Biography of Hypatia of Alexandria Greek astronomer

Hipatia of Alexandria Portrait of Hipatia made byr Jules Maurice Gaspard. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 Hipatia was born in Alexandria, capital of the Roman diocese of Egypt. No data is known about her mother.

Alexandria
Alexandria, city founded by Alexander the Great, in the Nile Delta. Credit: Pixabay

Her father, Theon of Alexandria, philosopher and mathematician was dedicated to research and teaching at the Alexandria Museum, founded by Ptolemy.

Museum alexandria
Pictorial painting reproducing the Alexandria Museum. Credit: Ruth Portela web detectivesdelahistoria.es

Hipatia’s father took care of her training

This Museum had more than one hundred professors who lived there; many more, periodically attended as guests to impart their knowledge.

According to records of the time, Theon wanted his daughter to be a perfect human being. For which, he worried that Hypatia would receive a very complete scientific education.

Hipatia lived from childhood in an academic and cultured environment. Thanks to the teachings of her father, she learned mathematics and astronomy.

In addition, her father and everything around her, transmitted the passion to work in the search for the unknown.

Hipatia traveled to other countries to improve her training

Although Hipatia traveled to Athens and Italy to receive courses in philosophy, she was educated in the Museum itself and was part of it until her death.

Hipatia of Alexandria
Scene from the movie “Agora”. Hipatia represented by Rachel Weisz. The father, Theon, represented by Michael Londsdale. Credit: Wikipedia, Agora

Endowed with great beauty, Hypatia also devoted herself to an exhaustive care of her body. She practiced a daily physical routine that allowed her to maintain a healthy body, as well as an active mind.

Hipatia gave up the marriage

Despite her remarkable physical and intellectual qualities, Hypatia refused to marry. She was determined to surrender completely to science.

She cultivated various disciplines: philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and music.

For twenty years she dedicated herself to teaching all this knowledge in the Museum of Alexandria. She even managed the Museum. This happened around 400 A.D.

Her unique character as a woman devoted to thought and teaching earned her general appreciation.

Hipatia was intensely dedicated to teaching

Hypatia formed a select school of aristocrats who, over time, held high positions in Alexandria.

Hipatia of Alexandria
Agora movie frame. The beautiful actress Rachel Weisz plays the role of Hipatia in the Museum. Credit: Wikipedia Agora

This extraordinary woman wrote books on geometry, algebra and astronomy. It also improved the design of primitive astrolabs.

In addition to mapping celestial bodies, making a planisphere, Hypatia was interested in mechanics.

Unfortunately, none of her works have been preserved. However, they are known thanks to their disciples, such as Sinesio de Cirene or Hesiquio de Alejandría.

This remarkable woman also dedicated herself to the teaching of philosophy, focusing on the works of Plato and Aristotle.

Hipatia of Alexandria teacher
Representative chart of a class taught by HIpatia. Credit: Miguel Angel García Olmo. web forumlibertas.com

The house of Hipatia became a teaching place where students from all over the known world came, attracted by their fame.

Hipatia greatly influenced Alexandria’s politics

The Imperial Prefect of Alexandria, Orestes, was advised by Hipatia in political affairs.

The rhetoric Damascio wrote that Hypatia was popular as an advisor to the highest magistrates of Alexandria.

Her student Hesiquio sentence that was worshiped and revered in Alexandria: “Dressed in the cloak of the philosophers, making its way through the city, publicly explained the writings of Plato, or Aristotle, or any philosopher, to all who wanted listen (…) The magistrates used to consult her first for their administration of city affairs … “; she added that she had received “many civic distinctions.

Orestes faced the Christian Patriarch Cyril. Prefect Orestes enjoyed the political support of Hipatia.

Patriarch Cyril felt threatened, and several factions connected with the Church believed that it should be eliminated.

Hipatia of Alexandria was cowardly murdered

In the year 415 a mob of Christians attacked Hipatia in the middle of the street, took her out of her carriage and brutally murdered her, tore her body apart and burned it outside Alexandria.

The assassination of Hipatia took place within the framework of Christian hostility towards the declining paganism, when this remarkable woman was barely 45 years old.

Hipatia’s death raised a stir. The murder of this brilliant woman was an oprobious crime for Christians.

Humanity had to wait more than 1,000 years until another exceptional astronomer appeared: Carolina Herschel.

Hipatia Alexandria
Poster of the movie  Agora, by Alejandro Amenabar. Credit: Wikipedia

Author’s note: I recommend reading an excellent article published in Chaos and Science, on November 30, 2009 by Antonio Mampaso, Doctor of Astrophysics from the University of La Laguna and researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. He was the astronomical advisor of the film “Agora“, by Chilean director Alejandro Amenabar. Click here to see the article.

There are numerous websites that provide data about Hipatia de Alejandría. Three of them are: “National Geographic”, “the Universe and Man”, and “Women With Science”.

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