March 15 is a day of remembrance for Hypatia, a Greek Alexandrine philosopher in Egypt and one of the earliest mothers of mathematics. As head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, she also taught philosophy and astronomy. Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who was considered one of the most educated men in Alexandria, Egypt. Theon raised Hypatia in a world of education. Most historians now recognize Hypatia not only as a mathematician and scientist, but also as a philosopher.
Hypatia's studies included astronomy, astrology, and mathematics. References in letters by Synesius, one of Hypatia's students, credit Hypatia with the invention of the astrolabe, a device used in studying astronomy. Hypatia was known more for the work she did in mathematics than in astronomy, primarily for her work on the ideas of conic sections introduced by Apollonius. She edited the work On the Conics of Apollonius, which divided cones into different parts by a plane. This concept developed the ideas of hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses. With Hypatia's work on this important book, she made the concepts easier to understand, thus making the work survive through many centuries. Hypatia was the first woman to have such a profound impact on the survival of early thought in mathematics.
Hypatia lived in Alexandria when Christianity started to dominate over the other religions. In the early 390's, riots broke out frequently between the different religions. Cyril, a leader among the Christians, and Orestes, the civil governor, opposed each other. Hypatia was a friend of Orestes and it is believed that Cyril spread virulent rumors about her. In 415 AD, on Hypatia's way home, a mob of Christians attacked her, stripped her and killed her.
Hypatia's life ended tragically, however her life's work remained. Later, Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz expanded on her work. Hypatia made extraordinary accomplishments for a woman in her time. Philosophers considered her a woman of great knowledge and an excellent teacher.