First Woman to Make a Substantial Contribution to the Development of Mathematics
350 – 415 A.D.
Hypatia stands as one of the most remarkable women of antiquity, and she was famous in an unusual line, that of philosophy. Her father, Theon, was at the head of the Platonic school at Alexandria and was noted for his philosophic attainments, but his fame and name are preserved to us more on his daughter’s account than on his own. She was his devoted pupil and his very life passed over into hers. She made astonishing progress in all branches of learning and soon surpassed her father and all other philosophers in their special pursuits.
She succeeded her father as head of the Alexandrine school. Pupils came from all parts of the Roman empire and eagerly listened to the beautiful and learned woman.
She was considered an oracle of wisdom, and magistrates consulted her on many important cases. Men gathered about her in great numbers. Probably no woman was ever more praised and petted than she. In the midst of it all she maintained a modest reserve. Her mind was too thoroughly trained to lose its perfect poise through vanity.
Orestes was governor of Alexandria and Cyril was bishop. Orestes frequently consulted Hypatia as did other leading men and naturally admired her. The bishop disliked Orestes and was bitterly intolerant of Hypatia’s philosophy. He is credited with having incited the mob to an attack on the governor. Feeling became so intense on the part of the bishop’s followers when it was rumored that Hypatia had prevented a reconciliation between the two men, that some conspirators, headed by one Peter, waylaid the noble woman, dragged her from her carriage into a church, stripped her naked, killed her with broken tiles, tore her body in pieces and then burned the remains to ashes. Thus was Hypatia a martyr to philosophy, suffering at the hands of a mob, martyred in 415 A.D. Cyril was the intolerant and bigoted instigator. When he became bishop, one of his first acts was to lead a mob and drive out the Jews from Alexandria, though for centuries they had enjoyed many privileges.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.