Sophie Germain

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  • Topic: Carl Friedrich Gauss, Sophie Germain, Mathematics
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  • Published : April 20, 2006
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Sophie Germain
Female of French Revolution

Marie-Sophie Germain was born on April 1, 1776 and passed away on June 27, 1831. She was an important French mathematician, and a brilliant woman who lived during the French Revolution. Germain was born to a middle-class merchant family in Paris, France, and began studying mathematics at age thirteen, despite her parents' strong attempts to dissuade her from engaging in a 'men's profession'. Several years later, she managed to get some lecture notes from several courses at a well known school, École Polytechnique, a school which did not admit women. Germain was particularly interested in Joseph-Louis Lagrange's teachings and submitted papers and assignments under the pseudonym "Monsieur Le Blanc", a former student of Lagrange's. Lagrange was so impressed by the paper that he asked to meet Le Blanc, and Germain was forced to reveal her identity to him. Lagrange apparently considered her a talented mathematician and became her mentor. While Napoleon was invading Prussia in 1806, she convinced some high ranking Generals to personally protect the great Mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauss. He later found out what she had done for him, and accepted her as student. In 1811 Germain entered the French Academy of Sciences' contest. After failing twice she finally won in 1816, thus bringing her into the ranks of great mathematicians. She became the first female to attend sessions at the French Academy of Sciences, which open the doors for many women after her. She and her friend Gauss would discovery and write some incredible important Mathematical formulas which are still taught today.
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