Awesome women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields!

Edit (3/27/15): “Where’s Marie Curie?! Where’s Ada Lovelace?! Where’s etc.”


Agora (2009) - You don’t question what you believe, or cannot. I must.

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more. Yet even she fell victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed. - Socrates Scholasticus

Hypatia: the Martyr Mathematician (350~370?-415 CE)

There are few women whose legacies have been more of a political football than Hypatia of Alexandria. She was not only possibly the last scientist with access to the books of the Library of Alexandria, but the first female mathematician in recorded history. She also was an expert astronomer, philosopher, physicist, and overachiever. Unfortunately, Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christian zealots in particularly grisly fashion, turning her life story into a point of contention for centuries to come. Let’s try and unwind this gordian knot after the cut.

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Hypatia, the last of the Neoplatonists.

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, the author of a commentary on Euclid, in which his daughter is said to have assisted him. An only child, she showed deep interest in philosophy and mathematics from her early youth. Her father instructed her in these subjects with care and diligence, and she soon became one of his most brilliant pupils. Her writings, according to Suidas, included commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria, on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga, and on the Arithmetical Canon of Ptolemy, all of which are now lost.

As a young woman, she traveled to Athens and Italy. Upon her return to Alexandria, around 400 CE, Hypatia achieved prominence as the recognized head of the Neoplatonist school in Alexandria, where letters addressed simply to “the philosopher” were routinely delivered to her. There she expounded upon the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle and lectured on mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, and philosophy, in particular teaching a variant of Neoplatonism which was distinguished from the mysticism of her predecessors by its greater scientific emphasis. In addition to her mathematical works, Hypatia also developed an apparatus for distilling water, an instrument for measuring the level of water, a plane astrolabe (for measuring the positions of the stars, planets, and sun) and a graduated brass hydrometer for determining the specific gravity of a liquid. Hypatia came to symbolize learning and science, which the early Christians identified with paganism, making her the focal point of riots between Christians and non-Christians.

Hypatia brought Egypt nearer to an understanding of its ancient Mysteries than it had been for thousands of years. Her knowledge of Theurgy restored the practical value of the Mysteries and completed the work commenced by Iamblichus over a hundred years before. Following in the footsteps of Plotinus and Porphyry, she demonstrated the possibility of the union of the individual Self with the SELF of all. Continuing the work of Ammonius Saccas, she showed the similarity between all religions and the identity of their source. The precarious foundations of Christian dogma were still more exposed when the Neoplatonic School began to adopt the inductive method of reasoning sponsored by Aristotle. Of all things on earth, logic and the reasonable explanation of things were most hateful to the new religion of mystery.

Hypatia was firmly convinced of the importance of education. In direct contradiction of the the Roman Empire’s official Christian Doctrines, she advocated the education of all children, girls as well as boys, and admonished that, “Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing. The mind of a child accepts them, and only through great pain, perhaps even tragedy, can the child be relieved of them.” Furthermore, she was reputed to be an unusually beautiful woman who dressed as as a teacher and engaged openly in philosophic discourse and debate in places normally not frequented by women. She urged others to think freely and to speak openly on matters which were supposed to be restricted to the realm of blind faith: “Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.” “To rule by fettering the mind through fear of punishment in another world is just as base as to use force.” “All formal dogmatic religions are delusive and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.” “Men will fight for superstition as quickly as for the living truth – even more so, since superstition is intangible, you can’t get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”

When Hypatia explored the metaphysical allegories from which Christianity had borrowed its dogmas, and openly analyzed them in public meetings, she used a weapon which the Christians could meet only with violence. If her School had been allowed to continue the whole fraud perpetrated by the Church would have been laid bare. The light of Neoplatonism was shining much too brightly upon the patchwork of Christianity.

So, on an afternoon during Lent in the year 414, a crowd of Cyril’s monks led by Peter the Reader collected in front of the Museum, where Hypatia was just finishing one of her classes. Her chariot drew up to the door, and Hypatia appeared. A dark wave of monks, murder in their hearts, rushed out from their ambuscade, surged around Hypatia’s chariot and forced her to descend. They stripped her naked and dragged her into a nearby Church of God, pulling her body through the cool, dim shadows, lit by flickering candles and perfumed with incense, up the chancel steps to the very altar itself. Shaking herself free from her tormentors, she rose for one moment to her full height, snow-white against the dark horde of monks surrounding her. Her lips opened to speak, but no word came from them. For in that moment Peter the Reader struck her down, and the dark mass closed over her quivering flesh. Then they dragged her dead body into the streets, scraped the flesh from the bones with oyster shells, making a bonfire of what remained.

Thus Hypatia perished, and with her death the great Neoplatonic School came to an end. Some of the philosophers removed to Athens, but their School was closed by order of the Emperor Justinian. With the departure of the last seven philosophers of the great Neoplatonic Movement – Hermias, Priscianus, Diogenes, Eulalius, Damaskias, Simplicius and Isidorus, who fled to the Far East to escape the persecution of Justinian - the reign of wisdom closed.

The death of Hypatia marked the beginning of the Dark Ages, in which the world was encompassed by the clouds of ignorance and superstition for a thousand years.

H Y P A T I A  { music for the sage queen of alexandria }

songs for the high priestess of scholarship and guardian of the lost library of alexandria; for her whose lover was logic alone; for the transcendent archetype of the divine teacher; for her who lifted her eyes to untangle the constellations and who claimed a place for earth amongst the stars. songs for her who was blessed by the gods only to be doomed by the bloodlust of mankind.


01 CHURCH OF NO RELIGION | ed harcourt { you think all your cardinal sins will stay underground / you’ve ruined almost everything so step down down down down down / all your money and all your faith all your miracles are only visions / won’t make the world a better place so take a pew and start to listen }

02 DEAR BELIEVER | edward sharpe & the magnetic zeroes{ paradise, has its hunter / call me blind, call me fool / I don’t mind chasing thunder / I say reaching for Heaven is what I’m on Earth to do }

03 AMIE | damien rice { amie come sit on my wall / and read me the story of O / and tell it like you still believe / that the end of the century / brings a change for you and me }

04 THUNDERBOLT | bjork { no one imagines the light shock I need /  and I’ll never know / from who’s hands, deeply humble / dangerous gifts as such to mine come }

05 THE DESPERATE KINGDOM OF LOVE | pj harvey { holy water cannot help you now / your mysterious eyes cannot help you / selling your reason will not bring you through / the desperate kingdom of love }

06 DEVIL’S SPOKE | laura marling { and that life itself could not aspire / to have someone be so admired / I threw creation to my kin / with a silence broken by a whispered wind }

07 WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE | ryan adams { Dancin’ where the stars go blue / Dancin’ where the evening fell / Dancin’ in your wooden shoes In a wedding gown }

08 ATTICUS | the noisettes { In my heart I can fly / and I cannot disguise my love / There is no time to / And I wouldn’t know how / Constellations tonight / Are so fiercesomely bright, my love }

09 WHAT IF | emilie autumn { What if I’m a world unturning / What if I’m an ocean, far too shallow, much too deep / What if I’m the kindest demon / Something you may not believe in / What if I’m a siren singing gentlemen to sleep }

10 SUNRISING | future of forestry { Hear the call of night / Open the borders of time / Hear the song of the stars / Sound like a whisper }

11 THE SCIENTIST | natasha bedingfield { Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions / Oh, let’s go back to the start / Running in circles, coming up tails / Heads on a science apart }

12 COVER ME WITH FLOWERS | david sylvan { Let me see the face / Of all enduring grace / Let me take a crack at / All that matters / And in the weightless hours / Cover me with flowers }

13 THE TOWER OF LEARNING | rufus wainwright { I’m looking for the tower of learning / I’m looking for the copious prize / I saw it in your eyes what I’m looking for / I saw it in your eyes what I’m looking for }

14 TWO PLANETS | bat for lashesI have a heart that’s full of light to be shared / On this night, feel my hands, feel my love / For the sun and the stars of my mother and my sisters }

15 ON THE NATURE OF DAYLIGHT | max richter { And if my life Is like the dust / That hides the glow of a rose / What good am I? Heaven only knows }

16 THESEUS | patrick wolf { So now you’ve found all you were looking for / How you gonna find your way out of the maze? / You hear those jealous hands, those bitter men / Carve their meat before the table is laid }

17 THE WROTE AND THE WRIT | johnny flynn { And I’ll soon forget what was never there / Your words are ash and dust / All that’s left is the song I’ve sung The breath I’ve taken and the one I must }

18 WILD TIGERS I HAVE KNOWN | emily jane white { You keep your heart from your chest / It’ll be gone just like the rest / ‘Cause it’s a man’s world / Say all the right words / And hold your heart from your chest }

19 THIS AIN’T NO HYMN | saint saviour { It depends on you and you alone / Whether you do, whether you don’t / Don’t believe in more than flesh and bone / Grab on and hold, grab on and hold }

Hypatia: Why she kicks ass

  • She was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, teacher, editor, musician, author and philosopher in Roman Egypt who was the first historically noted woman in mathematics, and head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, where she also taught philosophy and astronomy.
  • She edited a number of works in collaboration with her father, the mathematician Theon; last director of the Museion that was the center of scholarship in the classical world.  Among them were a commentary on the 13-volume Arithmetica by Diophantus, which plays a role in the novel. She also edited Theon’s commentary on Euclid’s Elements, which was likely the basis for every geometry text for the next fifteen centuries.
  • Students from wealthy and influential families in Egypt, Syria, Cyrene, and Constantinople came to Alexandria to study privately with her. Many of them later attained high posts in government and the Church.
  • A story told by Damascius in the Suda reflects a likely picture of her attitude toward romantic love. When accosted by a young man who professed his love for her, Hypatia showed him her bloody menstrual rags and told him it was the body he loved and he did not “love beauty for its own sake.” The young man fled. 
  • Hypatia tried to mediate a conflict between the new Patriarch Cyril and the new Imperial Prefect Orestes but she sided with traditional Greek values-discourse over violence, tolerance over bigotry, secular authority over religious authority. Cyril and his followers felt she favored Orestes in the conflict and feared a Prefect backed by a respected citizen with considerable authority, extensive influence, and the courage of her convictions. These convictions lead to Cyril and his followers skillfully spread rumors that Hypatia studied magic and had cast a satanic spell on the Prefect, “God’s people,” and the entire city. Eventually a churchman, leading a superstitious mob, grabbed Hypatia out of her chariot when she was on her way to a public lecture in March 415, and they brutally murdered her, hacking her body apart inside a church and burning the pieces outside the city walls.
  • All Hypatia’s work is lost except for its titles and some references to it. However no purely philosophical work is known, only work in mathematics and astronomy. Based on this small amount of evidence remaining, it has been concluded that Hypatia was an excellent compiler, editor, and preserver of earlier mathematical works.

h i s t o r y  m e m e ,  [1/6 women] :  H Y P A T I A  O F  A L E X A D R I A

philosopher, teacher, mathematician, martyr.

“There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.”


Women In Science - The Ancients

Aglaonike, 1st-2nd century Greece, Astronomer

People believed she was a sorceress for her ability to “cause the moon to disappear” - to predict lunar eclipses. 

Mary The Jewess, 1st-3rd century Europe, Alchemist/Inventor

The first “true alchemist” of the Western world is credited with inventing various apparatuses to distill, collect, and refine chemicals. She may have discovered hydrochloric acid. 

Merit-Ptah, 2700 BcE Egypt, Physician

She may be the first named woman in science. In ancient Egypt, she held the title of “Chief Physician” and her likeness is painted in the Valley of Kings.

Hypatia, 3rd-4th century Byzantium, Mathematician/Astronomer 

The head of a Neoplatonic school at Alexandria, she “made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time.” She was caught between a feud between two prominent leaders and murdered by a Christian mob. 

Agnodice, 4th century BCE Athens, Physician/Midwife

Athenian leaders banned women from working in medicine after discovering midwives were being performing abortions. She cut her hair to continue her practice and later left for Egypt to continue her training. 


HISTORY MEME - WORLD VERSION ♛ [02/06] women : Hypatia (AD 350–370 - 415)

Greek Alexandrine Neoplatonist philosopher in Egypt who was the first well-documented woman in mathematics. The mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was the daughter of the mathematician Theon Alexandricus. She was educated at Athens. Around AD 400, she became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, where she imparted the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle to any student. The pupils included pagans, Christians, and foreigners. Orestes, the governor of Alexandria, and Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, found themselves in a bitter feud in which Hypatia would come to be one of the main points of contention. The feud, which took place in 415 AD, began over the matter of Jewish dancing exhibitions in Alexandria. Since these exhibitions attracted large crowds and were commonly prone to civil disorder of varying degrees, Orestes published an edict which outlined new regulations for such gatherings and posted it in the city’s theater. Soon after, crowds gathered to read the edict, angry over the new regulations that had been imposed upon them. At one such gathering, Hierax, a Christian and devout follower of Cyril, read the edict and applauded the new regulations, which many people felt was an attempt to incite the crowd into sedition. Orestes immediately ordered Hierax to be seized and publicly tortured in the theater. Upon hearing of this, Cyril threatened the Jews of Alexandria with “the utmost severities” if harassment of Christians was not ceased at once. Hypatia, the female philosopher of Alexandria and woman who would become a target of the Christian anger that grew over the feud. Daughter of Theon, and a teacher trained in the philosophical schools of Plato and Plotinus, she was admired by most men for her dignity and virtue. Of the anger she provoked among Christians, Scholasticus writes, Hypatia ultimately fell “victim to the political jealousy which at the time prevailed” - Orestes was known to seek her counsel, and a rumor spread among the Christian community of Alexandria in which she was blamed for his unwillingness to reconcile with Cyril. Therefore, a mob of Christians gathered, led by a reader (i.e. a minor cleric) named Peter whom Scholasticus calls a fanatic. They kidnapped Hypatia on her way home and took her to the “Church called Caesareum. They then completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles”. Socrates Scholasticus was hence interpreted as saying that, while she was still alive, Hypatia’s flesh was torn off using oyster shells. Afterward, the men proceeded to mutilate her, and finally burn her limbs. When news broke of Hypatia’s murder, it provoked great public denouncement, not only against Cyril, but against the whole Alexandrian Christian community.

Hypatia of Alexandria. 350?-415 AD.

Hypatia was the first historically noted woman in mathematics, and also taught philosophy and astronomy in Alexandria, Egypt. She was the head of a Platonist School, where she taught the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle. Her father, Theon, was a mathematician. She dressed in the clothes of a scholar instead of women’s clothes and drove her own chariot. Hypatia was murdered in the streets of Alexandria by a Christian mob after being accused of witchcraft and godlessness. Her writings were destroyed when the Library of Alexandria was burned.

So I set out to finally determine the height difference between Hypatia and Izzy, but I would appear to have drawn this, which is no help whatsoever.

You’re always welcome to remove my inane ramblings if you fancy reblogging this stuff, incidentally.