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Hypatia was a mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who survived in a very turbulent era in Alexandria’s history. She is the earliest female mathematician of whom we have a reasonably detailed knowledge of their life and work.
See the fact file below for more information on the Hypatia or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Hypatia worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
- Hypatia was born in c. 350–370.
- The exact year of her birth is still under debate, with suggested dates ranging from 350 to 370 AD. Numerous scholars have followed Richard Hoche in inferring that Hypatia was born around 370.
- Robert Penella argues that the theories on when she was born are weakly based and that her birth date should be left unspecified.
- Hypatia was the daughter of a mathematician and astronomer, Theon of Alexandria. Nothing is known about Hypatia’s mother; she is never discussed in any of the extant sources.
- Hypatia’s father Theon was the last attested member of the Alexandrian Museum.
- The Museum of Alexandria in Egypt was a prominent cultural and intellectual center that resembled a large modern university.
- The museum consisted of numerous schools, public auditoriums, and the famous library, once one of the most comprehensive repositories of books in antiquity.
- Even though the Museum was in Egypt, its dominant culture and a considerable portion of its population was Greek.
- Theon is best remembered for the part he played in the preservation of Euclid’s Elements, though he also wrote extensively, commenting on Ptolemy’s Almagest and Handy Tables.
- Hypatia was trained as a mathematician by her father and eventually succeeded him as the leading mathematician of Alexandria, and indeed as the pre-eminent mathematician of her time.
- Hypatia was a Neoplatonist.
- Just like her father, she refused the teachings of Iamblichus. Instead, she embraced the original Neoplatonism formulated by Plotinus.
- Hypatia, according to Damascius, taught students from all over the Mediterranean on the writings of Plato and Aristotle.
- He also added that Hypatia walked through Alexandria in a tribon, a kind of cloak associated with philosophers, and gave impromptu public lectures.
- According to Watts, in Alexandria there were two main varieties of Neoplatonism taught during the late fourth century.
- The overtly pagan religious Neoplatonism was the first one taught at the Serapeum, greatly influenced by the teachings of Iamblichus.
- The more moderate and less polemical variety was championed by Hypatia and her father Theon, and based on the teachings of Plotinus.
- Even though Hypatia herself was a pagan, she was tolerant of Christians. As a matter of fact, every one of her known students was Christian.
- Hesychius, the lexicographer of Alexandria, recorded that like her father, Hypatia was also an extraordinarily talented astronomer.
- Damascius wrote that Hypatia was “exceedingly beautiful and fair of form”, but nothing else is known concerning her physical appearance and no ancient depictions of her have survived.
- Hypatia was brutally murdered by a mob at the age of 45.
- The logic behind her violent death is disputed, though her personal independence and pagan beliefs seem to have created hostility among the Christian community of Alexandria.
- Theophilus was the bishop of Alexandria from 382–412. He was militantly opposed to Iamblichus Neoplatonism, and in 391, he demolished the Serapeum, the temple of the Greco-Egyptian god Serapi.
- This incident caused the end of the great Library of Alexandria, considering that Serapeum may have contained some of the Library’s books.
- Theophilus, however, was friendly with Synesius, a constant admirer and pupil of Hypatia, so she was not herself affected by this development but was allowed to pursue her intellectual endeavors unimpeded.
- With the death of Theophilus, Cyril, nephew of Theophilus, became the bishopric of Alexandria as he won between his rival Timothy.
- A climate of intolerance was created.
- Cyril closed all the synagogues in Alexandria in 414,
He confiscated all the property belonging to the Jews, expelled all the Jews from the city and, shortly afterward, Hypatia was the victim of a particularly brutal murder at the hands of a gang of Christian zealots.
- Hypatia has been characterized as a universal genius, but she was probably more of a teacher and commentator than an innovator.
- Hypatia wrote a number of books on mathematics and other subjects, as well as criticisms of philosophical and mathematical concepts.
- One of Synesius’ letters describes Hypatia as having taught him how to invent the silver plane astrolabe, a device used to calculate date and time based on the positions of the stars and planets, as a gift for an official.
- Synesius also worked with Hypatia on a graduated brass hydrometer,that measured the specific gravity of liquids.
- They also worked on a hydroscope, which was used to observe objects submerged in water.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Hypatia across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Hypatia worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Hypatia who was a mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who survived in a very turbulent era in Alexandria’s history. She is the earliest female mathematician of whom we have a reasonably detailed knowledge of their life and work.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Hypatia Facts
- Hypatia’s Background
- Like Father, Like Daughter
- Related Vocabulary
- Varieties of Neoplatonism
- Describe Hypatia As…
- Hypatia’s Works
- Truth or Trash?
- My Open Letters
- Related Things
- Poem for Hypatia
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Use With Any Curriculum
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