Date: 03/15/97 at 22:34:51 From: Anonymous Subject: Agnesi Do you have or know where I can get information on the mathematician, Maria Agnesi? Also, what is the Witch of Agnesi? Please help. Thank you.
Date: 03/16/97 at 10:17:09 From: Doctor Sarah Subject: Re: Agnesi Hello! Here's some information from the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive at: http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk:80/~history/ Maria Gaetana Agnesi Born: 16 May 1718 in Milan, Habsburg Empire (now Italy) Died: 9 Jan 1799 in Milan, Habsburg Empire (now Italy) Maria Agnesi is noted for her work in differential calculus. She mastered many languages, such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, at an early age. At the age of 9 she published a Latin discourse in defence of higher education for women. In 1738 she published _Propositiones Philosophicae_, a series of essays on philosophy and natural science. The text _Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della giovent italiana_ includes a discussion of the cubic curve now know as the 'witch of Agnesi'. The word 'witch' is in fact a mistranslation of 'versiera', which can mean either 'curve' or 'witch'. The paper was dedicated to the empress Maria Theresa. A commentary by Agnesi on de L'Hopital's _Traite analytique des section coniques_ was never published. Agnesi occupied for a time (1750) the chair of mathematics in the University of Bologna, thus becoming the first woman to occupy a chair of mathematics. The chair had been previously held by her father, Pietro Agnesi. After the death of her father in 1752, she devoted herself to charitable work. In 1771 she became director of Pio Albergo Trivulzio, a charitable trust. The Witch of Agnesi The Witch of Agnesi was studied and named 'versiera' (Italian for 'she-devil' or 'witch') by Maria Agnesi in 1748 in her book _Istituzioni Analitiche_. It is also known as 'Cubique d'Agnesi' or 'Agnesienne'. It is thought that Agnesi confused an old Italian word meaning 'free to move' with another meaning 'witch'. The curve had been studied earlier by Fermat and Guido Grandi in 1703. The curve lies between y = 0 and y = a. It has points of inflection at y = 3a/4. The line y = 0 is an asymptote to the curve. The curve can be considered as the locus of a point P defined as follows. Draw a circle C with centre at (0,a/2) through O. Draw a line from O cutting C at L and the line y = a at M. Then P has the x-coordinate of M and the y-coordinate of L. To experiment interactively with this curve and its associated curves, see: http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Curves/Witch.html -Doctor Sarah, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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