Thursday, May 16, 2019

Let's Drink to Maria Gaetana Agnesi's 301st Birthday!

As I continue my research on the life of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, today I was surprised to discover that there is now an alcoholic drink named in her honor:

According to an article in Sonoma Magazine, The Family Coppola now has a line of "Great Women Spirits" named for several historic women. The spirits include a brandy that, according to the article, "commemorates Maria Gaetana Agnesi, the first woman to serve as a mathematics professor at a university." Called "Agnesi 1799," the bottle bears a portrait of Maria against the backdrop of the curve of The Witch of Agnesi. The number 1799 commemorates the year of her death.

Sadly, the article perpetuates one of the myths associated with Maria: that she was a mathematics professor. Pope Benedict XIV did indeed offer her a math professorship at the University of Bologna, but she turned it down and never served there. The Family Coppola website repeats this fallacy on the brandy's page. The brandy label itself, described on the bottom of the page, indicates that she was the "theorist of the Witch of Agnesi curve." However, as I discussed in my last post, this is a myth. I plan to contact the company about these errors. I'll let you know if they respond. 

Meanwhile, despite the inaccuracies, I'm pleased to see the company commemorate Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Perhaps I can locate a bottle of the brandy to drink a toast in honor of her birthday today!