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Hypatia of Alexandria was a philosopher, mathematician, and teacher who was born 370 A.D. She lived in Alexandria until she died as a victim of Bishop Kyrillos’ intrigue in 415 A.D. She is known as the first female contributing to the mathematics in ancient times. Letters to her by her pupil Synesius give an idea of her intellectual milieu.



Hypatia of Alexandria



Several works on mathematics and astronomy are attributed to her, including commentaries on Diophantus's Arithmetica, as well as on Apollonius's Conics and on Ptolemy's works, but none of them have survived.


Her main interest was practical technology which led to her contributions to science which are reputed to include the invention of the astrolabe, which is a navigational instrument, used until the sextant was invented in the 16th century. It consisted of a pair of rotating discs made of open-work metal, rotating one on top of the other around a removable peg. She perfected the device to the point where it could accurately solve problems in spherical astronomy.



A 16th century astrolabe, used to measure the positions of the

sun and stars and to calculate the ascendant sign of the zodiac



Hypatia also developed the so called hydrometer (hydroscope). It was an instrument used for determining the specific gravity of liquids.









Reference for the contents above and further information of Hypatia’s live:




Ziegenbalg J.: Algorithmen, von Hammurapi bis Gödel; Spektrum Akademischer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin 1996



Further information on the hydrometer and the astrolabe: