.
Hypatia died a tragic death in 415 CE when she was brutally murdered by a fanatic Christian mob who was convinced that she was a threat to their religion.
Hypatia's immortal contributions to the mathematical world, paved the way for inexhaustible research on many topics. Her major works are believed to be as follows:
  • A commentary on the 13th volume of the famous Greek mathematics text-book, 'Artihmetica'.
  • She edited Ptolemy's famous version of the 'Almagest'.
  • She edited her father's commentary on 'Euclid's Elements'.
  • A commentary on a famous work on Conics by Apollonius.
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
A child prodigy, an Italian linguist, and a math wizard, Maria was a multi-dimensional talent. Born in a wealthy family in 1718, she was the eldest child of her parents, out of the 21 children that her father had with his three wives.
She had a command over several languages by the time she turned 10, and mastered math in her teenage years. She was barely 10 when she delivered a speech in Latin about women's right to be educated to the intellectuals of the time.
Maria Agnesi was very shy in nature and never married. She became an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna in Italy.
  • She wrote the first book introducing integral and differential calculus.
  • She also wrote Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventu italiana―a masterpiece regarded as the best extension to Euler's work.
  • She determined the equation of a peculiar curve, which came to be known as the 'Witch of Agnesi'.
Sophie Germain
Sophie was born in a wealthy upper class French family, in 1776―the year of the American Revolution. Her father was a wealthy silk merchant, and he later became a director of the Bank of France.
At the time, any sort of 'brain work' was regarded to be unhealthy and dangerous for women. Sophie was, however, not deterred, and she learned mathematics despite social taboos. Her earliest education in the field is widely believed to be self-taught, for she did not have a tutor.
Sophie Germain is famously called the 'Revolutionary Mathematician'. Her notable accomplishments are as follows.
  • She worked on number of theories and came up with interesting theorems on prime numbers. She even discovered new identities. Many such numbers are now called "Sophie Germain primes".
  • Her work on 'Fermat's Last theorem' was a path-breaking one.
  • She was the first woman to attend both 'Academie des Science' and an 'Institut de France' session.
Ada Lovelace
Ada was the only legitimate daughter of the famous poet, 'Lord Byron' and his wife, Anne Isabelle Byron from whom he separated a short while after Ada was born.
Born on December 10, 1815 in Britain, she is designated as the 'first programmer' of the world. She laid the foundation for the massive world of software and computers.
In 1980, the computer programming language "Ada" was named after her. She is recognized to have written the codes for Charles Babbage's 'analytical engine'.
Sofia Kovalevskaya
Sofia was born on January 15, 1850, in Moscow, Russia. Her parents were both scholarly and encouraged her interest in mathematics. She even had a tutor, who taught her calculus.
She is known as the first major female Russian mathematician. She is also the first woman to be awarded full professorship in Northern Europe. Her work on differential equations known as Kovalevskaya Top is remarkable.
She worked on the Cauchy-Kovalevskaya theorem, which helps understand differential equations.
Amalie Emmy Noether
Born in 1882 in Germany, Amalie is remembered for her work in abstract algebra and theoretical physics. She was described by legendary scientists as "the most important woman in mathematical history since the higher education of women began."
Her notable works include theories in algebra, and a theorem that connected conservation laws and symmetry in theoretical physics. She was the recipient of the Ackermann- Teubner Memorial Award in 1932, an honor to be bestowed upon women of that era.
These were some of the famous women who proved their mathematical genius and who will, undoubtedly, always find a prestigious position in the pages of history.