Skip to main content

The usual common belief that women are bad at mathematics meets its match in Hypatia and several other lesser known female mathematicians.  One of these was recognized in her lifetime as the second Hypatia.  She was Maria Gaetana Agnesi, eldest child of a mathematics professor at the University of Bologna, Pietro Agnesi.  She was from early on recognized as a child genius, learning seven languages by the age of 11. She studied ballistics and geometry at the age of 14, eventually devoting herself full time to calculus and wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral equations. She was, unfortunately, prone to ill health and developed seizures which were ascribed to too much study.

Her most important publication was the two-volume Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventĂą italiana, (Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth) (1748) which served as an important textbook on Euler's calculus.  In the book she discusses a particular curve called by Grandi versoria or "versiera" in Italian, an apparent pun for "witch." For some reason the curve, which was analyzed by Agnesi, became "Agnesi's Witch." She was elected to the Bologna Academy of Sciences, based on this work.

Even in the male-dominated academic society of Italy in the Eighteenth Century, she was included in the highest intellectual circles of Bologna and was appointed a professor of mathematics, natural philosophy and physics at the University of Bologna by Pope Benedict XIV.  She, unfortunately, never served, having taken up the religious life in support of the poor and elderly. She apparently worked on mathematics only to please her father and considered it just a hobby. One wonders what she would have accomplished if she had continued her studies after her father's death!

She died in the poor house she worked in and was buried in a mass grave.

Internet References:

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi


Originally posted to Desert Scientist on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 10:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, and History for Kossacks.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site