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Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Maria Gaetana Agnesi was born in the city of Milan on May 16, 1718. (Today Milan is part of Italy.) Agnesi was the oldest of twenty-one children. As a child she studied Latin and mathematics. Later she wrote a calculus textbook in Italian that included a curve now called the Witch of Agnesi. After her father died in 1752, Agnesi started a home for old and sick women. She spent all of her time and money working there. Agnesi died in Milan on January 9, 1799.
Apollonius of Perga
Apollonius was born in Perga around 262 BC. (Perga was a Greek city in what is now Turkey.) As a young man, Apollonius traveled to the great library at Alexandria. He also visited the city of Pergamum, which had another important library. Apollonius studied astronomy and geometry. He wrote several books, including the Conics. Apollonius died in Alexandria around 190 BC.
Aristotle was born in 384 BC in the city of Stagirus in northern Greece. When he was seventeen, Aristotle traveled to Athens to study at the Academy run by the philosopher Plato. Later Aristotle became the tutor of Alexander the Great. Later Alexander helped Aristotle found his own school. Aristotle wrote books on astronomy, physics, geology, and other types of science, as well as politics and logic. Though he was not as interested in mathematics, many of his students were. Aristotle died in 322 BC in the Greek city of Chalcis, where his mother had been born.
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy sometime during the autumn of 1451. Columbus tried to sail to India by traveling west from Spain. However, because he used Ptolemy's estimate of the earth's size, Columbus did not know how far away India was. He did not realize there was room for all of America in his way! Columbus died on May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, Spain.
René Descartes was born in La Haye, France on March 31, 1596. Although he was born in France, he spent most of his life in Holland. As a young man, Descartes was often sick, so his teachers gave him permission to stay in bed until noon. He went on staying in bed all morning for many years. Descartes had many interests, including mathematics, physics, and philosophy. He is especially famous for having written, "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am.") Descartes died in Stockholm, Sweden, where he had been teaching the young Queen Christina about philosophy and astronomy, on February 11, 1650.
Dicaearchus was a follower of Aristotle. He drew one of the first maps that used reference lines, around 300 BC. Very little is known about his life.
Eratosthenes was born in the city of Cyrene in northern Africa in 276 BC. As a young man he studied with the poet Callimachus and with scholars in Athens. Later he became the third librarian at the great library in Alexandria, Egypt. Eratosthenes studied geometry and prime numbers. He also measured the circumference of the earth and the distance from the earth to the sun and moon, and drew various maps.
Euclid was born around 325 BC. He spent most of his life in the city of Alexandria in Egypt, where he taught mathematics to many people. Euclid is most famous for writing the Elements, a geometry textbook. He also wrote books about astronomy and music. Euclid died in Alexandria around 265 BC.
Pierre de Fermat
Pierre Fermat was born on August 17, 1601 in Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France. He worked as a lawyer and a member of the parliament in the city of Toulouse. (When he became a government official, he was allowed to change his name to Pierre de Fermat, which sounds more noble.) Fermat studied many mathematical topics, including geometry and number theory. Though he wrote many letters about his discoveries, he published very little. In fact, he is famous for not publishing Fermat's Last Theorem!
Fermat died in the town of Castres near Toulouse on January 12, 1665.
Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564 in the city of Pisa in Italy. Though his father wanted him to be a doctor, Galileo was more interested in mathematics. Galileo studied physics and astronomy as well as pure mathematics; he built his own telescope and observed Jupiter's moons. In 1633 the Catholic Church's Inquisition sentenced Galileo to lifelong imprisonment for promoting the theory that the Earth travels around the sun. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest, and died in the town of Arcetri, near Florence, on January 8, 1642.
Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette
Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette was born in the town of Mézières, France on May 6, 1769. He worked as a mathematics teacher and published several books with Gaspard Monge. Hachette was also interested in physics, and studied many topics, including optics, electricity, and magnetism. He died in Paris on January 16, 1834.
Hipparchus was born in the city of Nicaea in what is now Turkey around 190 BC. He studied astronomy, mapped the positions of stars in the sky, and calculated the length of the year and the distance to the moon. Hipparchus also studied trigonometry and suggested a system of geography similar to today's latitude and longitude. Hipparchus died in 120 BC on the Greek island of Rhodes.
Hypatia was born around 370 AD in Alexandria, Egypt. She became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria around 400 AD, and lectured on philosophy and mathematics. She also wrote commentaries on various ancient mathematicians. Hypatia is best remembered as a talented teacher. Sadly, she was murdered by an angry mob in March, 415 AD.
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarazmi
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarazmi was born around 780 AD in Baghdad, in what is now Iraq. He worked at an academy called the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, and wrote books on algebra, astronomy, and Arabic numerals. The word "algebra" comes from the title of one of his books, and the word "algorithm" is based on the name "al-Khwarazmi." Al-Khwarazmi died around 850 AD.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz was born in the city of Leipzig in what is now Germany on July 1, 1646. As a young man, he studied philosophy, logic, law, and religion. He also built a calculating machine. Leibniz was involved in many areas of mathematics. He is especially famous as one of the inventors of calculus. He was also an important philosopher and student of logic. Leibniz died in the city of Hannover on November 14, 1716. (Today Hannover is part of Germany.)
Gaspard Monge was born in the French town of Beaune on May 9, 1746. One of his first jobs was as a draftsman. He also designed a military fortification that was safe from attacking cannons. Later, Monge researched physics, geometry, calculus, and chemistry, and worked as a mathematics teacher. He was a strong supporter of the French Revolution and was part of the Committee on Weights and Measures which invented the metric system of measurement. Monge also traveled to Egypt with Napoleon. Napoleon also gave him the title of Count of Péluse. After Napoleon was defeated, Monge's life became much more difficult, and he had to leave France for a year. Monge died in Paris on July 28, 1818.
Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643 in the town of Woolsthorpe in England. His scientific achievements include advances in optics and the first description of gravity. Newton is also one of the inventors of calculus. He was one of the first Lucasian professors of mathematics at Cambridge. Later he took charge of the English Mint and supervised measures to invent coins and prevent counterfeiting of money. Queen Anne knighted him in 1705. Newton died in London on March 31, 1727.
Nicole Oresme was born in northern France in 1323 AD. He was friends with King Charles the Fifth of France, and became Bishop of Lisieux in 1377. Oresme was interested in philosophy and physics, and translated many of Aristotle's works into French. He wrote books on economics, including a "Treatise on coins," as well as physics, mathematics, and religion. His accomplishments include an early form of coordinate graphing, a theory of exponents that allowed for fractional powers, and the suggestion that the earth might rotate. Oresme died in Lisieux on July 11, 1382.
Pappus of Alexandria
Pappus was born in Alexandria, Egypt around 290 AD. He wrote a book called the Synagoge or Collection which included sections on most of the branches of Greek mathematics, as well as some physics. He also wrote commentaries on books by other scholars, including a guide to Ptolemy's book on astronomy. Pappus died around 350 AD.
Claudius Ptolemy was born somewhere in Egypt around 85 AD. He spent most of his life in the city of Alexandria. Ptolemy's books include the Geography and the Almagest. In the Almagest he put forward a detailed theory for the motion of the sun and the planets; Ptolemy believed that they all rotated around the Earth. He also wrote a book on optics. Ptolemy died in Alexandria around 165 AD.
James Joseph Sylvester
James Joseph Sylvester was born on September 3, 1814 in London, England. He took third place in the mathematical tripos examination at Cambridge University, but he could not receive a degree because he was Jewish. Sylvester taught at many different universities in England and the United States, and researched geometry and matrix theory. He also tutored Florence Nightingale, who used the math she learned to argue for better conditions in British army hospitals. Sylvester died in London on March 15, 1897.
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