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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hypatia of Alexandria: mathematics against intolerance

This is the story of the first mathematical woman in history, Hypatia of Alexandria

Ancient scholars, as in the case of the Greeks, were broad-minded thinkers; The same person could be a physician, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. This seems impossible in our day, with the increase of the degree of specialization and the necessary efforts to be an expert in a certain field.
In the case of Hypatia of Alexandria (IV and V centuries) she developed a scientific work in fields such as mathematics and astronomy. History has been demonstrating the skills of women in science and how there is no intellectual disadvantage of women vis-a-vis men. The gender gap is simply a matter of social roles assigned over centuries to both gender.
Hypatia was greatly influenced in the intellectual world by her father Theon , Greek philosopher and mathematician who was the last director of the Museum of Alexandria . Education provided by his father was a liberal education, knowing Hypatia today as the legendary freethinker before the intoleracia.
Hypatia was a free woman, educated in the neo - Platonic school and leader of the neo - Platonic belief in Alexandria. She never married: despite her beauty and eloquence, she devoted her life to scientific work.
Her research was reflected in numerous manuscripts, such as "Comments Diophantus Arithmetic" . Diophantus was a Greek mathematician who lived during the third century and was considered the father of algebra and arithmetic , whose work focused on algebraic equations and number theory. Its name comes the Diophantine equations . In an edition of this book Diophantus was where Pierre de Fermat wrote his famous phrase:
On the other hand, it is not possible to divide a cube into two cubes, or a double cube in two cubits, or in general a power superior to the square, to infinity, in two powers of the same degree: I have found a truly admirable proof of this affirmation . The margin requirement could not contain it.
Another of her contributions was the edition of "The Elements of Euclid", with the comments of his father Theon, an expert in the Euclidean work. The Elements of Euclid has been more editions the book after the Bible , and includes a complete treatise on geometry.
She also rewrote a treatise on the "Conic" of Apollonius . His reinterpretations simplified the concepts of Apollonius, with a more accessible language and making it a manual easily readable by the interested reader.
Unfortunately, many of the contributions of Hypatia were lost.
Thanks to his correspondence with her student Synesius (later Bishop of Ptolemais), we know many of their other contributions. Synesius of Cyrene shared the taste for mathematics and astronomy of his tutor, but took other courses, becoming the cleric philosopher. Sinesio records the uniqueness of Hypatia as an intellectual. She claims her authorship in the construction of an astrolabe, a hydrometer and a hydroscope.
The astrolabe is an instrument constructed to determine the positioning of the stars in the sky and served as a guide for sailors, engineers or architects to determine distances by triangulation. A curious fact is the use of this instrument by the Muslim sailors, with whom they were guided to determine the position of the Mecca and thus to be able to pray.
Hypatia also stood out for her praises and for being a follower of Neopitagorism and Neoplatonism; She became an eminent professor of mathematics , teaching at home to a select group of aristocrats, both pagan and Christian. Her intelligence gained him the position of counselor of Orestes, prefect of the Roman Empire of the East, exalumno of his.
The special character of Hypatia, with equal treatment of all her pupils, educated from tolerance and rationality, aroused a series of envy that would raise many enemies against her. Like pagan, supporter of the Greek scientific rationalism and influential political personage, friend of Orestes, underwent the intense hostility between Cirilo (Christian fanatic, bishop of Alexandria) and Orestes. The accusations against her of blasphemy and anticristina, for the simple fact of refusing to traicinar her ideals and to leave paganism, propitiated the ambush of the bishop Cirilo, dragging popular masses to brutally assassinate it.
However, Hypatia never proclaimed her dislike of Christianity . Simply, with her open character she accepted any type of disciple, regardless of his religious beliefs.
Hypatia's life was an interesting life. The life of a strong woman, fighting for their ideals and began the study of science in a few centuries when women were denied access to knowledge . Thus it portrayed in the recent film "Agora" , directed by Alejandro Amenabar in 2009, where Hypatia appears preoccupied with Euclid's Elements, Apollonius conic and the heliocentric system of Aristarchus of Samos. In addition, it is presented as a teacher of astronomy, in a class in which raises the questions: Why do the stars fall ?, why only turn from west to east? Why, instead, does the handkerchief fall to the ground? The students respond and Hypatia analyzes their answers and explains from a Ptolemaic point of view:
"The stars do not fall because they are in a circle. On earth they fall because it is the center of the universe.
Manuel de León (CSIC, Founder of ICMAT, Royal Academy of Sciences, Royal Canaria Academy of Sciences, ICSU) and Cristina Sardon (ICMAT-CSIC).…/……/hypatia-ancient-alexandria…/

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