Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hypatia

Natural Philosopher (355? - 415 CE)

She is one of the more romantic figures in science. She was the daughter of Theon, a mathematician who taught at the great school at the Alexandrine Library. She traveled widely and corresponded with people all over the Mediterranean. We know of her only through her letters because all of her work was destroyed when the Great Library of Alexandia was destroyed.

She taught at the school in the Library in Alexandria, Egypt. Letters written and addressed simply to the philosopher were delivered to her. She taught mathematics and natural philosophy. She is credited with the authorship of three major treatises on geometry and algebra and one on astronomy. She invented several tools: an instrument for distilling water, an instrument to measure the specific gravity of water, an astrolabe and a planisphere.

She died violently. She was dragged to her death by a mob who pulled her from her classroom into the streets where they peeled her to death with oyster shells.

She wrote that:

  • All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.
  • Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.
  • To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.

http://www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS/HYPATIA.html

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