Born in 370 AD as the daughter of Theon, a mathematician and Philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria is the first woman in history to make a substantial contribution to mathematics. Throughout her childhood, Hypatia was taught mathematics by her father who worked at a distinguished museum used for higher education which also housed the Library of Alexandria. Upon finishing her formal education she left for Athens and Italy to further her studies. After completion, she returned to Alexandria and began teaching mathematics and philosophy. In 400 AD Hypatia became the leader of the Neo-Platonists school, which was the last of its kind dedicated to the Greek Philosophy of Plato. Because of Hypatia’s grand reputation of being regarded as an authority figure on Platonic Philosophy, she attracted a great number of students desiring to learn from her.
Hypatia was the first woman known to write on the subject of math, including the conic section (The intersection of a plane and a cone). She also wrote several papers on philosophy and astronomy. However, only fragments of those writings still exist today. Hypatia was said to have refined the algebraic equations of the early Egyptian mathematician Diophantus. She is given credit for the creation of the astrolabe, which is an instrument used to measure star positions relative to earth as well as to purify water.
In 415 AD Hypatia was tortured to death by an angry mob of religious zealots following the new Christian patriarch Cyril of Alexander. The assassination was thought to be linked to her association with a non-Christian prefect. Hypatia became a martyr after her death, and it was said that her death caused other scholars to leave the School in Alexandria. Her loss was also regarded as the fall of the influences of the Greek philosophers. Hypatia gave the world wisdom in the form of science, mathematics and philosophy, and she paved the way for female educators by setting a standard of greatness to follow. Hypatia, we stand on your shoulders.
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