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Women in History: Counting on Women in Mathematics 

I want to take the opportunity to talk specifically about some significant contributions from some women in mathematics and perhaps to shout for joy about being a woman and a mathematician.

Hypatia of Alexandria lived approximately during the years 370-415 AD. She was Theon of Alexandria's daughter, a mathematics teacher at the Museum of Alexandria in Egypt. She studied with her Father and taught in the Neoplatonist School of Philosophy. Though little historical evidence exists about her, she is believed to have written about mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. She was known to dress as a scholar or teacher instead of in women's clothing. She drove her chariot, which was not considered a norm for women's behavior. As a woman who did not know her place and one who espoused heretical teachings in astronomy regarding the motion of planets and the heavenly bodies, the Christian Bishop Cyril incited a mob to riot, and they attacked her and murdered her.

Alicia Boole Stott was the daughter of George Boole(well-known for Boolean logic). As a woman who lived from 1860-1940, she was not afforded a formal education in mathematics. Married with two children, her husband recognized her talent and encouraged her to study with other mathematicians. She had an extraordinary intuition that helped her visualize objects in the fourth dimension developing a particular interest in four-dimensional hypercubes, also known as tesseracts. Eventually, she published several papers and built many models representing four-dimensional figures with cardboard and wood.

Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852, was known as the first computer programmer. She met Charles Babbage, the so-called Father of the Computer. She became interested in his concept of a mechanical device to compute the values of quadratic functions. She also became interested in some of his ideas of another machine that would use punched cards to read instructions and data to solve mathematical problems. She envisioned that these machines, the future computers, could go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching.

In the sketch of these women's lives, you can see the potential women can offer. This sketch illustrates women's ability to fit in a man's world, see in different dimensions, and see the possibilities of things only imagined. A study titled Women in the IT by the National Center for Women in Information Technology describes the remarkable magic women bring to teams to increase diversity and enable creative innovation.

I chose mathematics in college because I loved figuring things out like Alicia. I wanted to drive my own chariot like Hypatia. Like Ada, I found computers lacked the humanity that made them useful to most people.

I have a girlfriend that studied physics in college. I asked her why she chose physics as a major. She said she wanted to major in psychology, but the line was quite long, and she went out the door. Not wanting to brave the elements, she went into the physics line without even knowing what physics was. The advisors told her, " Don't worry; we will help you and tell you what it is. She found opportunities to excel in the safety and warmth of science.

Dear ladies, the line is short, and the opportunities are many. To all the young women thinking about what line to get in, get in a queue for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. When you consider our study in these discipline areas and our strengths - skills in communication, intuition, and curiosity - WE women become people you can count on.


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