Hypatia 7100 - 415

Nationality:
Roman
born in:
Alexandria

Hypatia was a philosopher, astronomer and well regarded as the first female mathematician. She lived in Alexandria, Egypt. She was well known as a teacher and counsellor and was a pagan, although she welcomed and taught both Christian and pagan students.

It is worth pointing out that Hypatia is the earliest female mathematician that we know of. Her life was quite well documented and a lot of knowledge about her still exists, but this does not mean that there were not other female mathematicians who were not recorded as thoroughly.

350-70: Hypatia was born in Alexandria, a Province of Egypt in the Eastern Roman Empire. Her family were part of the Roman elite and she was educated by her mathematician father, Theon. It is predicted that she was born at some point during this 20 year time span, but nobody has been able to pinpoint it correctly.

400: Around this time, she became head of the Platonist school in Alexandria. Here, she taught wealthy young men who were both Christians and Pagans. She lectured on the work of Plato and Aristotle.

March 415: Hypatia was murdered by a mob of Christian men for supposedly enflaming a feud between the bishop of Alexandria, Cyril, and his prefect, Orestes. Cyril spread rumours that Hypatia was a sorceress, and these caught hold as astronomy and mathematics were viewed as magical arts at this time. Hypatia was tortured and ultimately murdered by a mob of men who were followers of Cyril, but no records survive that prove he was the one to order her death. All of her writing was later lost as part of the church’s efforts to supress heretical and pagan knowledge.