BIRS Workshop Lecture Videos
Sophie Germain Burak, Katie
Abstract: Sophie Germain was a French mathematician that lived from 1776 to 1831. Growing up, she read the works of famous mathematicians and, despite her parents’ wishes, persisted in studying
mathematics. As a female, Germain faced many challenges trying to attain a formal education
in mathematics. However, using an alias, she was able to correspond with some highly-regarded
mathematicians at the time, such as Lagrange, Legendre and Gauss. Eventually, her true identity
became known, but Germain continued to study and pursue mathematics at a very high level.
Sadly, Germain was ultimately not respected as a mathematician and she struggled to overcome
the societal limitations of being a female in 18th century France. In this talk, I will discuss some
of her mathematical contributions and their relevance today. Germain's work has a variety of real-world applications such as in the field of cryptography. Also, her work on the subject of elasticity allowed the construction of the Eiffel Tower to be possible. Studying her work is important in understanding the historical role women have played in the field of mathematics.
About the speaker: Katie Burak is a graduate student at the University of Calgary where she is pursuing her Masters of Science in Statistics study.
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