Women in Mathematics

This month I have been sharing more and more about women mathematicians on all our social media platforms. In this short post I just want to mention the work of Rachel Ignotofsky. She is the illustrator of Women in Science, which was turned into a book and released in 2016.  The book is incredible and I cannot recommend it enough. Today, I just want to share some of the pages from that book related to women mathematicians. Enjoy!


From these 4 women, there is one I didn’t know much about: Wang Zhenyi (1768–1797).
She was a scientist from the Qing dynasty. She breached the feudal customs of the time, which hindered women’s rights, by arduously working to educate herself in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, geography, and medicine.

Zhenyi mastered trigonometry and knew the Pythagorean theorem. She wrote an article called “The Explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem and Trigonometry”. She admired the mathematician Mei Wending (1633–1721 A.D.). He was famous in the early Qing dynasty and wrote the book, “Principles of Calculation”. Wang Zhenyi became a master of this book, even rewriting it with simpler language, and made it available to others under the title, “The Musts of Calculation”. She was very dedicated in her study of mathematics and wrote a book called “The Simple Principles of Calculation” when she was twenty-four. Her studies were difficult and she once said, “There were times that I had to put down my pen and sigh. But I love the subject, I do not give up.” I think her attitude is great and she is an inspiration for everyone for sure. 


I have mentioned the other 3 women in many other posts and they have been an inspiration for a lot of years. They are incredible people and I an incredibly happy they are mentioned in this book.

Katherine Johnson was instrumental in doing the mathematics responsible for putting the men on the Moon.

Her family relocated 120 miles since high school wasn’t offered to blacks in her hometown. She graduated high school at 14 and college at 18. She was a teacher until she applied to be a “computer” – a person who performed calculations for the engineers at the precursor to NASA. She calculated the trajectory for the flight of the 1st American in Space, as well as the 1961 Mercury Mission. Even when machine computers were 1st used in 1962 to determine John Glenn’s orbit around Earth, NASA still had her double check the results.

I recommend you check the movie: Hidden Figures to find out more about her.


Hypatia of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, inventor, and philosopher in Egypt, then part of the Eastern Roman Empire. No written work widely recognized by scholars as Hypatia’s own has survived to the present time. Many of the works commonly attributed to her are believed to have been collaborative works with her father, Theon Alexandricus. This kind of authorial uncertainty is typical for female philosophers in antiquity. It is thought that she wrote a commentary on the 13-volume Arithmetica by Diophantus.

This is just a very short description of her incredible life. If you want to find out more, check Hypatia – an article dedicated just to her.


Lastly, but not least, one of my favourite ever: Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852). She was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. For me, she is one of those mathematicians that have seen the wonderful applications of mathematics. She has worked on one of mathematics’ most beautiful and useful applications at the moment: the computer. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is sometimes regarded as the first to recognise the full potential of a “computing machine” and the first computer programmer.

When she was a teenager, her mathematical talents led her to a long working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, also known as “the father of computers”, and in particular, Babbage’s work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville.

I remember that while reading Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, it said that Alan Turing was reading a lot about Ada and that he considered her a genius at that time. His interest in her is kind of obvious because one of her desires was very similar to his. In 1844, she commented to a friend Woronzow Greig about her desire to create a mathematical model for how the brain gives rise to thoughts and nerves to feelings (“a calculus of the nervous system”). She never achieved this, however.


Moreover, if you want to find out more about other great books on women mathematicians you can check out these 5 great books. Hope you liked this post and you find it useful. Have a great day. If you have ideas for future blog posts, let us know. Don’t forget to check our last post: Mathematics A – Z: Axioms. You can find us on FacebookTumblrGoogle+Twitter  and  Instagram. We will try to post there as often as possible. Enjoy the day!

Lots of love and don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy!


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