Hypatia of Alexandria


While registering for a Waterloo full solution contest, I notice the name of the grade 11 version – Hypatia. However the name looks familiar, but I don’t remember learning about her discovery yet. As I stare into the poster of the School of Athen, I figure it out when I see the figure dresses in all white standing alone in the midst of the crowd. I realize that this is the figure representing Hypatia. As a result, I want to learn more about Hypatia.

Raphael School of Athens (c) TTaylor CC0

Life of Hypatia:

Hypatia of Alexandria is a mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher from Alexandria, Egypt. There are some debates on her birth year but she lived around the period of  370 CE – 415 CE. Her father- Theon of Alexandria, who was a professor at the University of Alexandria and taught Hypatia in areas of math, astronomy and some philosophy. Unfortunately, she passed away in a brutal way from the religion conflict during that era.

Hypatia portrait (c) Trockennasenaffe CC0

Hypatia’s work:

The two of the most well known Hypatia’s work in math are her commentary on conic and algebra. The general idea of conic the “slicing” a double-napped cone (has a similar shape to when two cones are connected by the tips). Using different methods to “slice”, they can result in any of the following shapes: circle, ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola. Also, Hypatia constructed an astronomy device which is the astrolabe. Typically astrolabe usage at that time was a measurement tool. In addition, she taught others about the ideology of Neoplatonism which is a branch of Plato’s ideology.

Conic sections 2 © Xiong Chiamiov (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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