The World of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I have been working on Agnesi for a number of years. During this period I received support and insightful comments from many people from various countries and institutions. To all of them I am profoundly grateful. My thanks go to the fellow of the Dibner Institute at MIT during the academic...
Introduction: Another Enlightenment
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The name Maria Gaetana Agnesi and the dates of her birth and death (1718–99) will probably be familiar only to the friendly but restricted community of historians of mathematics. Agnesi was indeed the first woman to publish a mathematics book, an early treatise on calculus dated 1748 and...
1. Engaging in a Conversation
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Milan can be unpleasantly hot and humid in the summertime, but strolling its streets in the summer of 1739 must have been an unpleasant experience even by Milanese standards. According to the local gazette, by early July the lack of rain and fresh air had already caused “damage to the health of...
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Pietro Agnesi liked to dress elegantly, favoring bright colors and precious textiles such as velvet and silk. His wardrobe was filled with modern-cut tailcoats (marsine) and jackets (giubbe), which were rather long, in the Parisian style. He certainly had black velvet sets for occasions on which they...
3. Trees of Knowledge
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The large room in which Gaetana studied and wrote was far from the site of the conversazione and sheltered by a series of quiet rooms that were used by members of the family for prayer and rest. In one of these rooms, facing an ivory crucifix, was a walnut prie-dieu. Next to it, a door opened onto...
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As Brosses took leave of the Palazzo Agnesi on that night in July 1739, he was told something that surprised and disappointed him. Apparently Gaetana had expressed the wish to enter the cloister and don the sky-blue habit of an Augustinian nun. Brosses could not understand this choice, which...
5. A List of Books
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One morning in April 1752, following Pietro Agnesi’s death, the notary Carlo Federico Tarchini entered Gaetana’s studio and let his professional gaze survey the globes, armillary spheres, mathematical instruments, and volumes in the tall, finely carved walnut bookcases. At that point...
6. Calculus for the Believer
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The Olivetan monk Ramiro Rampinelli arrived in Milan at the end of 1740, having been dispatched to teach mathematics at the monastery of San Vittore in Corpo. Rampinelli was already a well-known teacher and one of the few credited with being able to lecture on the new analysis of Leibniz...
7. A New Female Mind
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In February 1752, the governor of Milan and captain general of Lombardy, Count Gianluca Pallavicini, was invited to attend a soirée at the Palazzo Agnesi. The governor, a convinced supporter of Maria Theresa’s administrative reform, was “very attached” to the Agnesi, and on confidential...
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With Pietro’s death in April 1752, the Agnesi family entered the prescribed six-month period of mourning. Black velvet drapes were hung at the windows of the palazzo, although probably not as many as Pietro might have wished. Recent decrees regulated not only the use of titles and the...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 7 halftones
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Mathematics