"Fame" is an intangible thing. However, many would agree that the first famous woman mathematician recorded by history was the Greek mathematician Hypatia.
Hypatia: Her Life, Studies and Death
Hypatia, who can be considered the first famous woman mathematician, was born in Alexandria in Egypt. Some details are known about her life, although she lived a long time ago so there are considerable gaps in our knowledge about exactly what her life was like and what her contributions have been:
- Hypatia was born in the year 350 AD, and was only twenty or thirty years old when she was cruelly killed by an angry mob of Christians in either 370 AD or later in the year 415 AD. No one is quite sure about the specifics of her demise, and, as a result, the true story of her life is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
- Hypatia studied the works and theories of the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
Some of the things that made Hypatia the first famous woman mathematician include:
- The fact that she wrote an introduction or commentary on a famous Greek math text book known as “Arithmetica.”
- The fact that she edited works by Ptolemy and potentially by other Greek mathematicians and philosopher.
- She commented on or edited a number of other different works, including works on geometry by Apollonius.
There may have been additional works as well that she was not necessarily credited for, however, the contributions she made cemented her place in history as the first famous woman mathematician.