Friday, May 16, 2014

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi, 296th birthday today, 16 May 2014
  1. Italian mathematician and philosopher.
  2. She was born on 16 May 1718 to a wealthy and literate family.
  3. She was the oldest of 21 children after her father remarried twice when her mother died.
  4. She was a child prodigy, spoke French and Italian at the age of five.
  5. She was referred to as the "Seven-Tongued Orator" having mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish and German by the age of nine.
  6. She was credited for writing the book Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della giovent├╣ italiana, (Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth) which was published in Milan in 1748 and was translated to English as "Analytical Institutions" by John Colson which was about differential and integral calculus. This book was intended to be a textbook for her brothers.
  7. She published a collection of essays about natural science and philosophy which was called Propositiones Philosophicae, in 1738, expressing her conviction that women should be educated.
  8. She is best known from the curve called the "Witch of Agnesi" which is a versed sine curve called a versiera which is a derivative of the Latin word vertere which means 'to turn' but was also an abbreviation for the Italian word avversiera, meaning 'the wife of the devil'". It was during an English translation that the word versiera was confused with "witch", and the curve came to be known as the witch of Agnesi.
  9. She was the second woman ever to be granted professorship at a University when she was appointed as chair of mathematics and natural philosophy and physics at the Bologna Academy of Sciences but there was a debate if she did served as honorary faculty member because her father died in 1752 during which she already gave up any mathematical works.
  10. Maria Teresa Agnesi Pinottini, clavicembalist and composer, was her sister.
  11. She was a very religious woman devoting her life to the poor and homeless sick people, especially women and she appointed as director of the Pio Instituto Trivulzo taking care of ill and dying women until her own death on 9 January 1799.
  12. Google honored her 296th birthday by creating a Doodle.
Screenshot of Google's Doodle for the 296th birthday of Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Maria Gaetana Agnesi May 16, 1718 - January 9, 1799 Written by Elif Unlu, Class of 1995 (Agnes Scott College)

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