Born on this day: Sophie Germain

Portrait of Sophie Germain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Sophie Germain, from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Sophie Germain was born in Paris on April 1, 1776. She was the second of three daughters of a Parisian silk merchant, Ambroise-François Germain.
From an early age, she showed her passion for knowledge and read the works of Newton and Euler. But her family, like many others at that time, considered that being an intellectual was not appropriately for girls.
Despite that as a woman she was not allowed from attending to the École Polytechnique, she was able to get the lecture notes for several of the courses.
Sophie was particularly interested in Mathematics. Using the pseudonym of Monsieur LeBlanc, submitted a paper to J. L. Lagrange. He was quite impressed with the essay and wanted to meet the author. After the initial surprise about the true identity of Monsieur LeBlanc, Lagrange eventually became Sophie’s mentor and a moral support for her work.
She was fascinated with the number theory and corresponded with Carl Friedrich Gauss. He guided her research and in 1816, she became the first woman to win a prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences with her paper: ‘Memoir on the Vibrations of Elastic Plates’.
She continued to work in mathematics and philosophy until her death.
On June 27, 1831, at the age of 55, Sophie Germain died after a battle against breast cancer.
Six years after her death, received an honorary degree from the University of Göttingen.

Reference:

Gray, Mary W. “Sophie Germain.” Complexities: Women in Mathematics. Ed. Bettye Anne Case and Anne M. Leggett. United Kingdom: Princeton University Press, 2005. 68-75.

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