A focus on female mathematicians


Throughout the ages there have been many different mathematicians who specialise in a range of different topics. Let’s have a look at how a handful of formidable women shaped the field!




Florence Nightingale

She is best known for being the founder of modern nursing but her innovative use of statistics helped her achieve this. She used these statistics to highlight that more soldiers were dying due to the poor hospital conditions rather than the battle itself.

Due to the fact that public records were a relatively new idea Nightingale used these to measure and analyse the number of deaths and life expectancy. She created new ways to display this data to convince the military, Parliament and Queen Victoria to carry out her reforms. In 1859, she was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.



She is thought to be the first woman to have studied and taught mathematics and philosophy. Her father, Theon, was also a famous Greek mathematician. He taught Hypatia maths, philosophy and astronomy before sending her away to Athens to study the teachings of Aristotle and Plato.

Hypatia was a celebrated Professor of the University of Alexandria and was known as a person of enormous intellectual power. Unfortunately, at this time, there was a lot of religious turmoil and Hypatia died a horrible death at the hands of a mob.


Emilie Du Chatelet

Emilie came from a French aristocratic family and because of this the family often had distinguished mathematicians and scientists at the home. She was taught at home and was encouraged by her father to pursue her love of science and maths.

Up until her death, Emilie worked on her translation and commentary of Newton’s Principia. For years this was the only French translation on Newton’s mechanics. She is also known for her physics textbook, Institutions de physique and her affair with Voltaire.


Emmy Noether

Born in 1882, Noether was a German mathematician who studied and then taught maths. Later, she moved to America to lecture and continue her research. She contributed a lot to theoretical physics and abstract algebra including developing the theory of mathematical rings (sometimes called the Noether’s Ring), algebraic invariant theory and general relativity.

Albert Einstein called her the most ‘significant and creative female mathematician of all time.’ She is often credited in many of the mathematical works of her students.


Mary Cartwright

Born in Britain in 1900, Cartwright was the first woman to attain a first-class mathematics degree from St. Hugh’s College, Oxford.  Throughout her career she taught at Cambridge University and Girton College among other schools before going on to carry out research on differential equations.

Cartwright was elected to the fellowships of the Royal Society and in 1964 she was awarded the Sylvester Medal. A lot of her work is one of the foundations of dynamical studies. She wrote over a 100 papers in her lifetime on a range of different mathematical topics including differential equations, level curves and more.



Why not have a look at some other famous mathematicians?


Do you know any other female mathematicians? Let us know…

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