Blair Allan


Hypatia’s birth date is not one that is known. Historians believe that she was born in 355 AD. Hypatia was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She lived with her father who was Theon of Alexandria. Not much is documented about Hypatia’s mother in the remaining documents that we have about her. Hypatia decided not to marry, and instead to pursue her knowledge.

Theon of Alexandria was the last recorded scholar member of the Library of Alexandria. The Library of Alexandria was the greatest storehouse of knowledge in the ancient world. Theon of Alexandria taught mathematics at the Museum of Alexandria in Egypt. The Museum was the center of Greek life.

Hypatia knowledge appears to have come from her father. Her father took her to Athens and Italy to study. When Hypatia grew up she became a lot smarter than her father and went onto be the world’s foremost teacher and scholar, working in the field of mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, and philosophy. (http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm) She was the head of Neoplatonist school of Philosophy. Her students came from across the known world to be taught by her. Her fame was so big that she was able to be free in a world ruled almost exclusively by men. When the world first knew what a hydrometer was, which is an instrument used to measure specific gravity of fluids. (http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm) The bishop Synesius of Cyrene wrote her a letter asking her to make one for him. She also aided Synesius in making an astrolabe, which is an instrument used to measure the position of the Sun and Stars.

Hypatia wrote at length, but sadly most of her writings have been lost. Theon and Hypatia worked together to write commentaries on important ideas, like Ptolemy’s Almagest. These commentaries were very extensive and completed revisions of the original works. (http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm) Theon and Hypatia worked together on these commentaries. Hypatia was known for her style and her ability to simplify and clarify very complex concepts. (http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm)

The Elements was the most powerful textbook in history. As made again by Hypatia and Theon, the Elements became more than just a book on geometry. The Elements influenced the scientists Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton.

Hypatia lived in the twilight of the Hellenistic era and the beginning of the Age of Faith. Christians had all the power and the idea of separation of church and state did not exist at this time. Hypatia’s dedicated her life to preserving and making better the Greek thought. In addition to writing commentators with her father, she also wrote commentaries on her own. The Arithmetica of Diophantus and The Conics of Apollonius were written by her. Also, she also wrote a commentary called the Astronomical Canon. Some of her influential teachings have made it to this present day.

Hypatia was very god friends with the secular governor of Alexandria, Orestes. In 412, bishop Theophilus died. Cyril, his nephew took over. Cyril was determined to put to rest all of Orestes ideas. Hypatia was caught in between this political struggle. In 415, a Christian mob attacked her, dragging her from her carriage as she was returning to her home. They took her to the church, stripped her, and tore her flesh apart with tiles and oyster shells. Her mangled body was taken to a place called Cinaron and there she was burnt. Shortly after Hypatia’s cruel murder, Oresetes disappeared. The Emperor took no action, believed to be because of a bribe. Cyril became the ruler of Alexandria. The remaining scholars of Hypatia fled to Athens. (http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm) After Hypatia was killed her library was burned by the Arab conquerors. We know her writings today through the works of others who quoted her -- even if unfavorably -- and a few letters written to her by contemporaries.

1100 years later, Raphael was told to paint The School of Athens for Pope Julius II. The wall painting was to be painted above the section of the Pope’s personal library. In his draft Hypatia was placed in the center, just below Plato and Aristotle. The church fathers order him to remove her from the painting. Raphael managed to sneak her into the wall painting disguised as another figure.


Accomplishments:Hypatia was the first woman astronomer. She was also a mathematician, inventor, and a philosopher of Aristotle and Plato. Hypatia is the earliest women scientist whose life is well known about. She wrote two books about science and one about math. These books included, the 13 columns of Commentary on the Arithmetica of Diophantus, who was the father of algebra, she wrote The Astronomical Canon, Hypatia and her father worked together on Ptolemy’s Almagest, also working on the book called the Elements. After Hypatia and Theon worked on the Elements this book was not only a book on geometry but it also became the ultimate guide on how to think clearly and to reason logically.


Interesting Fact:
The bishop of Alexandria Theophilus had died, and his nephew Cyril took over. When Cyril took over her wanted to put to rest all of Oresetes ideas. Considering that Oresetes and Hypatia were good friends, this posed a problem for Hypatia. One day on her way home an angry mob dragged her from her carriage. They took her to the church, stripped her, and tore her flesh apart with tiles and oyster shells. Her mangled body was taken to a place called Cinaron and there she was burnt. I found this fact interesting because people were jealous of her knowledge. She had become the first women mathematician and the Christian people felt threatened by her knowledge.