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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Sophie Germain

b. 1776, Paris; d. 1831, Paris

Sophie Germain studied mathematics despite her parents’ opposition. In 1794, the École Polytechnique, a school for mathematics and science, was founded in Paris; although women were not admitted, Germain obtained class notes from friends and soon submitted a paper under the male pseudonym M. Le Blanc to the professor Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Lagrange was so impressed that he became her mentor. She won a mathematical law competition in 1816 from the French Academy of Sciences for her submission Memoir on the Vibrations of Elastic Plates. She went on to make contributions to the study of acoustics, elasticity, and the theory of numbers.