8/12/2008

Woman of the week - Hypatia

Name: Hypatia
Born: Sometime 355-370 AD, Alexandria, Egypt
Dead: Spring 415, Alexandria, Egypt
Married to: None
Children: None
Occupation: Scientist, mathematician and philosopher

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon and just like him she became a mathematician and philosopher - though the heritage after her has more to do with the first rather than the latter. She was connected to the Museum in Alexandria and taught there. She was obviously well-educated and well thought of.

Philosophically she was a Neoplatonist. Her main influence was Plotinus and Iamblichus and in a time with obvious antagonisms between Christians and pagans, she was clearly on the pagan side of the fence - even siding with Orestes, the pagan governor of Alexandria in his opposition of the bishop Cyril (who would later become a saint).

Much of her work dealt with science, she worked together with her father, by herself and with Synesius of Greece. The latter was first her pupil and later her colleague and wrote about her inventing the astrolabe (though there are sources that indicates that it was in fact invented some hundred years before) and the hydroscope (hydrometer). All texts preserved deal with mathematics and astronomy, none with philosophy.

She met a grisly death, due to her being a famous, pagan scholar. The bishop Cyril was so infuriated with her that he induced a Christian mob to go out and kill her - which they did, stripping her of her clothing, beating her and in the end killing her.

The painting is from 1885 and by the artist Charles William Mitchell - picturing Hypatia pleading for her life. No contemporary portrait of her is known.

3 comments:

ParaKat said...

I'm so glad you did a post on Hypatia, because everything I find on her is in Feminist revisionist history. Which is frakkin' annoying.

(And this is me trying to be helpful [and not irritating]:

grizzly refers to bears, the look of old age, or hydraulic pieces of mining equipment.

grisly refers to gruesome murders, etc.)

DameBoudicca said...

Yes, it's hard to find something that's not biased in some way - and there really is no need for it, she is quite interesting enough in her own right.

(Haha, thank you for pointing it out, I promise there was no bears involved! ;))

Sara said...

And now, the movie version. (Eeek!)