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I am finally getting around to the earliest women recorded reliably to have worked in the sciences.  Hypatia was a mathematician and physicist at the nearly legendary Alexandrian Museum and Library and one of the most brilliant of the scholars who worked there. The loss of the Alexandrian Library is one of the great tragedies in history, but it did not happen all at once and the blame can be spread around from Julius Caesar to the Islamic invasion, with Christian fanatics in between.

It is not certain when Hypatia was born, but it appears to have been between 350 and 370 CE. She was the daughter of Theon of Alexandria, a well-known mathematician of the times. Alexandria, which was founded by Ptolemy I, one of Alexander of Macedon's generals, was a center of learning in the Hellenistic world and drew scholars from around the Mediterranean. Hypatia became a leading Neoplatonist philosopher after education in Athens and Italy and was made head of the Platonist school in Alexandria in 400 CE. Her reputation was such that in an age when women were still considered property she became a leader in mathematics and physics.  She taught anybody who wished to learn, regardless of beliefs. One of her students, who wrote of her with some reverence, was Synesius of Cyrene, who became the Christian Bishop of Ptolemais.  However the Museum, being a pagan temple, was closed in 391 by order of the Roman Emperor, Theodosius I. The Serapeum, which housed part of the library, was destroyed by his order. Hypatia continued as best she could in Alexandria, while controversy and instability raged around her.  

Hypatia became embroiled in the political intrigue prevalent in Alexandria at the time and at least in part because of her friendship with Orestes, prefect of Alexandria, who was involved in a feud with Cyril, the Christian bishop of Alexandria. Of course Hypatia was vilified as a practitioner of magical arts. Accounts differ, but at some point Hypatia was either abducted by a Christian mob or discovered in the street accidentally and either transported to a church where she was stripped of her clothing and most probably murdered, using roof tiles, or killed directly in the street by the mob.  Some accounts say she was dragged through the streets first and others say her flesh was removed from her while she was sill alive. In any case with her may have died the last philosophical school of classical Greece.

Hypatia was considered by the scholars of the time as a genius. Most modern historians of science believe that she was one of the most remarkable scientists and mathematicians of her age.  She edited her father's commentaries on the works of Euclid and produced her own commentaries on the conic system of Appolonius, as well as editing Ptolemy's Almagest (not the Ptolemy who founded Alexandria, but the astronomer).  According to a fictionalized account of her life in a recent movie called  "Agora" she may have been close to discovering the laws later ascribed to the astronomer Kepler, which were based on Appolonius' conics, and could possibly have  believed in a heliocentric solar system as envisioned by Aristarchus of Samos.  Unfortunately we will never know, as all of her works seem to have been destroyed and we are left with a partial list.  

The eventual loss of the Library of Alexandria, along with that of Pergamon (Mark Anthony was supposed to have plundered that library to help Cleopatra restore the Alexandrian Library) and Cordoba, and probably many others, was tragic.  We have no idea how much human knowledge was destroyed in the process, but we lack Hypatia's works, many original Greek plays, the historical works of the Emperor Claudius, and many others.  Only in the last 50 years or so has a manuscript come to light that might have been written by Hypatia, but this is not at all certain. One remaining treasure trove of texts transcribed into Arabic from the Middle Ages remains, the libraries of Timbuktu, recently overrun by the Taureg and the groups associated with the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, such as Ansar Dine.  As I write the French have sent troops into Mali to drive the Al-Qaeda allies out (the Taureg were apparently expelled by them). We can only hope that they have not damaged the ancient scrolls contained there and that it is possible that somewhere some of Hypatia's work is still in existence, either there or in some other location!

Literature References:

Deakin, M. B. A. 2007. Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr. Prometheus Books.

Internet Reference:

Hypatia Biography http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/...

Hypatia http://ancienthistory.about.com/...

Hypatia http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Library of Alexandria http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Taureg Rebellion http://en.wikipedia.org/...(2012)

DVD Reference:

Bressoud, D. M. 2008. The Queen of the Sciences: A History of Mathematics.  The Great Courses.  The Teaching Company.

Film Reference:

Agora http://en.wikipedia.org/...(film)  

Originally posted to Desert Scientist on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 04:08 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech, History for Kossacks, Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary and great subject, thanks. (16+ / 0-)

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 04:16:28 PM PST

  •  I am really enjoying this series. (15+ / 0-)

    Thank you so much for posting these.

    Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

    by Aunt Pat on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 04:36:45 PM PST

  •  My Lecture Last Week! (14+ / 0-)

    The library really wasn't destroyed by Marc Antony. Supposedly it was left to ruin under pressure from the monks next door. I have a great movie about it.

    But there are so many implications! We teach a very Europe-centric history of science because much of that knowledge was lost. The great Chinese fleet that circumnavigated the globe 50 years before Columbus, the agriculture of the Persians, the knowledge of the great Silk Road, mostly gone.

  •  It is my understanding that the destruction (10+ / 0-)

    of the library in Alexandria was initiated in good part by the early Roman Catholic church as part of their vast campaign of destruction of pagan religious teachings, shrines etc. Since so much of this knowledge was stored in the library, we lost what the church hoped we would lose... evidence that much of the mythologies written into the biblical texts about the character called "Jesus Christ" was taken directly from the pagan theologies.

    •  Casualty of War (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenalley, Wary, Aunt Pat

      Mostly likely it was destroyed during the Siege of Alexandria.

      ...when the enemy endeavored to cut off his communication by sea, he was forced to divert that danger by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library.
          —Plutarch, Life of Caesar
      The wikipedia article on the library lists four occasions in which it might have occurred.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

      by rbird on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 03:22:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It was not the Roman Catholic Church at the time. (0+ / 0-)

      The schisms involving the Coptic Church and the other Eastern Churches had not yet occurred.

  •  Surviving libraries (11+ / 0-)

    It will be good if Timbuktu survives, and it is always possible for more palimpsests and manuscript pages to turn up in monastic libraries. In addition, there have been a number of advances in preserving and reading damaged scrolls that lend hope to the possibility that the Villa dei Papiri at Pompeii may yield up its treasures in the not-impossibly-distant future.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

  •  I've heard some damages to Timbuktu's libraries (16+ / 0-)

    This was some time back when Al Qaeda first took strong hold of the Northern Provinces in Mali (sometime in Summer, I think); in the articles I read, I gasped reading about how there had been damage to the libraries there. I'm not sure how much. My first thought was, of course, the destruction of Alexandria's library. I was holding my breath for more information and then got sidetracked and didn't follow it. A close friend of mine, a scholar, had visited about four years prior and visiting is one of my life's dreams.

    I want to go on a "libraries of the world" trip.

    I had the chance to see the amazing facade of the library of Celsus in Ephesus, which I'm sure some others here have as well since it's a good-sized tourist attraction. The thing that was amazing was that we got there at 8 am, before the crowds (due to the blistering heat -- it had to be 110 by noon). When I walked up to Celsus, it was completely empty, and I took some pictures without anyone there at all. As anyone who's been there knows, this is not easy. Also, because it was early, the light was outstanding.

    Happily tipped and rec'd, and I'm curious now to learn more about Hypatia; I have outright holes in my knowledge of Greek history that someday, I would like to fix.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:26:50 AM PST

  •  Our Pagan martyrs (11+ / 0-)

    Thanx for posting about this great Pagan martyr. One of the greatest gifts she left us is the hydrometer. Anyone who is a home-brewer surely appreciates the hydrometer! There is an extant letter from Syenesius requesting one from her. Cheers, Hypatia!

    As you mention, the Agora movie (although flawed) is a good introduction to her life. Unfortunately, these days she has suffered again due to some recent reactionary interpretation of her life and the events leading up to her death. One vein of this disinformation attempts to blame her death on her own politics, instead of the Christian religions fanaticism. People advocating this attempt to marginalize the growing stranglehold religion had on the governing class. Also, in some “New” atheist circles , she has become something of a darling. Here she is portrayed (as in the “Agora” movie) as an agnostic/atheist free thinker, instead of a Platonist.  

    •  Did the movie portray her as an older woman? (6+ / 0-)

      From what I've read on the matter, she was older at the time of her death, perhaps even an elderly person.

      And I believe she was a Neoplatonist.

      Not all Christians were anti-pagan.  She had Christian supporters as well.  This isn't some simple-minded thing, Christianity was in flux during this period, it was not a monolithic belief system (nor is it now). Cyril had Christian opponents.    If I remember correctly, Cyril carried her death as a stain on his reputation for the rest of his life.  Forgive my bad memory on this, the last time I studied late Antiquity in detail was around 1990.

      I recommend the wikipedia article on Hypatia.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

      by rbird on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 03:37:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yikes, "Neoplatonism" is a modern term. (3+ / 0-)

        Yeah, you point out another problem with the movie. The movie did not portray her as an older woman, although her age at death is unknown. Most today feel she was what would be called 'middle-aged'

        "Neoplatonist" is a modern word,  Hypatia would not have known what that means. As a Pagan, I can assure we are use to our heroes and martyrs being nullified, marginalized, or shoe-horned into some intellectual corner more palatable for today.

        Of course not all Christians were anti-Pagan. Christians thinkers such as Origen advocated a "can't we all get along" attitude (but his works were declared heresy about 100 years after they were written), and the voices of tolerance and reason did not win-out . By the time of the death of Hypatia, Paganism was under sustained attack, Christians had celebrations where Pagan texts were burned, priests and priestesses were being beaten or killed, and temples were being torn down--or at least forcibly closed. Although this oppression was not yet empire wide (much like the edicts of Christian persecution were not uniformly enforced), it was growing in intensity.

        All this has been well documented by a number of scholars (see my post, below). You may also be interested in reading "The Archeology of Religious Hatred” by E. Sauer.

        •  I only used "Neoplatonist" because it was ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aunt Pat, Prof Haley

          used in one or more of my references.  However, I think that you are undoubtedly right.  It is like a lot of other preconceptions and modern definitions that we place on ancient history, or even our own relatively recent history.  We always define events by our own experiences and concepts.

          •  That's what we're supposed to do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Desert Scientist

            If human history weren't relevant to us, if we couldn't see the past through the lens of our lives, it would be useless.  There is no such thing as abstract history, it's all supposed to be useable.  Every generation takes what it needs from history even as it writes its own history.

            For instance, without a modern perspective we would not realize just how much humanity lost when Classical Antiquity fell.  A Roman could travel faster across Europe than anyone up until the invention of the locomotive in the nineteenth century.  Roman slavery was not the chattel slavery of the Old South.  It evolved as an institution.  By the time of the Empire, slaves had rights and privileges, including the right to earn a small wage from which they could buy their own freedom.  Romans built and operated what we could call modern factories, utilizing water power to drive machines in those factories.  They had universal health care.  Anyone could go to a temple of Asclepius and be treated.  The Roman military was thoroughly modern in its organization.  They even had the equivalent of VA hospitals.  At least one Roman emperor was a black guy.  Others were Syrian and Spanish.  When Classical Antiquity fell, so did the quality of life and personal rights of the mass of humanity in Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East.

            You think we're so great?  Caesar, as bloody-minded as he was, would recoil in horror at the 20th Century.  As bad as gladiatorial games were, the Romans didn't murder 100 million people.  We did.  That's the total body count from the wars, revolutions, purges, and genocide of the last century.

            So don't be dismissive of the intellectual tools we use now to make the past more accessible to our modern minds.  We need all the help we can get.

            Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

            by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 11:53:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I was not being dismissive. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rbird

              I was only making the point that we never can look at the past other than from our own perspective.  How could we do otherwise?  We can't experience the world as Hypatia did.  Yet we do share those things that are common to all humans from the time of our emergence on the African savanna. Namely curiosity about our world, our nature, and our future.

              •  There was once the idea that historians could... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Desert Scientist

                ...be "objective."  This still floats around in the culture, even though it was demolished for the first time about a century ago.  Unlike my readings in late Antiquity, which took place twenty years ago, the graduate course I took in Historiography was around twenty-five years ago, so even foggier.  Not much of it remains in my head other than a disdain for the idea of "objective" history.

                Sorry if I overreacted.

                The savanna, and our hunter-gatherer existence, may play a very large part in who we are.  It may have lasted for 200,000 years, maybe even longer.  It is twenty times as long as human civilization.  We're made for small groups, talkativeness, and cooperative behavior, literally, shaped by evolution to be that way.  I've often wondered just how much of what we're up to as a species is directly related to that evolutionary inheritance?

                My day for pondering....Ponderer Day?   That should be a legitimate holiday!

                Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

                by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:40:27 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Recoil in horror? I don't think so... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rbird, Desert Scientist

              I think Caesar would recognize much of the modern world, both East and West, and the see the opportunity that lies within it.  He might be awed at first by the scale of it all, but he would be just as eager to get his hands on all the latest toys and try his hand at the latest version of world conquest.  Once a Caesar, always a Caesar.

              The rest of your comment I largely agree with.  I wonder how history will view the American Empire, or how long we'll even be on the stage.

              •  The body count would horrify him, I think... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Desert Scientist, gene s

                ...that's what I was talking about.  The 20th Century is very impressive in an evil sort of way.

                As to the politics of our age, yeah, I fully agree with you.  Caesar would recognize our politics right away.

                Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

                by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:26:58 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Hypatia would probably have a good lol (0+ / 0-)

            at some of us here! Once again, you did a great job in summing up Hypatia, and (judging from one of the comments) you even brought the truth of her life to someone who never heard of her. How cool is that?

            Sometimes I'm a bit oversensitive about the "Neoplatonist" thing. Many do (fairly I might add, but it is complicated) classify her as a such. It's just that the term has become (recently) misused as a stand-in for atheist/agnostic.

        •  Neoplatonist thought was popular... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak

          ...among many groups in late Antiquity, among them Jewish and Christian philosophers.  And yes, it's a modern term, invented to distinguish those Platonists who followed the teachings of Plotinus.

          Paganism was under pressure from Constantine on forward, but the persecutions weren't all-encompassing, nor quite rational from a modern perspective (we're much better at persecution and mass murder than the ancients).  Temples were forcibly converted to churches, priests and other temple officials were killed.  Even when there was no overt force used, the traditional municipal backing for temples and their priests or priestesses was banned.  All that, and yet known pagans were tolerated by Christian emperors and even given promotions and official positions.  I'm thinking of Libanius, though it's been many years since I read his works.

          The last classical pagan temple (forgot which one, sorry) was closed somewhere around 525 CE.  After that, Classical Paganism went underground.  There are hints of its continued existence in formerly pagan deities being "adopted" into the Catholic Church as "saints" in order to appeal to local pagans. Gnostic and Neoplatonist Christians didn't go away, either, they went underground.

          During this period, Christian-on-Christian violence increased as well.  Orthodox vs Gnostic vs Arian vs Papal is just the start of it.  I can't even remember all the controversies and feuds, there were so many.

          Overt pagans were still around, just not Classical Pagans.  Nordic and Germanic paganism continued on until, what, around 1100?

          So it's actually a very, very complicated story, getting even more complicated in Italy after about 1300, and then it got really, really complicated after 1517.

          "Witches" were burned or hanged in Europe up until the middle of the nineteenth century.  And let's not forget what they did to Giordano Bruno and other free thinkers.  Least you think such things are in the past, in Russia, two members of band Pussy Riot were imprisoned for disrespecting the Orthodox Church.

          Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

          by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 11:24:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think the last one closed was the Temple of Isis (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rbird, Rashaverak

            at Philea, around AD 650, as far as the Greco-Roman world was concerned. It was closed by Justinian I.

            •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gene s

              Twenty years can cloud the mind.  That's how long it's been since I last studied this material.  I thought it was Eleusis I was thinking of, but it was closed by Theodosius I in 392 (just looked it up).

              Thanks for reminding me of Philae.

              Tell me what to write. tellmewhattowrite.com 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

              by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:54:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You - N/T (5+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:18:39 AM PST

  •  We need far more women in science (8+ / 0-)

    And more encouragement for women to consider careers in the sciences.

    Part of problem that keeps pay inequity in place is that far fewer women are going into the higher paying fields like the sciences.   Society as a whole keeps enforcing the image that young women should do.. something else.

    I'm proud to have a niece at MIT in the sciences.   Bit by bit, that's how we change the talking points.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:30:26 AM PST

  •  Hey, an interesting project would be to recreate (7+ / 0-)

    a math, science, or other school document from the time.

    While the Texas Schoolbook Publishers didn't exist, there must have been standard texts, homework, or theses that were made around 400 CE.

    Regardless of what they looked like and not getting overly worried about the accuracy of recreation, what would learning materials have looked like?

    We know they had single, double and perhaps multiple wax slates and stylii. We know that this was the time when rolls were being replaced with codices.

    Repeat, without getting one's undies in a bundle, are there school materials extant or recreated from that time period? :)

    --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:55:36 AM PST

  •  Thank You for the diary (7+ / 0-)

    After reading about Hypatia in middle school oldest daughter decided to become a scientist...(great grades helped too)..She is now Dr. Daughter..(Biologist-Vector Ecologist)

    Do something...marinedefenders.com

    by profewalt on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:58:51 AM PST

  •  She is (7+ / 0-)

    my favorite historical figure ever.

    If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is go back in time and try to somehow rescue her from her eventual fate.

  •  Free e-book on Hypatia (10+ / 0-)

    https://www.smashwords.com/...

    It's sobering to think how many centuries had to pass before it became widely accepted for women to study science side-by-side with men. When I graduated from high school, Harvard was still a men's college, NASA was insistent that women would never go into space, and all of my college science and math classes were taught by men.  Were it not for courageous Hypatia and other women scientists, it might have taken many more centuries before the barriers fell.

  •  Wonderful post. (10+ / 0-)

    Thank you. Hypatia has been one of my favorite people for a very long time. Another interesting thing about her was that she was one of the earliest practitioners of the actual scientific method, as evidenced by her hypothesis testing of practical experiments.

    •  and it's one of the reasons (7+ / 0-)

      she was killed. Logic, reason, and trusting empirical evidence were all signs one was a practitioner of "witch craft", in league with the devil, or at best just seriously deluded. Observation of the natural world was discouraged, as it would lead one away from a faith based world.

      This sort of attitude is easily seen today. Take for example the comments of Rep. Paul Broun, who said "...all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior." It's easy to imagine such words coming out of the mouths of those who  killed Hypatia.

      There are several very good books dealing with the Late Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity (and the destruction of Paganism). Reading them will give you a real window on the thinking of such people:

      "Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason" and "AD 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State" by Charles Feeman are must reads. Also very good are two books by Ramsay MacMullen "Paganism in the Roman Empire" and "Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries".

  •  thanks for posting this...great stuff! (7+ / 0-)

    always love history of science/math diaries

    we need to be reminded how smart people were back then...kind of humbling

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:16:54 PM PST

  •  "Agora" the movie about Hypatia (7+ / 0-)

    is available as DVD (not currently streaming) at Netflix. http://movies.netflix.com/...

    It's not a great film qua film, but it does give an appreciation of the time she lived in, and the forces arrayed against her, and their motives.

    On a related note: every time I hear "Library of Alexandria" I just wish I had some time machine or something to go back and copy the manuscripts. From what I've read there were between 400,000 to 700,000 documents there. First to arrive were from Athens, and then searches of the whole contiguous landmass East, West, North, and South, were made to add to the collection.

    Can you imagine? Just the recorded myths and assumptions of the times would shed light on so much. So many discoveries in recent years show that ancient scientists used to know a lot more, were much more sophisticated, than we've been in the habit of crediting.

    But then we can only imagine.

    My more realistic, but also unlikely hope, is that at least charcoal of the now-submerged Library can be recovered. There's amazing work being done with high-tech methods, such as multi-spectral imaging, as reported on here: http://online.wsj.com/...


    Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

    by Jim P on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:41:18 PM PST

    •  Agora is an incredibly powerful film. I saw it (6+ / 0-)

      and could not forget it for weeks.  A few months ago I had a conversation about it with a colleague who is a classicist specializing in late Rome/Byzantium.  He had many quibbles with the movie on all sorts of historical etc. grounds--- but he agreed that it is an important picture if only because it does such a good job of bringing to life that period of time and that place, its cultural problems, etc.

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:45:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The mathematics texts that we have ... (6+ / 0-)

      from Babylon to Islam are themselves remarkable.  Some concepts that were not developed in the West until hundreds of years later have been found in texts dating to BCE.

      •  I'm still trying to figure out what happened (5+ / 0-)

        to education in the Islamic world.

        In the early centuries, knowledge was highly prized, at least by most Muslims. There were a few tragedies that shouldn't have been, but it's the long-term decline from a culture that was responsible for preserving much of the Classical heritage through translations in Arabic to a backwater society that stagnated for the better part of half a millennium.

        There are sayings of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that "an hour of learning is better than a lifetime of Jihad." What happened to that view in the Muslim world?

        •  That view is still there, but (4+ / 0-)

          we're not meant to know about that in the West.

          Plus, I imagine with the combination of Wahhabism and its ilk, plus its financial pull with the various totalitarian governments, people engaged in real learning probably keep their head down as a matter of survival.

          "Seek knowledge, even in China" is in the Koran, iirc.
          ("China" indicating even the furthest reaches of the world)


          Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

          by Jim P on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 04:32:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Plus the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2ndC BC (6+ / 0-)

        solar-system-tracker computer. It took us, after its recovery from a shipwreck, over a century to even figure out what it was for. It shows that it wasn't just theoretic knowledge our forebears possessed. And how many other devices disappeared? And schematics for devices?
        http://www.antikythera-mechanism.gr/...

        What background of knowledge, unknown to us, did people like Hypatia have.


        Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

        by Jim P on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 04:38:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Carl Sagan spoke of Hypatia in one of the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Desert Scientist

      installments of the Cosmos television series.

  •  WOW Many thanks for the reearch (3+ / 0-)

    I recall first hearing of Hypatia in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, but the in our University  Women's studies classes she became included.

    So much more has been learned about her era since then as your well documented diary demonstrates! I'll be reading comments now, hope to learn more!

    Thanks again!

  •  Wonderful diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Desert Scientist, Aunt Pat

    I have never heard of Hypatia before.  Thank you so much for bringing her and her work and story to my attention!  

  •  Here is the great Carl Sagan's account of Hypatia (3+ / 0-)

    and the parameters of thought at that historic juncture: one small ad that can be quickly skipped at this link.

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

    by Ignacio Magaloni on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:32:47 PM PST

  •  I'd hate to think the Tuareg are responsible for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, Desert Scientist

    destroying any libraries in Timbuktu.  I've always found the idea of men wearing blue veils and riding camels very appealing.  The Wiki article on them states that unlike women in Arab society, Tuareg women enjoy high status.  They don't wear the veil--men do, to ward off evil spirits.

    Women are used to being ignored and overlooked in the arts and sciences.  That's why women's studies at the university level are so important. Until I read an article on the subject, I hadn't known that women invented intermittent windshield wipers on cars and collapsible-panel shopping carts.

    I seem to recall reading too that a woman invented the sewing machine--makes sense to me--but Elias Howe took the credit for it.

    I'd like to see completely rewritten history and literary texts with the contributions of women thoroughly integrated and acknowledged.  

    Thanks for this diary!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:06:31 AM PST

    •  As I noted, the Taureg have apparently ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa

      been pushed out of Timbuktu.  As far as I know it is only the radical Islamists who have destroyed Sufi monuments and might threaten the libraries (which are scattered around the city as I understand it).

      •  Thank you for doing a diary about Hypatia (0+ / 0-)

        Poor woman, what a horrible end she had.  She didn't deserve what happened to her.

        A dear friend of mine has taken "Hypatia" as one of her names.  My friend is an accomplished musician and translator of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Swahili, and several other languages.  I feel honored to know her, especially now that you've told us about the woman who bore the name "Hypatia"name centuries ago.

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:36:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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