(circa 370 – March 8, 415)

Hypatia of Alexandria was the first great female mathematician in recorded history. In fact, she remained the greatest female for 1500 years: before Emmy Noether surpassed her. As was customary for mathematicians of her era, she practised astronomy, delved into philosophy, and taught in various capacities. Being lone woman in a male-dominated profession then, presented her with insurmountable challenges which contributed to her murder. As a kid, she exhibited high intelligence coupled with an unquenchable desire to learn. This prompted her father, Theon of Alexandria (who had already gained fame for editing Euclid’s Elements), to expose her to maths and astronomy. After mastering arithmetic and geometry, Hypatia wrote commentaries on Diophantus’ Arithmetica and Apollonius’ Conicorum. She also taught in various places, and to all kinds of students (including Synesius of Cyrene who later became the Bishop of Ptolemais). Her expertise earned her recognition, and also enabled her become the leading female scientist of her generation. But as her fame soared, so did chauvinistic acrimonies from those who could not bear to see a woman in such a high position. In those days as well, female intellectuals seldom published alone. This explains why Hypatia’s works were jointly published with her father’s. In spite of the persistent difficulties she encountered, her works turned-out to be sound, highly influential, and have inspired aspiring female scholars for over one-and-a-half millennia. The 1.4-kilometer-deep Hypatia lunar crater, the 180-kilometer-long Rimae Hypatia rilles (north of the crater), and the 238 Hypatia main-belt asteroid, are dedicated to her.


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