Maria Gaetana Agnesi. By Aaliyah Carter.
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By Aaliyah Carter
Maria GaetanaAgnesi was born in Milan, Italy. Her father was PietroAgnesi. She is the oldest out of 21 children. Maria GaetanaAgnesi (May 16, 1718 – January 9, 1799) was an Italian linguist, mathematician, and philosopher. Agnesi (the "gn" digraph is pronounced with the palatal nasal /ɲ/) is credited with writing the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus. She was an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna. According to Dirk Jan Struik, Agnesi is "the first important woman mathematician since Hypatia (fifth century A.D.)".
her thirteenth year she had acquired Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, German and other languages. Two years later her father began to assemble in his house at stated intervals a circle of the most learned men in Bologna, before whom she read and maintained a series of theses on the most abstruse philosophical questions. Records of these meetings are given in de Brosse'sLettressurl'Italie and in the PropositionesPhilosophicae, which her father caused to be published in 1738. These displays, being probably not altogether congenial to Maria, who was of a retiring disposition, ceased in her twentieth year, and it is even said that she had at that age a strong desire to enter a convent. Though the wish was not gratified, she lived from that time in a retirement almost conventual, avoiding all society and devoting herself entirely to the study of mathematics. The most valuable result of her labors was the Instituzionianalitiche ad usodellagioventuitaliana, a work of great merit, which was published at Milan in 1748. The first volume treats of the analysis of finite quantities, and the second of the analysis of infinitesimals. A French translation of the second volume by P. T. d'Antelmy, with additions by Charles Bossut (1730-1814), appeared at Paris in 1775; and an English translation of the whole work by John Colson (1680-1760), the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, was published in 1801 at the expense of Baron Masères. Madame Agnesi also wrote a commentary on the Traitéanalytique des sections coniques of the Marquis de l'Hôpital, which, though highly praised by those who saw it in manuscript, was never published. She invented and discussed the curve known as the "witch of Agnesi" or versiera. In 1750, on the illness of her father, she was appointed by Pope Benedict XIV to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at Bologna. After the death of her father in 1752 she carried out a long-cherished purpose by giving herself to the study of theology, and especially of the Fathers. After holding for some years the office of directress of the Hospice Trivulzio for Blue Nuns at Milan, she herself joined the sisterhood, and in this austere order ended her days on the 9th of January 1799.