Maria Gaetana Agnesi’s 296th birthday: Google Doodle throws a curve

16 May 2014

The Google Doodle marking the 296th anniversary of the birth of mathematician and philosopher Maria Gaetana Agnesi

An animated Google Doodle honours Maria Gaetana Agnesi on the internet search giant’s homepage today, the 296th anniversary of the mathematician and philosopher’s birth.

The black and white architectural-looking doodle – a stylised Google logo – features a drawing of Agnesi in the second ‘o’ in Google.

An animation of a sloping curve lies over the logo, representing the geometric equation Agnesi helped define, the Witch of Agnesi. She is also credited with writing the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus.

Mathematics had never been a stranger to Agnesi. Her father was a mathematics professor at the University of Bologna and she grew up developing an interest in the subject.

Agnesi was born on 16 May 1718, in Milan, Italy. By age 11 she was able to speak Italian, French, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German and Latin. The following year, an illness prevented her from partaking in any strenuous physical activity, so she spent a lot of time studying. By age 14 she was studying ballistics and geometry.

Those studies paid off, benefiting her mathematical research in later years, and she became the second woman ever to be granted a professorship at a university, the University of Bologna.

After her father’s death in 1752, she turned to the study of philosophy and theology. She also welcomed the sick into her home, where she had set up a hospital.

Agnesi died on 9 January, 1799, at the age of 80.

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic