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Custom Career of a Contemporary Mathematician Essay

Marie S. Germain was a mathematician of French origin. Apart from the contemporary contribution in her career in mathematics, she was also a philosopher and physicist whereby she made outstanding contributions in these fields. She lived during the time when females were seen as inferior to men and were denied access to formal education. Despite the challenges she faced from the sexist society as well as opposition from parents, she managed to gain her education from home, whereby she used her father’s library as well as correspondence from a number of popular mathematicians, for example Gauss, Lagrange and Legendre. Despite the gender biases during her times, she managed to stand against all odds and made contemporary career as a mathematician, though throughout her life she was working independently. This essay seeks to investigate life of this great mathematician by exploring how she developed interest in mathematics and her contributions in this field.

Germain developed interest in mathematics at the age of thirteen years old after the fall of Bastille. Atmosphere after the fall of this city was revolutionary and this forced her to stay indoors. She had to find a source of entertainment and in the process she turned all her attention to her father’s library. It is in this library she has developed interest in the work of J.E. Montucla, especially she was impressed by the story on death of Archimedes. It was during this time she developed interest in geometry and started studying the subject. In her quest to study geometry she explored all the mathematic books that were in the library of her father. Germain developed interest in mathematics after reading various books on the subject of geometry. Given the environment she was in without any support from her parents, she had to spend sleepless nights carrying out various studies on mathematical models (Waldo, 1955). At the age of 18, Germain managed to get access to Ecole Polytechnique where she would present her work and obtain the lecture notes. Her earlier career as a mathematician was enhanced when she managed to get a mentor. Lagrange after seeing the intelligence of Germain decided to become her mentor. He provided moral support she needed to realize her studies in the area of mathematics.

Germain made a number of contributions in the field of Mathematics. Her first contribution was in the area of number theory. She worked closely with Legendre in her research on number theory. He published some of her work in his publications. She also worked closely with Gauss in her effort to develop number theory and she managed to come up with “Fermat’s Last Theorem”.  In her work on number theory she tried to prove that n = p - 1, though her proofs had weak assumptions (Dickson, 1934)

Germain also made great contributions in the field of elasticity. She managed to make contribution in this area when she became an entrant of the competition that was sponsored by Paris Academy of Science. Germain started her work in 1809. She received assistance in this work, which was to be presented before the panel of judges, from Legendre, who used to give her references, equations as well as current research on the subject. Germain managed to finish her first paper on the subject of elasticity in 1811. After presenting her work before the judges, she did not manage to win the prize. The judges argued that the actual equations of the movement had not been established. Lagrange went further in his research using the work of Germain and was able to come up with correct equation under certain special assumptions.

After failing to win the prize, Germain did not give up in her efforts in the field of elastic surfaces. She decided to redo the research for two years to see if she could win the contest. For some time in her second attempt on the prize, she was receiving support from Legendre but later he refused to support her. This did not stop her from finishing her research and in 1813 she presented her second paper on the subject of elasticity before the judges, but they argued that her work had numerous mathematical errors, especially with double integrals. Therefore they rejected her work and she failed in the second attempt to win the prize. After the contest was extended for the third time, she continued with studies on the subject with the aim of winning the prize. Her third attempt made her work on elasticity to be published in 1814, though the author of the book did not recognize her efforts. Finally, in 1816 she managed to win the prize after presenting her work. Germain came up with the differential equation that is commonly used in area of elasticity. Germain published her award winning paper in 1821, where she opposed the work that had earlier been published by Poisson. In this publication she pinpointed errors of her previous methods of work (Andrea, 2009)

Germain is a mathematician who overcame all odds and managed to build her name as a contemporary mathematician. Her career was marked with disappointing moments but this did not stop her from achieving her goal of making contributions in the field of mathematics. In conclusion, her contribution in mathematics was mainly in the areas of elasticity and number theory.

Custom Career of a Contemporary Mathematician Essay

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