Hypatia of Alexandria: biography and contributions of this Greek philosopher

Hypatia of Alexandria was an illustrious woman with extensive training in various fields such as mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, being documented as the first female mathematics and scientist in history.

She worked as a teacher in a school in the city of Alexandria and devoted herself throughout her life to cultivating her intellect and curiosity to learn continuously, which allowed her to discover great things. He also showed a political and social interest in what was going on in his day.

In this biography of Hypatia of Alexandria we will give a brief overview of his life and his contributions to science.

    Brief biography of Hypatia of Alexandria

    Hypatia, also known as Hypatia, was born and lived in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, between AD 355 and AD 370., since the year of his birth is not known with certainty, although most historians consider the year 370 to be the year of his birth.

    Hypatia’s father was Theon, a man of Greek descent who settled in the city of Alexandria. Teó has carried out numerous works related to various subjects (philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and other sciences). Additionally, Father Hypatia was the last director of the Serapeum Museum, the second largest library in Alexandria and a place where Hypatia also worked, teaching like his father. There is no record of Hypatia’s mother, however.

    Thanks to his father, Hypatia was educated in an intellectual environment, with a continuous search for learning and belonging to the Alexandrian Neoplatonic school. Many historians agree that Hypatia was the first woman referred to for her knowledge of mathematics and other sciences.

    In addition, her passion for learning led her to acquire knowledge about philosophy, the history of religions, the principles of pedagogy and many other fields of a different nature.

    Hypatia was very lucky, for the time in which she lived, to grow up with all kinds of means at her disposal which allowed her to develop her intellect from an early age and to become a great scientist with a great preparation which has become.

      Destruction of the Serapeo museum

      In 391, Emperor Theodosius I the Great, at the request of a patriarch named Theophilus of Alexandria, destroyed all of the pagan temples of Alexandria, including the Serapeum Museum.

      Like that, Theon and Hypatia had to bring home all the documents that had not been destroyed in order to be able to keep them so that they can continue to work on them and teach their students.

      Hypatia of the Alexandrian way of life

      The life of Hypatia and her father Théon is marked by asceticism, by the fact that they followed an austere lifestyle, to renounce material pleasures and hedonism, so that they devote themselves to cultivating physical, mental and spiritual perfection.

      Hypatia learned from her father how to cultivate her body, not just her intellect, through a daily exercise routine because they both followed the idea of ​​”a healthy mind in a healthy body”, so they sought balance to have a clear mind and a healthy physique.

        Political and social life of Hypatia

        Hypatia of Alexandria was an educated woman, so it has been documented that she was much admired by most of the citizens of Alexandria, pointing out that he was traveling in a horse-drawn carriage in the city and wearing a white coat, as the philosophers did.

        There are also writings that report that his presence in scientific and public institutions in the city was frequent, always preoccupied with political and social issues, organizing meetings with municipal and Empire officials.

        He also attended scientific conferences and debates on mathematics, philosophy and astronomy with other teachers and young people from the library or from his school.

        On another side, its prestige has also sparked the envy and indignation of some citizens, reasons why are the causes of his assassination.

          Her teaching career

          Hypatia he taught in a school for more than 20 years on different subjects (astronomy, mathematics and philosophy), achieving greater prestige than his father, Theon; become the maximum intellectual influence of the city after the death of the father.

          The courses were attended by students from all over and most were from the aristocracy, although there were also municipal officials, foreigners, scientists, civil servants, politicians and academics, among others; for this reason, Hypatia became a very famous teacher because all her students had great admiration for her wisdom and her great virtues for teaching.

          Its students were a model of diversity because they came from different cultures, religions, origins and ethnicities., to whom Hypatia transmitted a philosophical doctrine with an integrating Pythagorean spirit that does not divide its students by religion, ethnicity or any other aspect.

          Sineo, a disciple of Hypatia, wrote documents on which he reported that she was a well-prepared woman academically and with an overwhelming personality, corroborated by other disciples, as is the case of Socrates Scholastic, who also confirmed what was documented by other of his followers as having a healthy and attractive appearance.

            His death

            Hypatia of Alexandria she was killed by a group of fanatics to defend paganism and rationality in 415, although she is a much admired woman in her town.

            However, he must have had a very difficult year as the end of the Roman Empire approached, so there were many social, ideological and political conflicts which led to the assassination of many people besides Hypatia.

            The 5th century historian Socrates the Scholastic explains in one of his documents that Hypatia was murdered because of the envy and resentment that many had towards her, for being a very well prepared person academically. and to have different ideas of the group that killed. her.

              Legacy and contributions of Hypatia

              Hypatia of Alexandria is seen the first mathematical and scientific woman in history. She is a symbol of ancient science because in the stages near her death there had been no major advances in astronomy, physics and mathematics.

              In the field of mathematics, Hypatia he found a way to give original solutions to algebraic equations, developing a commentary on “arithmetic” by Diophantus of Alexandria, a mathematician admired by Hypatia.

              Together with his father, he revised and re-edited Euclid’s “Elements of Geometry”, an edition which is still in use today.

              On the other hand, Hypatia was responsible for developing the review comments on the “Almagesto”, the astronomical cannon made by Ptolemy, where he had made several observations of the stars.

              It is also documented that Hypatia devoted part of its research to study the curves resulting from a complete cut in a cone for a plane in different positions and, more precisely, the circumference obtained when the plane is positioned perpendicular to the axis of the cone without passing through the apex.

              In addition, there are many sources that they attribute to Hypatia of Alexandria the merit of being the inventor of the astrolabe, an instrument used to visualize the position of planets and stars. This instrument was a fundamental tool at the time, used by scientists to observe the position of stars in the sky, able to do research, and by the navigators who use this device to know the direction, the altitude and the time. of the day. .

              In her time, in the 4th and 5th centuries, Hypatia was a very famous and admired woman and established herself as a legend among peoples of the East; Nevertheless in the West it has been forgotten for centuries.

              It was not until the 18th century, thanks to certain writers, such as Voltaire, John Toland, Charles Kingsley and Edward Gibbon, that the rescue of the Western memory of life and its contributions to the science of Hypatia Alexandria . Thanks to the writers of the time, several brushstrokes of the biography and work of this illustrious woman have been saved, although most of his works could not be saved because they disappeared when she was killed.

              Several writers, speaking of the life of Hypatia, have given it a romantic touch. On the other hand, other authors, including Voltaire, set out to make her a standard bearer against the fanaticism of her time and a prominent figure in feminism and neoplatonic philosophy.

              There is no doubt that asking for information on Hypatia in order to compile a biography retracing her private and social life, as well as the contributions of this illustrious woman, has been a difficult task, as there are very few documents on her life and her work, and we suspects that the works he made that were not destroyed were signed by other authors who appropriated them after his death.

              Bibliographical references

              • Berbey-Álvarez, A. and Pinillo, A. (2020). Hypatia of Alexandria: scientist, mathematician and astronomer. Prisma Tecnològic, 11 (1), pp. 46 – 48.
              • Dzielska, M. (2009). Hypatia of Alexandria. Madrid: Siruela Publishing.
              • SM group (sf). Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415).
              • Junca, G. (2018). The first mathematical woman. The Avant-garde.
              • Morrón, L. (June 15, 2015). Hypatia. Women with science. Retrieved from https://mujeresconciencia.com/2015/06/15/hipatia/.
              • Serrano, A. (2011). Hypatia of Alexandria: Yesterday and today. Archipelago: Cultural Magazine of Our America, 20 (74), pp. 23 – 29.
              • Seville, F. (2014). Hypatia of Añejandria. The first physics in history [Conferencia]. VIth Virtual Congress on Women’s History.

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