Women in Science
Brilliant women of all time have been decisive in the field of mathematics
Maria Rubal Thomsen
Throughout history hundreds of women have had to fight to make their way in the field of science, an environment traditionally masculine and forbidden for them. The contribution of these women has had a great impact on the development of mathematics.
Hypatia (355 or 370-415)
Hypatia of Alexandria was born in the 4th century. She is considered the first female mathematician and one of the first female scientists on record. He dedicated his life to the study of geometry, algebra and astronomy, in addition to cultivating philosophy. He contributed to improving the design of various scientific instruments such as the astrolabe, used to determine the position and height of the stars in the sky. Hypatia questioned ideas that were taken for granted in her time. She was persecuted for the Christian religion and murdered for remaining faithful to her pagan beliefs. Her figure has been mythologized and is used as a symbol of progress and the free woman.
Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684)
Elena Cornaro was born in Venice and from an early age she was considered a child prodigy: she spoke seven languages, mastered several musical instruments and was an expert in linguistics and philosophy, among other disciplines. Her main field of interest was mathematics, as well as physics and astronomy. She was the first woman to obtain a doctorate degree, at the University of Padua, although it was not for her scientific knowledge but for her studies in theology.
Maria Agnesi (1718-1799)
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Maria Agnesi was an extraordinary Italian mathematician. She is considered the first woman to write a mathematics textbook and the first to be appointed a university professor, although she never held that position. His best known work is two volumes that include an extensive analysis of algebra and integral and differential calculus, including some of the most advanced ideas of the time. In addition to mathematics, he was also interested in philosophy and other humanistic sciences. Agnesi was a strong believer and dedicated the last 40 years of her life to theology and charitable works.
Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
Sophie Germain taught herself mathematics. Impressed by the legend of the death of Archimedes -they say that Archimedes was assassinated while he was absorbed in solving a problem-, Germain decided to immerse himself in mathematics to escape the chaos that Paris experienced during the French Revolution. He wanted to study at the Polytechnic School of Paris but the institution did not admit women, so Germain taught himself with notes from other students. His final-year paper, presented under a pseudonym, so impressed the mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange that he decided to become his mentor. Germain focused his early work on number theory and later devoted himself to the theory of elasticity. For his research in this field he was awarded the Extraordinary Prize for Mathematical Sciences from the Paris Academy of Sciences.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Ada Lovelace was raised by her mother, who instilled in her a passion for mathematics from a very young age. At just 17 years old, she met the eminent scientist Mary Somerville and Charles Babbage, inventor of the analytical engine (precursor of computers). Babbage was so impressed with Ada's analytical skills that he offered to translate a published French text about his invention. Ada not only translated the article, but added a series of notes that contained the first description of the programming language and used innovative concepts such as "loop". In addition, he developed algorithms that allowed Babbage's machine to perform complex calculations, and he predicted that the machines would also be used to create music and art. For these reasons, Ada Lovelace is considered the first programmer in history.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Florence Nightingale has gone down in history as a figurehead in nursing, but few know that her success is due in part to her great ability with numbers. From a very young age, Nightingale excelled in science and mathematics. However, her great passion was nursing and that is why she traveled through Europe to train as a nurse. When the Crimean War broke out, the nurse took charge of a military hospital in Turkey. Back in London, he compiled a large database with data on the deaths of almost 20,000 soldiers. Thus he discovered that the majority had died from diseases preventable with hygienic measures and not from battle wounds. His study and Nightingale's ability to present the results in an easy-to-understand graphic way convinced the government to improve conditions for soldiers and thus save thousands of lives.
Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891)
Kovalevskaya learned mathematics almost by accident: the walls of her childhood room were covered with her father's old notes, which she studied secretly. When Sofia's uncle discovered her talent, he persuaded her father to enroll her in a school. In 1868 Kovalevskaya left Russia to continue her studies at German universities, where some women were admitted. After several moves, in 1883 she got a position as a professor of mathematics at the University of Stockholm (Sweden). The Russian mathematician held several prestigious positions: she was editor of the scientific journal Acta Mathematica, obtained the chair of the Department of Mechanics and was the first woman elected as an associate of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Russia. He also won important prizes such as the Prix Bordin from the French Academy of Sciences.
Emmy Noether (1882-1935)
According to Albert Einstein, Emmy Noether was "the most important creative mathematical genius since women's higher education began." But despite her talent, she had to face many obstacles to be able to dedicate herself professionally to mathematics. At the age of 18, he wanted to enroll in university but was only allowed to attend classes as an auditor. Even so, he followed the courses for two years and passed the final exam. She was the second woman to earn a PhD in Mathematics. After years of hard work alongside her father, also a mathematician, the University of Göttingen (Germany) invited her to work on Einstein's theories. Shortly after, she was offered a teaching position, but without pay. When the Nazis took control of Germany, Noether accepted a job offer in the United States. He spent the rest of his life there, which he devoted mainly to algebra studies.Show CommentsUp to the Minute