Hypatia (Greek: Ὑπατία, Hypatía, pronounced /haɪˈpeɪʃə/ in English; born between AD 350 and 370; died March 415) was a Greek scholar from Alexandria in Egypt, is the earliest woman scientist whose life is well documented; she was also the last scientist of the Golden Age of Pericles, considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy. She lived in Roman Egypt, and was killed by a Christianmob who falsely blamed her for religious turmoil. Some suggest that her murder marked the end of what is traditionally known as Classical antiquity, although others such as Christian Wildberg observe that Hellenistic philosophy continued to flourish until the age of Justinian in the sixth century.
A Neoplatonistphilosopher, she belonged to the mathematical tradition of the Academy of Athens represented by Eudoxus of Cnidus; she followed the school of the 3rd century thinker Plotinus, discouraging empirical enquiry and encouraging logical and mathematical studies. The name Hypatia derives from the adjective ὑπάτη, the feminine form of ὕπατος (upatos), meaning “highest, uppermost, supremest”.
Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who was her teacher and the last known mathematician associated with the Museum of Alexandria. She traveled to both Athens and Italy to study, before becoming head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in approximately 400. According to the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia the Suda, she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle. It is believed that there were both Christians 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 declared her “the wife of Isidore the Philosopher” but agreed she had remained a virgin. Hypatia rebuffed a suitor by showing him her menstrual rags, claiming they demonstrated that there was “nothing beautiful” about carnal desires. Hypatia maintained correspondence with her former pupil Synesius of Cyrene, who in AD 410 became bishop of Ptolemais. Together with the references by Damascius, these are the only writings with descriptions or information from her pupils that survive. The contemporary Christian historiographer Socrates Scholasticus described her in his Ecclesiastical History:
“There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.”