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Women in Mathematics

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The history of the world shows us that women have had an increasingly important role in our society. Women have always strived to attain equal stature with men and have been remarkable influential along the way.

Hypatia (370-415) had a passion for knowledge. She could even be considered a ?renaissance woman? if the term existed then. She was a mathematician, scientist and even a philosopher. Her father Theon was a math professor at the University of Alexandria and some say wanted to raise the perfect human. He surrounded Hypatia with a positive environment for learning. This involved her learning not only, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, but also world religions, ways to keep her body healthy, and rhetoric. When she was older, Hypatia gave lectures at the world famous Museum and taught the neo-Platonic philosophy.

As for her contribution to the mathematical world she edited and gave commentaries on such great works as Apollonius' Conic sections and Ptolemy's Almagest. She made concepts in these works easier to understand and paved the way for the ideas of hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses. In the early 390's Christianity was becoming the dominate religion by force no less. Hypatia's philosophies were now considered pagan and had to be stopped. Politicos got involved and rumors spread until an angry mob killed her and dragged her through the streets. Scholars after her time expounded on her work and gave her due recognition.

[...] Born to middle class family her first exposure to mathematics was when her father put his old calculus notes on the kids' room walls in place of formal wall paper. Sonia taught herself how to read the notes and then went on to teach herself trigonometry so she could understand optics. A neighbor, who happened to be a professor, saw her raw talent and paved the way for her to go to university in Berlin. There she studied under Karl Weierstrass. As a woman she was not actually allowed to attend classes. Weierstrass tutored her privately as he must have seen something rare in her. [...]


[...] Mary Lucy Cartwright was a woman of firsts. She was born on December in Northamptonshire, England. She was the first woman to get a mathematics degree from Oxford and the second woman to be allowed to take final exams there. She was the only woman elected president of the London Mathematical Society and the only woman to receive its De Morgan Medal. She and John Littlewood developed solutions for the Van der Pol equation which made radio amplifiers for WWII soldiers work more efficiently. [...]

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