Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher (c360 – 415)

Hypatia was the daughter of famous Greek mathematician Theon. She lived and worked in Alexandria, which, at the time was one of the leading centres of science and humanities in the world. After studying in Alexandria she travelled to Athens and enrolled in the Neoplatonic school of Proclus and Hierocles. She returned to Alexandria and became head of the Alexandrian School of philosophy and mathematics where she taught mathematics, astronomy and Neoplatonic philosophy as well as Aristotelean philosophy. Notable students of hers included Troilos, Hierocles and Synesius, later bishop of Ptolemais in Libya.

She was termed “Geometer” for her profound knowledge in geometry. She compiled works on conic sections, wrote books on astronomy, and devised the astrolabe, an instrument used to calculate the distance of the stars from the horizon. Her student Synesius would later perfect it. Like most philosophers, all of Hypatia’s works were destroyed and none survives today.

Hypatia is the first and only example of a woman philosopher in history. As much as she was admired and respected for her wisdom and courage to stand up against society’s belief that women were incapable of living a life of spiritual development, she was detested by the ignorant masses, which saw her as an insult to Christianity. It is unfortunate that Hypatia lived at the time when the Ancient Greek spirit was dwindling as Christianity began prevailing. The start of the Byzantine Empire was marked with religious upheavals, dogmatism, and religious fanaticism. In 415 a crowd of Christians incited by Cyrillus, bishop of Alexandria, seized her, tore her clothing, dragged her around the city, cut her into pieces with shells and burned her. Cyrillus was named a saint by the Christian Orthodox Church.


  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Athens: Georgiades, 1995. Print.
  2. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Athens: Hilektron, 2014. Print.
  3. “Hypatia”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  4. ”Υπατία. Η Αλεξανδρινή φιλόσοφος που βασανίστηκε και δολοφονήθηκε από φανατικούς Xριστιανούς, που την έγδαραν και τη διαμέλισαν”. mixanitouxronou.gr. 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2016.


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