Free Maria Gaetana Agnesi
“... Belonged to a class intermediate between the patricians and the merely rich. Such a bourgeois could have a household fit for a lord, comport himself like a knight, mingle freely with some nobles, occupy himself with the finer things of life, be a patron of men of talent. [Pietro Agnesi] did just that...” spoken by a proud father. Her father was a nobleman and work at the University of Bologna as a professor. Maria was born in Italy on May 16, 1718 to a wealthy and literate family. She was the oldest of twenty-one children. Growing up with all the money in the world did not satisfy Maria’s life. So she started practicing math an actually enjoyed it at a young age. Her father saw her talents in the subject and started paying tutors to teach her French, Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish.
By the age of thirteen Maria had already began to debate in the different languages with her father’s foreign guest. Because she was being forced to debate because of her father she did not like this task very much and always tried to get out of it but wasn’t able to until she was twenty-one. She got married two times before her mother died of an unknown cause. Now becoming the oldest of twenty-one she began to take over the management of the house hold decided not to get married again.
Maria still had a passion for mathematics. The first piece of literature she wrote was Propositiones Philosophicae is was published in 1738 and was a composition of the collection of essays from the gatherings that her father’s friends and her had at the meeting that she had to attend. Maria is also known from the curve called the "Witch of Agnesi". This formula was written to show the equations for curves: y = a*sqrt (a*x-x*x)/x because she thought the “x” and “y” axis was supposed to be vertical and horizontal. Today we use x horizontal and y vertical, so that regular form of the curve is given by the Cartesian equation y*x^2=a^2(a-y) or y = a^3/(x^2 + a^2) because it is a versed sine curve, originally studied by Fermat. Pierre Fermat was a lawyer and a government official with a snitch for mathematics.
However, Maria's text was translated into English the word “versiera” was confused with the word "witch", and the curve came to be known as the witch of Agnesi. In lots of her lectures she addresses the way woman are being treated during the Middle Ages about receiving minium amounts of education and how intellectual women were being ridiculed for there education.
After the success of her book, Maria was elected to the Bologna Academy of Sciences. It seems that her father was the inspiration for her interest in mathematics. When he died, Maria gave up any further work in mathematics. "When, in 1762, the University of Turin asked her for her opinion of the young Lagrange's recent articles on the calculus of variations, her response was that she was no longer concerned with such interests" [Osen, 47].
This woman has made a remarkable impact on the mathematical society. Not only does she blaze a path for young women in bad situations but she also gives young girls hope that even when things get the worse that they could over come any bad situation. When she gave up mathematics after the death of her father, she worked at a home for ill and dying women. She never again took an interest in mathematics, and helped the homeless and needy until her death on January 9, 1799.
What does she really symbolize? A woman that is able to do anything that she has the passion for no matter what the devil tried to stop her with she still over came. Maria Gaetana Agnesi was not only a great math magician she was also a great daughter, sister, and woman because she gave more to her family and still keep her profession up. This woman should be the society’s best example.
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