You are on page 1of 3

# Sophie Germain How many people in the world today could say that they have achieved a feat

worthy of making themselves famous throughout the world? The answer to that question is most likely only a small selection compared to the overall population. In fact, most people would have difficulty saying they were more than popular outside of the general area that they live in. To become famous a person has to put in an almost inhuman amount of effort to excel and face much more adversity than a regular person would. This is exactly what the mathematician known as Sophie Marie Germain managed to accomplish with her life. Even with the struggles women faced in the 1700s, especially in France, she persevered and has become one of the most famous female mathematicians of all time. The reasons this paper in particular covers Sophie Germain is because of the work she accomplished, the difficulty of her work in a society that did not favor women, and the lasting impacts the work she has done has had all around the world. First of all, the work that Sophie Germain managed to accomplish is simply amazing. Throughout her life she was mainly known for the work she achieved mainly in the fields of number theory and in the study of elasticity. Her interest in math stemmed from the time spent studying the works of Archimedes in her parent’s library. The rumor is that she was so enthralled with the story of how Archimedes was so involved with his work that it lead to his death intrigued Germain and she too wanted to become lost in the world that Archimedes gave his life for. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that even though he parents did not approve of her behavior, she would take to going into the library at night to study (Maisel and Smart, 1997). The main reason Germain managed to garner so much attention is due to her work regarding Fermat’s Last Theorem states that there are no nonzero whole numbers x, y, and z such that xn +yn = zn for any n greater than 2. She devised a theorem for solving the issue which would later become known as the Sophie Germain Theorem which showed that Fermat’s theorem was true for any prime number n that was less than 100, if none of x,y,z is divisible by n (Rehmeyer, Aug. 21st, 2008). Unfortunately, even Sophie realized that she could not completely solve the problem as noted in correspondence between her and Carl Gauss. In fact it would be over 200 years before the problem would be solved (Rehmeyer, Aug. 25th, 2008). The work that Sophie performed in regards to Fermat’s Last Theorem is truly astonishing considering her teaching herself due to no being allowed to go to school and she totally deserves the recognition she received for it. Secondly, Sophie managed to do all of this astonishing work in a society that was not exactly the most supportive especially to women. The society I am referring to is France during the revolution. Women were not exactly revered for their minds during this time period. In fact, even though Sophie’s parents could have afforded to send her off to school they chose not to do so. Ironically this is what led to her endless nights studying in the library at home (Bailey, 2006). In fact, when the École Polytechnique originally opened in Paris in 1975 for mathematicians and scientists, the only people who were allowed to originally attend the school were men. Sophie managed to work around this, however. Since the lectures were available to anyone who desired, she simply became friends with the students who attended and got them to get the notes for her (Maisel and Smart). Further proof of the way women were looked upon is due to the shock that J.L. LeGrange received after realizing that the memoirs he had received were actually from a woman. Up until that time Sophie wrote to the mathematician under the false name of M.

and the work she performed has had a lasting impact on the mathematical community as a whole. In conclusion.LeBlanc. Sophie Germain well deserves the fame that she has achieved. 21st. 2006). . 2008). Despite all the trials Sophie overcame. Mainly. She proved to the world that a woman can do all the things that a man can and in her case better. when the Eiffel Tower was constructed. the work that Sophie Germain performed has had a major effect on mathematics around the world today. Also. In fact. the first woman ever allowed to do so (Bailey. All you need is effort and eventually you will succeed. she also helped to develop the foundations of elasticity. great work was still possible. Last but most certainly not least. Sophie to pave the path for female mathematicians like herself to follow in her footsteps. Sophie is a prime example of what a person is able to become if they have a goal and work towards that goal regardless of the opposition one may face along the way. Sophie’s determination even led to her being allowed into the sessions at The Institut de France. her work was not officially credited after it all was said and done (Bailey. despite the fact that her work was brilliant she was still never really accepted by her peers due her status as a female even after winning a prize from Napoléon himself for work conducted in regards two-dimensional harmonic motion (Maisel and Smart). due to the stigma of women in mathematical society at the time (Rehmeyer. the formulas that Germain had created in terms of elasticity were used in its building. Aug. The most lasting effects that Sophie had on the mathematical society was the way she showed that regardless of gender. the one thing she would never be able to overcome was her biggest hindrance: her status as a female. 2006). She is an accomplished mathematician especially in the field of elastic theory. she worked hard to gain recognition even in a society that did not show fancy to the female sex. Oddly. In addition to the work she performed in respect to Fermat’s Last Theorem. however. a student who had informally left the school.

L. J. An Attack on Fermat. M. Sophie Germain. Retrieved from http://www.sdsc. (2008. Sophie Germain. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.sciencenews. Maisel.html Rehmeyer. & Smart. August 21). August 25). (2008.edu/ScienceWomen/germain. Science News.. (1997). Women in Science. A Mathematical Tragedy. Science News.org/view/generic/id/9407/title/An_Attack_on_Fermat . J.Reference List Rehmeyer. E. Ohio: Great Neck Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/9407/title/An_Attack_on_Fermat Bailey.