Hypatia of Alexandria (370 CE – 415 CE) was a mathematician and philosopher. She was educated at Athens. Her father was the mathematician Theon who tutored her in math, astronomy and philosophy. Around AD 400 she became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, where she taught Plato and Aristotle. Known for her great beauty she became famous for her achievements in music, astronomy and philosophy. She was the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, a claim no other woman has been able to make. Her philosophy was considered pagan during a time of unrest and conflict between the Jews, Christians, and pagans.
Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It was a center of learning and culture. The city has been described by scholars a magnificent city. The great Library of Alexandria is said to have contained 500,000 books on its shelves on papyrus scrolls. As a professor at the university, Hypatia would have had daily access to these books. Unfortunately she lived in troubled times.
Hypatia was murdered by a Christian mob in Alexandria 415. She was stripped of her clothing and skinned alive with sharp pottery shards and her torn and mutilated body was dragged through the streets of Alexandria where it was put on a funeral pyre and burned.
The murder of Hypatia marked the end of Classical antiquity and the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life. Hypatia is a powerful feminist symbol who sacrificed her life to the unruly and ignorant mob in the name truth and knowledge. The struggle goes on.