Maria Gaetana Agnesi
by Allison Carney
Early Years & Mathematical Training
Her father provided her with the best available tutors who were all educated young men from the Church (Unlu, 2014). Due to the time period, higher education for women was not practiced. At the age of nine, she published a Latin discourse defending education for women. This was done with the help of one of her tutors (Unlu, 2014).
Outside of mathematics, she published Propositiones Philosophicae, a series of essays on philosophy and natural science, in 1738. These essays were based on the discussions of the intellectuals who gathered at her father's home. Throughout these essays, she defended 191 different theses (O'Connor & Robertson, 1999).
She is best known for formulating the "Witch of Agnesi," a versed sine curve (Unlu, 2014). The modern form of the curve and equation are shown below. The curve was originally studied by Pierre de Fermat (Edelman). The formula has recently found real-world applications in modeling waves as well as hills in topography.
On her 296th birthday this past May, Google designed a homepage to honor her and her contributions to mathematics.
Edelman, C. (n.d.). Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
O'Connor, J., & Robertson, E. (1999, Jan. 1). Maria Gaëtana Agnesi. Retrieved December 7, 2014.