History of Mathematics – Women in Mathematics

I have only had one encounter where being female has caused a person to doubt my ability to do math.  That person was a professor that I talked to while visiting colleges in order to pick where I wanted to go for my undergraduate degree.  Needless to say,  that professor made my decision to not attend that particular college very easy.  However, in a class we discussed the hardships that women have faced in the sciences, and more specifically, math.  Obviously, since I am a female and will be degree holding mathematician in less than two weeks, this topic appeals to me.  By using four different resources, I have created a timeline of some of the important female mathematicians.  For each mathematician I have included the years that were alive, most have their country of origin, and one or two thing that I personally feel are their most significant achievements.  These achievements could be an advancement for mathematics in general or a step towards equality for women in the field.  Also, the name of each mathematician is a hyperlink to a webpage with more information on her.

 

Hypatia of Alexandria (355 or 370 – 415 or 416)

Greek

Salaried head of Neoplatonic School in Alexandria

 

Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684)

Italian

Lecturer in mathematics at University of Padua

 

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)

Italian

Wrote a textbook to explain math to her brothers which described a cubic curve

 

Sophia Germain (1776-1830 or 1831)

French

Partial solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem

 

Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872)

Scottish and British

Produced writings in theoretical and mathematical science

 

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

British

Notes on an article on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine became known as a computer and software

 

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Actually a nurse, but developed pie-like chart to show mortality rate due to unsanitary hospital conditions

 

Charlotte Angas Scott (1848-1931)

English/American

First head of mathematics department at Byrn Mawr College

 

Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891)

Russian

Researched Koalevskaya Top and Cauchy-Kovalevskaya Theorem

Married for convenience in order to move from Russia to continue her advanced studying

 

Hertha Marks Ayrton (1854-1923)

English

First female in Institution of Electrical Engineers

 

Annie Dale Biddle Andrews (1885-1940)

First female with Ph.D. in math from University of California Berkeley

 

Alicia Stott (1860-1940)

English

Platonic and Archimedean solids translated into higher dimensions

 

Grace Chisholm Young (1868-1944)

English

First female at Gottingen University in Germany to receive a doctorate

 

Tatyana Afanasyeva (1876-1974)

Russian

Published papers on randomness, geometry, and entropy

 

Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935)

German, Jewish, American

Developed some of the foundation for Einstein’s general theory of relativity

Contributed to algebra significantly

 

Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler (1883-1966)

American

Contributed to linear algebra

 

Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright (1900-1935)

English

First female elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of England

Published more than 100 papers on function theory

 

Marjorie Lee Browne (1914-1979)

American

Head of mathematics department at North Carolina Central University

Contributed to linear and matrix algebra

 

Julia Hall Bowman Robinson (1919-1985)

American

First female mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences

 

Shafi Goldwasser (1958-)

American

Two time winner of the Godel Prize for her theoretical computer science work

 

Learning about what all of these women have done to influence mathematics is pretty amazing considering the opposition they had, especially the earlier ones.  It is interesting to think about where we could be now, and where math could be, if they hadn’t had to overcome all that they did.

 

Links to the sources that I used:

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/sciencemath1/tp/aatpmathwomen.htm

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-historic-female-mathematicians-you-should-know-100731927/?no-ist

http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/features/9371.html

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/female-mathematicians-and-their-contributions.html

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One thought on “History of Mathematics – Women in Mathematics

  1. Good list of great mathematicians. Maybe you could flesh out the list with what drew you to these in particular (your process or values), or what you found interesting about them. Or, given the list, go into more depth on one you find especially relevant. Alternatively, you could make it a resource post, and add specific links for each person on the list.

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