Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415)

Regarded as the first woman in history to teach advanced mathematics, Hypatia of Alexandria was a mathematician, scientist and philosopher. Hypatia was born sometime around AD 370 when women stayed at home, only the men went to school, held jobs and became involved in government.

She lived during paganism’s last stand against the encroaching Christian religion and in sense personally represented the conflict between pagan Greek science, philosophy and mathematics on the other hand and the Christian religions and political empire on the other.

Hypatia was very young when her mother died so she spent most of her childhood with only her father.

Because Theon was a professor and an administrator at the University of Alexandria, Egypt, Hypatia spent much of her time there while growing up. She attended classes, joined discussions, and studied with her father. Theon encouraged Hypatia, in her quest for knowledge and taught her mathematics, science, including astronomy and philosophy.

It was with her father that she help to compile older mathematical works and a more popular edition of Euclid’s ‘Elements’ which was used almost exclusively by Greek teachers after her time.

When she was teenager, Hypatia traveled to Athens, Greece, and attended the school taught by Greek biographer Plutarch.

Hypatia taught at the Neoplatonic School in Alexandria, becoming the school’s director around AD 400. She taught Neo-Platonism, a branch of philosophy, developed in the third century by Plotinus of Egypt and Iamblichus of Syria.

Hypatia wrote a number of books, including the Astronomical Cannon and commentaries on Arithmetica by Diophantus and the astronomical works by Ptolemy.

Hypatia also edited On the Conics of Apollonius, which defined the conic sections that came to be known as the parabola, hyperbola and ellipse.
Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415)

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