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Five Historic Female Mathematicians You Should Know

Albert Einstein called Emmy Noether a "creative mathematical genius"

smithsonian.com

If you haven’t yet read my story “Ten Historic Female Scientists You Should Know,” please check it out. It’s not a complete list, I know, but that’s what happens when you can pick only ten women to highlight—you start making arbitrary decisions (no living scientists, no mathematicians) and interesting stories get left out. To make up a bit for that, and in honor of Ada Lovelace Day, here are five more brilliant and dedicated women I left off the list:

Hypatia (ca. 350 or 370 – 415 or 416)

(© Bettmann/CORBIS)

No one can know who was the first female mathematician, but Hypatia was certainly one of the earliest. She was the daughter of Theon, the last known member of the famed library of Alexandria, and followed his footsteps in the study of math and astronomy. She collaborated with her father on commentaries of classical mathematical works, translating them and incorporating explanatory notes, as well as creating commentaries of her own and teaching a succession of students from her home. Hypatia was also a philosopher, a follower of Neoplatonism, a belief system in which everything emanates from the One, and crowds listened to her public lectures about Plato and Aristotle. Her popularity was her downfall, however. She became a convenient scapegoat in a political battle between her friend Orestes, the governor of Alexandria, and the city’s archbishop, Cyril, and was killed by a mob of Christian zealots.

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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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