Hypatia of Alexandria

Infobox Philosopher
region = Hypatia
era = Ancient philosophy
color = lightsteelblue

image_size = 200px
image_caption = Hypatia as imagined by Raphael
Detail from "The School of Athens" (1509-1510)
name = Hypatia (Υπατία)
birth = c. 370
death = 415
school_tradition = Platonism
main_interests = Mathematics, astronomy
notable_ideas =
influences = Plato, Aristotle
influenced = Synesius of Cyrene

box_width =

Hypatia of Alexandria (pronEng|haɪˈpeɪʃə) (Greek: Polytonic|Ὑπατία; born between AD 350 and 370 – 415) was a Greek [cite book |title= Women of Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook|last= Mueller|first= I.|authorlink= |coauthors= L.S. Grinstein & P.J. Campbell|year= 1987|publisher= Greenwood Press|location= New York|isbn= ] scholar from Alexandria in Egypt, [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9041785/Hypatia Hypatia] , "Encyclopædia Britannica": "Egyptian Neoplatonist philosopher who was the first notable woman in mathematics."] [ [http://www.bartleby.com/65/hy/Hypatia.html Columbia Encyclopedia, Hypatia] citation:"Alexandrian Neoplatonic philosopher and mathematician"] considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy.cite web| url = http://www.skyscript.co.uk/hypatia.html | title = The Important Life & Tragic Death of Hypatia | author = Toohey, Sue | publisher = Skyscript.co.uk | year = 2003 | accessdate = 2007-12-09] She lived in Roman Egypt, and was killed by a Coptic Christian mob who blamed her for religious turmoil. She has been hailed as a "valiant defender of science against religion", [John William Draper, as quoted in the 1996 "The Literary Legend of Hypatia" by Maria Dzielska] and some suggestWho that her murder marked the end of the Hellenistic Age. [Women Philosophers in the Ancient Greek World: Donning the Mantle, by Kathleen Wider. Hypatia © 1986 Indiana University Press p. 49-50] [Mangasarian, Mangasar Mugurditch. , 1915]

A Neoplatonist philosopher, she followed the school characterized by the 3rd century thinker Plotinus, and discouraged mysticism while encouraging logical and mathematical studies.cite book |title= Ecclesiastical History|last= Scholasticus|first= Socrates |authorlink= Socrates Scholasticus|coauthors= |year= |publisher= |location= |isbn= ]


Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who was her teacher and the last known mathematician associated with the Musaeum of Alexandria.Cite web|url=http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/or030897.htm|title=Ockham's Razor: Hypatia of Alexandria|accessdate=2008-05-23|publisher=ABC Radio|date=August 3, 1997|author=Michael Deakin] She traveled to both Athens and Italy to study, [ [http://www.inventions.org/culture/female/hypatia.html Multicultural Resource Center: Hypatia ] ] before becoming head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in approximately AD 400. ["Historical Dictionary of Feminism", by Janet K. Boles, Diane Long Hoeveler. pp 166.] According to the Byzantine "Suda", she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle. It is believed that there were both Christians [Bregman, J. (1982). "Synesius of Cyrene: Philosopher-bishop". Berkley: University of California Press.] and foreigners among her students.

Although Hypatia was herself a pagan, she was respected by a number of Christians, and later held up by Christian authors as a symbol of virtue. The "Suda" controversially [Kingsley, Charles. "Hypatia", preface, quoting and agreeing with Gibbon] declared her "the wife of Isidore the Philosopher" but agreed she had remained a virgin. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/inspire/hypatia.htm Great Inspirations - Hypatia ] ]

Hypatia rebuffed a suitor by showing him her menstrual rags, claiming they demonstrated that there was "nothing beautiful" about carnal desires. [http://www.stoa.org/sol-bin/search.pl?db=REAL&search_method=QUERY&login=guest&enlogin=guest&user_list=LIST&page_num=1&searchstr=Hypatia&field=hw_eng&num_per_page=100 Suda online, Upsilon 166] ]

Hypatia maintained correspondence with her former pupil Bishop of Ptolomais Synesius of Cyrene. [ A. Fitzgerald, Letters of Synesius of Cyrene, London, 1926. ( [http://www.geocities.com/hckarlso/sletter154.html Letter 154 of Synesius of Cyrene to Hypatia] ).] Together with the references by Damascius, these are the only writings with descriptions or information from her pupils that survive.Dzielska, Maria. "Hypatia of Alexandria". Oxford Press, 1996.]

The contemporary Christian historiographer Socrates Scholasticus described her in his "Ecclesiastical History":


Many of the works commonly attributed to Hypatia are believed to have been collaborative works with her father, Theon Alexandricus.

A partial list of specific accomplishments:

* A commentary on the 13-volume "Arithmetica" by Diophantus [ [http://hem.bredband.net/b153434/Works/Hypatia.htm The Life and Legacy of Hypatia ] ]
* Edited the third book of her father's commentary on Ptolemy's "Almagest" [ [http://cosmopolis.com/people/hypatia.html Hypatia of Alexandria ] ]
* Edited her father's commentary on Euclid's "Elements" [Grout, James. [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/greece/paganism/hypatia.html Encyclopædia Romana] ]
* Edited a commentary that simplified Apollonius's "Conics"Chris Marvin, Frank Sikernitsky [http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/phil/philo/phils/hypatia.html The Window:Philosophy on the Web] ]
* She wrote the text "The Astronomical Canon"Whitfield, Bryan J. [http://math.coe.uga.edu/tme/v06n1/4whitfield.pdf The Beauty of Reasoning: A Reexamination of Hypatia of Alexandra] ]

Her contributions to science are reputed to include the charting of celestial bodies and the invention of the hydrometer, [Ethlie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek, [http://www.inventions.org/culture/female/hypatia.html Mothers of Invention] 1988, pp. 24-26.] used to determine the relative density and gravity of liquids.

Her pupil Synesius wrote a letter defending her as the inventor of the astrolabe, although earlier astrolabes predate Hypatia's model by at least a century - and her father had gained fame for his treatise on the subject.


Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Bishop Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled.

One day in March 415,MacTutor Biography|id=Hypatia] during the season of Lent, her chariot was waylaid on her route home by a Christian mob, possibly Nitrian monks led by a man identified only as "Peter".

She was stripped naked and dragged through the streets to the newly christianised Caesareum church and killed. Some reports suggest she was flayed with "ostrakois" (literally, "oyster shells", though also used to refer to roof tiles or broken pottery) and set ablaze while still alive, though other accounts suggest those actions happened after her death:

Despite her actual background, authors Soldan and Heppe wrote a text in 1990 arguing that Hypatia may have been the first famous "witch" punished under Christian authority. [Soldan, W.G. und Heppe, H., "Geschichte der Hexenprozesse," Essen 1990. p.82.]


Shortly after her death, a forged letter attacking Christianity was published under her name. [Synodicon, c. 216, in iv. tom. Concil. p. 484, as detailed in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8, chapter XLVII] The pagan historian Damascius, "anxious to exploit the scandal of Hypatia's death", laid the blame squarely on the Christians and Bishop Cyril.

In the 14th century, historian Nicephorus Gregoras described Eudokia Makrembolitissa as a "second Hypatia".

In the early 18th century, the deist scholar John Toland used her death as the basis for an anti-Catholic tract entitled "Hypatia: Or the history of a most beautiful, most vertuous, most learned, and every way accomplish’d lady; who was torn to pieces by the clergy of Alexandria, to gratify the pride, emulation, and cruelty of their archbishop, commonly but undeservedly stil’d St. Cyril". [Ogilvie, M. B. (1986). Women in science: Antiquity through the nineteenth century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.] This led to a counter-claim being published by Thomas Lewis in 1721 entitled "The History Of Hypatia, A most Impudent School-Mistress of Alexandria". [ [http://www.polyamory.org/~howard/Hypatia/Lewis_1721.html The History Of Hypatia, A most Impudent School-Mistress of Alexandria: Murder'd and torn to Pieces by the Populace, In Defence of Saint Cyril and the Alexandrian Clergy. From the Aspersions of Mr. Toland] .]

Eventually, her story began to be infused with Christian details, as her story was first substituted for the missing history of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. [Catholic|St. Catherine of Alexandria] [Jameson, Anna. " [http://www.archive.org/details/sacredlegendary02jameiala Sacred and Legendary Art] ", 1857. pp 84.]

In the nineteenth century, interest in the "literary legend of Hypatia" began to peak.

Diodata Saluzzo Roero's 1827 "Ipazia ovvero delle Filosofie" suggested that Cyril had actually converted Hypatia to Christianity, and that she had been killed by a "treacherous" priest.

In his 1847 " [http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Hypatie_%28Po%C3%A8mes_antiques%29 Hypatie] " and 1857 " [http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Hypathie_et_Cyrille Hypatie et Cyrille] ", French poet Charles-Marie-René Leconte de Lisle portrayed Hypatia as the epitome of "vulnerable truth and beauty". [Edwards, Catharine. "Roman Presences: Receptions of Rome in European Culture, 1789-1945" pp. 112]

Charles Kingsley's 1853 fictionalized novel "Hypatia - or New Foes with an Old Face", which portrayed the scholar as a "helpless, pretentious, and erotic heroine", [cite book |title= The woman and the lyre: Women writers in classical Greece and Rome.|last= Snyder|first= J.M.|authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 1989|publisher= Southern Illinois University Press|location= Carbondale, IL|isbn= ] recounted her conversion by a Jewish-Christian named Raphael Aben-Ezra after supposedly becoming disillusioned with Orestes.

In 1868, Julia Margaret Cameron produced a photographic depiction of the ancient scholar "Hypatia." [cite book |title= Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists|last= Marsh|first= Jan|authorlink= |coauthors= Pamela Gerrish Nunn|year= 1998|publisher= Thames & Hudson|location= London|isbn= ]

The lunar crater "Hypatia" was named after the philosopher, in addition to craters named for Cyril and her father Theon. Measuring 28x41 kilometres, the crater is located 4.3°S and 22.6°E of the meridian. The 180km "Rimae Hypatia", is located north of the crater, one degree south of the equater, along the Mare Tranquillitatis. [cite web| url = http://www.womanastronomer.com/hypatia.htm |title = Hypatia of Alexandria: A woman before her time |publisher = The Woman Astronomer | date = November 11,2007 |accessdate = 2007-12-03]

Later references

* Feminist artist Judy Chicago included Hypatia in the First Wing of her work "The Dinner Party".
* The "Heirs of Alexandria series" written by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, includes fictitious references to Hypatia's conversion to Christianity and subsequent correspondence with John Chrysostom and Augustine.
* Hypatia Cade, a precocious child and main character in the science fiction novel "The Ship Who Searched" by Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey is named after Hypatia of Alexandria.
* Umberto Eco's novel "Baudolino" sees the protagonist meet a secluded society of satyr-like creatures who all take their name and philosophy from Hypatia.
* Rinne Groff's 2000 play "The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem" features a character named Hypatia who lives silently, in fear that she will suffer the fate of her namesake.
* "Remembering Hypatia" is a fictional treatment of her life and death by author Brian Trent. [cite web |url= http://www.rememberinghypatia.com/ | title = Remembering Hypatia: A Novel of Ancient Egypt]
* Hypatia is a recurring character in Mark London Williams' juvenile fiction "Danger Boy"
* Hypatia is the name of a 'shipmind' (ship computer), modeled after the historical Hypatia, in "The Boy Who Would Live Forever", a novel in Frederick Pohl's Heechee series.
* Hypatia Sans Pro is an Adobe typeface named after her. [citeweb|title=Hypatia Sans Pro, my new typeface|url=http://blogs.adobe.com/typblography/2007/04/hypatia_sans.html|publisher="Adobe Systems"|accessdate=2008-08-24]
* The Corto Maltese adventure Fable of Venice, by characteristic superposition of anachronistic elements, sees Hypatia preside over an intellectual salon in pre-Fascist Italy.
*Carl Sagan, in "", discussed Hypatia, her death, and the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
* "" has been published since 1986 by Indiana University Press.
* Hypatia is also the name of a Madison, WI-based cooperative community house, one of 13 Madison Cooperative Community (MCC) houses in the area.
*Novelist Ki Longfellow is at work on a novel of Hypatia's life, tentatively titled "Flow Down Like Silver", with a tentative publication date of 2009.
*"Ágora", a film in production in 2008, written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, is about a slave of Hypatia who falls in love with her. Hypatia is portrayed by Rachel Weisz; the film is expected to be released in 2009.
*Egyptian author Dr. Yūsuf Zaydān wrote the novel ‘Azazīl’ that tells the story of an Egyptian monk living during a time period when Christians used to tyrannize pagans and demolish their temples. The circumstances leading to the death of Hypatia is a major part of this book. The author wants to underline with his book the importance of freedom of belief. [ Rose al-Yusuf, May 9, 2008 reviewed by Arab-West Report, [http://www.arabwestreport.info 2008, week 18, art. 48] ]


External links

* [http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/hypatia.htm "Hypatia", Biographies of Women Mathematicians] , Agnes Scott College
* [http://www.polyamory.org/~howard/Hypatia Resources on Hypatia] : booklist, classroom activities
* [http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/or030897.htm Hypatia on ABC Radio] Transcript of an interview with Dr Michael Deakin about his research on Hypatia, broadcast on Australia's ABC Radio National. Sunday, 3 August, 1997
* [http://members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm Hypatia of Alexandria: Defender of Reason] Hypatia's impact on the course of human history.
* [http://hypatia-lovers.com/FreeImages.html A collection of free high-resolution Hypatia-related images.]
* [http://www.womeninscience.co.uk/bios.html Women in Science]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hypatia — vor ihrer Ermordung in der Kirche. Gemälde von Charles William Mitchell, 1885, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Hypatia (auch Hypatia von Alexandria, griechisch Ὑπατία Hypatía; * um 355 in Alexandria; † März 415 oder …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hypatia (disambiguation) — Hypatia could refer to: *Hypatia of Alexandria (c. 370 – 415), neo Platonic philosopher, mathematician, and teacherFiction* Hypatia (novel) by Charles Kingsley, written in 1853 *Hypatia, a character based on Hypatia of Alexandria in the alternate …   Wikipedia

  • Hypatĭa — Hypatĭa, aus Alexandria, neuplaton. Philosophin, gest. 415 n. Chr., Tochter und Schülerin des Mathematikers Theon, studierte in Athen Philosophie und lehrte in Alexandria mit großem Beifall. Unter ihren Schülern wird der griechische Kirchenlehrer …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hypatia — Hypatĭa, aus Alexandria, Tochter des Mathematikers Theon, Gattin des Philosophen Isidoros, ausgezeichnet durch Schönheit und Sittenreinheit, Lehrerin der Philosophie, bei einem durch die Vertreibung der Juden 415 n. Chr. veranlaßten… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hypatia — /huy pay sheuh, pat ee euh/, n. A.D. c370 415, Greek philosopher renowned for her beauty. * * * ▪ Egyptian philosopher and mathematician born c. 370, Alexandria, Egypt died March 415, Alexandria  Egyptian Neoplatonist (Neoplatonism) philosopher… …   Universalium

  • Hypatia — Hypatie d Alexandrie Portrait imaginaire d Hypathie d Alexandrie Hypatie d Alexandrie (en grec ancien Ὑπατία / Hypatia, v. 370 – 415) est une mathématicienne et une philosophe grecque. Son père Théon d Alexandrie, dernier directeur du Musée… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hypatia (Asteroid) — Asteroid (238) Hypatia Eigenschaften des Orbits Orbittyp Hauptgürtelasteroid Große Halbachse 2,9062 AE Exzentrizität 0,0889 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hypatia (crater) — lunar crater data latitude=4.3 N or S=S longitude=22.6 E or W=E diameter=41 times; 28 km depth=1.4 km colong=338 eponym=Hypatia of AlexandriaHypatia is a lunar crater that lies along the northwest edge of Sinus Asperitatis, a bay on the southwest …   Wikipedia

  • Hypatia — Hypatia,   griechische Mathematikerin und Philosophin, * Alexandria 370, ✝ ebenda 415; Tochter des Theon von Alexandria, den sie bei der Abfassung mathematischer Schriften unterstützt haben soll. Ihr selbst werden Kommentare zum Almagest des… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Hypatĭa — Hypatĭa, Tochter des Mathematikers Theon aus Alexandria im letzten Viertel des 4. Jahrh. n. Chr., war in ihres Vaters Studien eingeweiht, lehrte in ihrer Vaterstadt u. in Athen die Philosophie des Plato u. Aristoteles u. erläuterte die Geometrie… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.