Hypatia, first documented mathematics

Hipatia, primera matemática documentada

Hypatia was an extraordinary woman, the first documented mathematician, as well as an astronomer and philosopher, at a time when women were not encouraged to pursue these fields. He dedicated himself to cultivating science and philosophy, without being known to marry or have children. She was a great teacher, appreciated among her students, promoting equality among them, regardless of their religion, race or social status. He built different astronomical instruments, even improving some of them. He mapped the celestial bodies and made a planisphere.


He was born in Alexandria. Although for a long time the year of his birth was dated 470, recent research leans towards 355 as more probable. Her father Theon supervised his daughter's education, a very liberal approach for the time, and allowed her to become an astronomer and mathematician. After receiving teachings in philosophy and mathematics at the Museum (something similar to a University, a building in which different disciplines were taught, research was carried out, its library was expanded, etc.) Hypatia traveled to Rome and Athens to expand her studies with the “intellectual avant-garde” of those times, especially in philosophy.

Historic moment

Alexandria suffered great tumults in those years. The emperor Theodosius converted to Christianity in 380 and this religion became official and in the edict of Thessaloniki the people were urged to convert. In the year 390 Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, had the pagan Hellenistic temples converted or destroyed. A year later, in 391, the Mithraeum and Serapeum (the library) were destroyed. And in 395 the Roman Empire was divided into two parts: the Western, with its capital in Rome, and the Eastern, with its capital in Constantinople.


All these events are the breeding ground that will end Hypatia's life. Violent clashes are frequent in the city between one side and the other. Upon the death of Theophilus, his nephew Cyril replaced him. The disputes between Orestes and Cyril increase in intensity until Orestes is attacked. A monk close to Cyril throws a stone at his head. Ammonius (the monk) was imprisoned and executed. Cyril made him a martyr. Shortly afterward, a rumor began to spread that Hypatia was the one who, with her advice to Orestes, was preventing the tension from decreasing. A group of fanatics pounced on her, stripped her naked, stoned her, dismembered her and displayed her remains until they reached the Cyrenean where they burned them.

Although none of his works have survived to this day, we have evidence of them through references from his students. Among them we find:

  • Commentary on the conic sections of Apollonius of Perga.
  • The astronomical canon.
  • Editing your father's comment to “Euclid's elements”.
  • Astronomical tables with the revision of those of the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy, known for his inclusion in the astronomical canon of Hesychius.

He left us phrases as current as:

  • Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. Teaching superstitions as if they were truths is terrible. The child's mind accepts and believes them, and only with great pain, and perhaps tragedy, can it be freed from them over the years.
  • Regardless of our color, race and religion, we are brothers.
  • Defend your right to think, because even thinking wrongly is better than not thinking at all.

Hypatia would go down in history as a martyr of free thought. A cultured, intelligent, egalitarian woman who dedicated her life to science and teaching. A woman far ahead of her time who died because of intolerance, it is not known whether it was solely religious, or also for wielding her freedom of thought and work. Thanks for your example Hypatia.

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