Marie Sophie Germain, was born in Paris in the year 1776his story caused a stir over the centuries. She was a leading figure in the field of mathematics, where she worked independently despite the fact that she constantly had to fight against societal prejudice against female scientists.
His father was Ambroise-François Germain, a wealthy silk merchant whose family had been in the business for several generations. Her position allowed her to be a political member of the bourgeoisie in the Estates General, through which Sophie was exposed to philosophical and political discussions from an early age.
When he was only 13, the country broke up into revolution And those were very troubled times. She was therefore forced to stay at home for a while.
The young intellectual was interested in a mysterious library
Since Sophie was confined, she decided to spend the time reading the books that were in a striking library of his father. It was fascinating for her to find the work of Archimedes in the book The History of Mathematics. She was so fascinated by the life and death of the Greek mathematician that she decided to pursue her studies in mathematics.
However, from that time his life wouldn’t be as easy as he hoped. His parents strongly opposed this decision.
He faces strong opposition
To prevent him from continuing his studies, they forbade him to use a stove to heat his room or put on warm clothes for the cold. They thought that this would make him give up. On the other hand, it should be noted that at that time macho society predominated.
For this reason, the women they were totally forbidden to enter the institutions mathematics and universities. Despite everything, the girl continued with her project, because she was very clear about her goal. But how did he do it? He managed to enter an institute.
Many European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries prevented women from enrolling in universities to pursue scientific careers.
Sophie takes on the identity of a man
Immediately, when the young lady turned 18, she began to look for a way to start her university studies. The best option was to take the identity of a male alumnus, under the name of Antoine-Auguste Leblanc, was able to enter the École Polytechnique in Paris. Germain assumed the identity of a Leblanc, taking his classes and submitting papers under his name.
Since the teachers could receive comments from their students, the young woman who hid her identity sent comments to Professor Joseph Louis Lagrange. He did not take long to realize his potential, for this reason, I invite him to meet.
Sophie’s true identity is discovered
The girl was really happy to receive recognition from her teacher, so she when he proposed a meeting, she immediately accepted. His true identity would be completely exposed after this encounter. However, Professor Lagrange continued to support her and did not judge her.
time later, Sophie began to have contact with other very important mathematiciansbetween them, Carl Friedrich Gauss. They engage in fairly regular communication, their main subject being number theory, and the young woman continues to use the pseudonym of Mr. Leblanc.
Sophie’s first personal letter to Carl Friedrich Gauss
As her studies progressed, the young woman became more and more interested in the famous “Fermat’s theorem“. For this reason decided to establish a direct connection with Gaussthe first letter they exchanged dates from 1804.
In the said letter, the lady presented some results she had obtained on number theory and found them very interesting. At the beginning, the correspondence was quite fluid, he always signed with the name of Mr. Leblanc. But as time passes, Gauss responded very late or simply did not respond.
Sophie’s interest in number theoryled her to create the “Germain’s theorem”. This led her to discover “the prime numbers of Sophie Germain”. This had repercussions that spanned the centuries. Its contribution was used to solve the Fermat’s last theoremone of the great mathematical problems that remained unsolved for more than 350 years and was finally solved by Andrew J WilesProfessor at Oxford University.
Reveal your identity again
Considering the fact that an invasion occurred in the city of Braunschweig, where the mathematician Gauss lived. She interceded for him, through a family friend, later Sophie decides to reveal her identity to him.. Although he thanked her and congratulated her, he soon stopped answering all her letters.
Sophie does an amazing job
Sophie in 1792. Credit: Wikimedia commons.
When he successfully completed the study that bears his name, decided to launch a survey on the elasticity in the field of physics. Subsequently, he received the Extraordinary Prize for Mathematical Sciences from the Academy of Paris in 1816. for his dynamic theory of curvature and the behavior of elastic surfaces.
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However, given the exclusion of his colleagues, when the event to receive the prize took place, Sophie was not present, for women were forbidden to enter the official ceremonies of this closed circle.
Long after receiving the prize, she was invited to the sessions of the Academy of Sciences. Thus, she became the first woman to attend as a studied professional.
French stamp of 2016 bearing the image of Sophie Germain. Credit: Women with Science.
death and legacy
In 1829, Sophie discovered that she had breast cancer and, contrary to expectations, she continued to work, overcoming her pain, until her death on June 27, 1831, at the age of 55. Despite her accomplishments, however, her death certificate does not list her as a mathematician or scientist, but as an “unmarried woman without a profession”.
Six years after his death, in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of mathematics, the University of Göttingen conferred on him an honorary degree.
Other posthumous recognitions were given in Paris. Rue Sophie Germain was named in her honour.
Rue Sophie Germain. Credit: Raphaël Lorin.
In addition, a statue was erected at the entrance to Ecole Sophie Germain, a French school for girls. The house in which he died, located at 13 rue de Savoir, has been designated by the French government as a historical monument.
Currently, the Institut de France awards the prize each year “The Sophie Germain Award”to the researcher who has carried out the most important work in Mathematics at the request of the Academy of Sciences.
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Sophie Germain’s contributions in the field of mathematics and physics were very significant. It is an excellent example of perseverance and love for science; even more if we consider the limits of the women of her time.
References: BBC / Invdes.
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