Sophie Germain (April 1, 1776-June 27, 1831) is a renowned French mathematician and physicist who developed elasticity theory and made significant contributions to number theory and to understanding acoustics.
One of the amazing aspects of her achievements is that they occurred during a time when it was widely frowned upon for women to pursue interests in math and science. As such, she was mostly self-taught. Her parents even went to the lengths of keeping her room very cold and dark at night in order to discourage her from reading her math and science texts, yet she persisted. Sophie would not be deterred from pursuing her passions for mathematics and science.
Her ground-breaking work on elasticity theory won her the prestigious grade prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem is still a foundation for mathematicians studying the subject today. She died of breast cancer on 27 June, 1831. The Academy of Sciences established the Sophie Germain Prize in her honour.
Credit: Original paper artwork by Maggie Donnelly
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