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"Sophie Germain (1776–1831) is quite well-known to the mathematical community for her contributions to number theory [17] and elasticity theory (e.g., see [2, 5]). On the other hand, there have been few attempts to understand Sophie Germain as an intellectual of her time, as an independent thinker outside of academia, and as a female mathematician in France, facing the prejudice of the time of the First Empire and of the Bourbon Restoration, while pursuing her thoughts and interests and writing on them. Sophie Germain had to face a double challenge: the mathematical difficulty of the problems she approached and the socio-cultural context of her time, which never fully supported her interests, never appropriately rewarded her, and never allowed her to enjoy the recognition she deserved. In our attempt to understand the innermost Sophie Germain, we also try to grasp the place of her personality within her time and historical period. We will argue that she represents a unique case in both the history of mathematics and the context of Western European intellectuals at the beginning of the 19th century, deserving a further exploratory study of the connections of her work with the ideas of her time."


This article was originally published in Memoirs of the Scientific Sections of the Romanian Academy, tome XLIII, in 2020.

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The Romanian Academy

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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