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Sophie Germain
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Mathematician
    (April 1, 1776-June 27, 1831)
    Born in Paris, France
    Mathematician and physicist
    Contributed to number theory and elasticity theory
    Namesake for Sophie Germain primes: prime numbers, p, such that 2p+1 is also prime (So 5 is a Sophie Germain prime since 2x5+1 = 11, which is prime, while 7 is not one since 2X7+1 = 15, which is not prime)
    Developed a method to prove Fermat's Last Theorem for Sophie Germain primes
    She became interested in mathematics after she read an account of the death of Archimedes, and apparently decided that the ability to distract someone to death was a desirable quality.
    She covertly studied at the Ecole Polytechnique by obtaining the lecture notes of an ex-student and submitting homework under his name.
    She also used a male pseudonym when corresponding with mathematician Carl Gauss.
    She was financially supported by her parents.
    She taught herself Latin and Greek to study non-French math books.
    When the French army occupied Gauss' hometown in Germany, she (perhaps fearing he would suffer Archimedes' fate) wrote to the commanding general asking him to ensure Gauss' safety.
    Gauss said, 'She doubtless has the most noble courage, extraordinary talent, and superior genius.'
    She was the first woman to win a prize from the Paris Academy of Science (1816).
    She was unable to accept the award in person, since the Academy would not lift its ban on women (other than the wives of members) attending its ceremonies for another seven years.

Credit: C. Fishel


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