“Where women are included, you’re more likely to have democracy; you’re more likely to have stability and prosperity,” said Hillary Clinton at a technology conference last month, reports The Guardian. “It’s not just a nice thing to do.”

Happy International Women's Day!  " International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities." We want to honor some extraordinary women who have made their mark in history with respect to Mathematics. The following women have made important contributions to math and paved the way for future women mathematicians:

Hypatia of Alexandria
Born: AD 350
Death: AD 415

Hypatia is considered the most prominent figure of mathematics who was equally talented in philosophy and science. She was a teacher and was involved in research work pertaining to the early hydrometer. Her most significant contribution to mathematics is an annotation on the 13th volumes of the famous Greek mathematics text-book called ‘Artihmetica’, and a commentary on the eminent works on Conics by ‘Apollonius’ and many more.


Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Born: May 16, 1718

Died: January 9, 1799 (age 80)

Maria Gaetana Agnesi is notably known her first book interpreting the differential and integral calculus. She also wrote ‘Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventu italiana’

For her incredible talent, In 1750, she was appointed as chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at the Bologna Academy of Sciences, that was almost impossible for a woman in mid eighteenth century.

According to Dirk Jan Struik, after Hypatia Agnesi is the most notable woman mathematician whose contribution furthered the development of mathematics

Marie-Sophie Germain

Born: April 1, 1776

Died: June 27, 1831

Marie-Sophie Germain was a French mathematician. She researched the concentrations of mathematics involving number theory and differential geometry. At age 13, Marie was introduced to mathematics when she used her downtime to go up her father’s library. The first mathematics books she read was J. E. Montucla’s L’Histoire des Mathématiques.

During her time, women couldn't make a career in mathematics but she continued studying mathematics books from her father’s library anyway. She also corresponded with some famous mathematicians including Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss under the pseudonym, M. LeBlanc.

In 1816 she won a grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essays on elasticity. This enabled her to become the first woman to join classes at the Academy; however she denied and did not show up to receive the award. In 1831, she received an honorary degree from the University of Gottengen. However, before having the honor she died of breast cancer. Fermat’s Last Theorem was one of greatest contributions to mathematics and it laid the foundation for mathematicians venturing the subject even hundreds of years after.

Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace 

Born: 10 December 1815 (in London)

Died: 27 November 1852 (at the age 80)

Augusta is widely known for her instruction materials on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer named ‘the analytical engine.’ She was sure of herself that computers had to capability to do far more than calculators.

Today she is remembered as the first female computer programmer who could predict about the modern computer when it had no existence. The programming language ‘Ada’ was named in her honor.

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet

Born: December 17, 1706

Death: September 10, 1749

Gabrielle Émilie was a French mathematician. She came from an affluent family and  received higher degree of education despite the fact this was not possible for a majority of French women.

One of her groundbreaking contribution is known to be the translation and commentary on the work Isaac Newton ‘Principia Mathematica’ and her book named ‘Institutions de Physique’ on science and philosophy that was published in 1740.

She died out of her pregnancy on the night of 3 September 1749 approximately one week later of giving birth to a daughter.

Shafi Goldwasser

Born: In 1958 in New York City (age 52–53)

Shafrira Goldwasser is the Professor of mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. She is widely acclaimed for her work: zero-knowledge proofs. She was bestowed with the Gödel Prize in in 1993 for “The knowledge complexity of interactive proof systems” and in twice 2001 for “Interactive Proofs and the Hardness of Approximating Cliques”

Some of her research areas are cryptography, computational complexity theory, and computational number theory



Julia Hall Bowman Robinson

Born: December 8, 1919

Died: July 30, 1985

Julia Hall Bowman Robinson was an American mathematician. She is well-known for her important work on decision problems as well as Hilbert’s Tenth Problem. She was the professor at the University of California Berkley and was the first female mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

From her early childhood, she suffered from poor health and shortness of breath and her heart was damaged by rheumatic fever as a child. In 1984 she was diagnosed with leukemia and died in Oakland, California on July 30, 1985.



Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya 

Born: 15 January,1850

Died: 10 February 1891

Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya was the first notable Russian female mathematician, who is famously known for her important contribution to differential equations, analysis, and mechanics. She is the first Russian woman who was appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe.

It was a challenge for her to be taken seriously as a mathematician in a male dominated society. Despite, all the odds stacked up against her, she made a name for herself.  Her achievements includes Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem, the dynamics of Saturn’s rings, partial differential equations, and elliptic integrals.


Amalie Emmy Noether

Born: March 23, 1882 (Erlangen, Germany)

Died: April 14, 1935 (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania)

Amalie Emmy Noether was a German mathematician. Her most important works are abstract algebra as well as theoretical physics. She is responsible for laying the foundation of the theories of rings, fields, and algebras.

Her works can be felt in three different epochs:

Her contribution on differential invariants in the calculus of variations, Noether’s theorem, is known as “one of the most important mathematical theorems ever proved in guiding the development of modern physics” (1908–1919)

Noether developed the theory of ideals in commutative rings into a potent tool with comprehensive applications in the second epoch (1920–1926).

she published her important works including noncommutative algebras as well as hypercomplex numbers and united the representation theory of groups with the theory of modules in the third epoch (1927–1935).

Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright

Born: December 17, 1900 (Aynho, Northamptonshire)

Died: April 3, 1998

Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright was one of the most important 20th-century British mathematicians.

Dame published more than 100 papers and she was also the first female mathematician who was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of England. She received several honors and recognitions including the De Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society and the Sylvester Medal of the Royal Society.

Some of her important mathematical works, according to W. K. Hayman in the Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society are: Level curves of integral and meromorphic functions, Functions in the unit disk, Ordinary differential equations, Topology and many more.

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Figure This Challenge #56

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Fun Math Facts:

Math Limerick

Question: Why is this a mathematical limerick?

( (12 + 144 + 20 + 3 Sqrt[4]) / 7 ) + 5*11 = 92 + 0 .


A dozen, a gross, and a score,
plus three times the square root of four, divided by seven, plus five times eleven, is nine squared and not a bit more.

---Jon Saxton (math textbook author)

Presentation Suggestions:
Challenge students to invent their own math limerick!

The Math Behind the Fact:
It is fun to mix mathematics with poetry.


Su, Francis E., et al. "Math Limerick." Math Fun Facts.


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