Picture of HypatiaHypatia

Alexandrian Thinker and Mathematician

370? - 415

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a teacher who was one of the most educated men in Alexandria, Egypt. Hypatia was raised in an environment of thought by Theon who was himself a well known scholar and a professor of mathematics at the University of Alexandria. Theon and Hypatia formed a strong bond as he taught Hypatia his own knowledge passion for answers to the unknown.

Hypatia surpassed her father's knowledge at a young age. However, while Hypatia was still under her father's discipline, he also developed for her a physical routine to ensure for her a healthy body as well as a highly functional mind. Theon instructed Hypatia on religion and the fundamentals of teaching and oration.

Hypatia's studies included astronomy, astrology, and mathematics. References in letters by Synesius, one of Hypatia's students, credit Hypatia with the invention of the astrolabe, a device used in studying astronomy. However, other sources date this instrument back at least a century earlier. Claudius Ptolemy wrote extensively on the projection used on the plane astrolabe, and Hypatia's father wrote an astrolabe treatise that was the basis for much of what was written later in the Middle Ages. Hypatia did teach about astrolabes as Synesius had an instrument made that was argueably a form of astrolabe.

Hypatia is known primarily for her work on the ideas of conic sections introduced by Apollonius. She edited the work "On the Conics of Apollonius," which divided cones into different parts by a plane. This concept developed the ideas of hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses. Hypatia is thought to be the first woman to have a profound impact upon mathematics and thought, simplifying Apollonius' concepts on conics.

Tragically, in 415 AD, a religious mob attacked her, stripped her and killed her with pieces of broken pottery. Later, the mob dragged her body through the streets.

Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz later expanded on Hypatia's work.

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