About Maria Gaetana

Maria Gaetana Agnesi was a child prodigy born in Milan, Italy in 1718. (To learn how to pronounce her name, see this post.) She spoke French fluently by age 5 and Latin at 9. By her teen years, she had mastered 7 languages: Italian, French, Latin, Greek, German, Spanish, and Hebrew. But she is best known for writing a mathematics textbook called Analytical Institutions--the oldest surviving math book written by a woman. The two-volume book contained over 1,000 pages. Below is a photograph I took of the copy in the Rare Book and Manuscript  Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Maria’s life was filled with contradictions. She lived at a time when the only schooling most Italian girls received was in “domestic arts.” Yet Maria’s education was equivalent to, if not greater than, that of the brightest upper-class boys. Her accomplishments brought her fame throughout Europe. Yet Maria was a shy, modest girl who hated being a celebrity. From age nine, she defended the value of educating women. Yet Maria turned her back on her own education to help the poor.

In researching a biography of Maria's life, I've come across a great deal of misinformation about her, both in print and on the Internet. I will use this website to separate the facts from the myths on the main blog page. I will also share additional details of her life and the times she lived in on that page. If you have questions about Maria, feel free to post them there. Or you can contact me through my website