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Marie Sophie Germain


Marie Sophie Germain It is a typical illustration of the prejudice that existed regarding female labor in the scientific circles of her time.

Born in Paris, France on April 1, 1776, daughter of Marie Madelaine Gruguelin and Ambroise François a prosperous silk merchant. Determined to become mathematics, she read everything about it in her father's library, and in the books she was able to obtain, particularly works by Archimedes, Euler, and Newton. She also obtained class notes from courses at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, which did not allow the presence of women on her premises. His self-taught, very irregular mathematical education showed a number of shortcomings that would later cause him trouble. Never got married; family assets were sufficient to guarantee their subsistence until the time of their death.

He corresponded with the great mathematicians of his day Joseph Louis Lagrange, Adrien Marie Legendre, and Carl Friedrich Gauss, sometimes under the pseudonym of M. Leblanc, fearing that her condition as a woman would prevent her work from receiving proper attention. With Lagrange Sophie maintained a relationship of mutual respect and this mathematician eventually became his advisor and supporter.

For Legendre, Sophie wrote about problems suggested by Essai sur le Theory des Nombres of 1798, and his findings were attached by the author to the second edition of this book. Between 1804 and 1809, he corresponded with Gauss regarding the methods presented by this renowned mathematician in his "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae." During this period he produced some important results related to "Fermat's Last Theorem."

In 1811,1813 and 1816 he presented three theoretical works on vibrant plates based on the experiments of the German physicist Ernst F.F. Chladni the last of which received an award from the Institut de France. Gauss strongly recommended her for an honorary doctorate degree from Göttingen University, but Sophie Germain died before this honor was granted her. Sophie Germain died on June 27, 1831. Her death certificate does not show the profession of scientist or mathematics, but that of renter.

Sources: Dictionary of Scientific Biographies (1970-1990),
Encyclopaedia Britannica, topic "Germain, Sophie"