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All of us know about famous thinkers like Newton, Einstein, and Pythagoras, but the achievements are not so well known for their famous female mathematicians.
In many parts of history, there were periods when women were discouraged from learning higher mathematics - however, many battled for equality! Many of these famous female mathematicians are not as well known as they should be.
So let us read about a few of these Great Women of Mathematics.
"The first famous female mathematician"
Hypatia is one of the most famous female mathematicians of all time. Born in Alexandria somewhere around 350-370 AD during the Middle Ages, she was the daughter of a Greek mathematician and philosopher, Theon of Alexandria. Growing up in such an intellectual environment encouraged her to pursue knowledge and understanding, specifically through mathematics and astronomy. She became one of the leading mathematicians and astronomers of her time, eventually taking charge as headteacher at her fathers' prestigious Platonist School in Alexandria, where she taught mathematics, philosophy and astronomy. Unfortunately, most of Hypatia's work has been lost - such was not uncommon for women back then - yet references to it remain evident in other texts from that time.
"The Mother of Algorithmic Computation"
A woman by the name of Ada Lovelace was the first to devise the concept of a computer program. Her work with Charles Babbage helped develop the Analytical Engine, which is recognized as the world's first basic computation algorithm. She saw that numeric sequences of instructions or programs can help calculate Bernoulli numbers, which is now considered the first computer program. Ada’s realization laid the foundation for all present-day computing.
"History's most famous female mathematician, inventor of the coxcomb, a variation of the pie chart"
Although Florence Nightingale is known for her role as a nurse, she was also considered one of the most famous female mathematicians of her time. Coming back from the war, Nightingale worked as a statistician and dedicated herself to collecting figures that she believed would improve healthcare facilities in hospitals. The data she collected indicated poor sanitation was the primary cause behind preventable deaths within hospitals, making certain sanitary conditions mandatory. So you can thank her for teaching the world of the importance of cleanliness!
"The women who helped NASA send astronauts to the moon and return them safely home."
The stars were always within reach for Katherine Johnson. She had a passion for numbers from an early age, but she never dreamt that her talents as a mathematician would land her at NASA one day. At school, she excelled at math, starting high school four years early and graduating from college at 18 when most of her peers were just starting.
Katherine did the calculations for the first moon landing and later for the space shuttle program. She was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, at a 2015 White House ceremony. Who would’ve thought numbers would add up to something so grand?
"The only woman to win a Fields Medal."
Maryam was a professor at Stanford University and a highly original mathematician. She made a host of striking contributions to geometry and dynamical systems. Maryam loved to read and make up stories as a child. She even thought she might become a writer someday. Obviously, that did not wind up being the case. Despite some discouraging classes in middle school, she eventually discovered a passion for mathematics and proved brilliant at it.
Her work bridges several mathematical disciplines—including hyperbolic geometry, complex analysis, topology, and dynamics. This work with hyperbolic geometry focused around billiards wound up winning her a Fields Medal in 2014. Mirzakhani’s legacy lives on through her contribution
We hope the contribution of these female mathematicians and their incredible work can help show children that math is a journey of discovery and that this inspires the future generation’s great mathematical minds.