Maria Gaetana Agnesi, 1718 - 1799, was an Italian mathematician, and the first woman to publish a book about mathematics.

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Italian

Mathematics

Algebra, philosophy

The 'Witch of Agnesi' is a curve (function) named after her. 'Witch' is not a comment on her character, but simply refers to the shape of the function, which evokes the image of a witch's hat.

A crater on Venus is named in her memory.

In 1996, an asteroid was named after this genius of 18th century mathematics and physics.

Maria Gaetana Agnesi was the first woman to be appointed as a Mathematics professor at a university: University of Bologna, 1750 (Chair of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Physics). She never took up the post.

*Istituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana*, 1748, (Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth), the first mathematics book to be published by a woman. It is a 'systematic illustration of the different results and theorems of infinitesimal calculus'.

Integration of mathematical analysis with algebra.

Analysis of finite quantities and infinitesimals.

Agnesi discussed a curve originally studied by Fermat and Guido Grandi, in her book *Instituzioni analitiche*, and the curve became known as the 'witch of Agnesi'.

Maria Agnesi, 1718 - 1799, was an Italian mathematician, who developed a curve orginally discovered by Fermat and Grandi. The series of functions became known as the *witches of Agnesi*, since their shapes recall witches' hats, and not because of what she might have had brewing in the kitchen.

The *witches of Agnesi* are of the form $y = {a^3}/{x^2 + a^2}$.

She was the eldest of 21 children of a wealthy Milanese family. Her father was a professor of mathematics at the Bologna University, and she taught her siblings mathematics and science. As a teenager she was involved in the intellectual world of Bologna, and her fame grew for holding 'performances', in which she defended theses on a broad range of topics.

When she was just 9 years old, she gave a one-hour speech in Latin on the subject of the right of women to education. By the age of 11 she could speak seven languages, and her nickname was the Seven-tongued Orator.

Her mathematics work covered the relatively new analysis of finite quantities and infinitesimals, and she worked to integrate mathematical analysis with algebra. She wrote on geometry, and analysed conic sections. She is famous for being the first woman to publish a book on mathematics, and for the 'Witch of Agnesi', a function originally discovered by Fermat and Grandi, but which she took further and popularised.

(Biographies of famous scientists no. 50)

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