Maria Gaetana Agnesi: 1718-1799.




On March 8, 2018, the government of Italy issued a set of four stamps celebrating what they described as “Italian Female Genius: Depicting Italian Women who have Distin- guished Themselves in the Arts, Sciences & Culture.” Among the four women celebrated was Maria Gaetana Agnesi, described in the announcement as a “mathematician.”1 On September 6, 2018, the Vatican issued a stamp of Maria Agnesi in the category of “Science and Faith.”2 Both stamps commemorate the 300th anniversary of Agnesi’s birth on May 16, 1718 and call attention to the two main aspects of her life: the intellectual and the pious.

The first child of a prosperous Italian family, Agnesi’s fa- ther hoped to advance in social circles in part by educating and exhibiting the education of his children to Milanese society. From an early age, multiple tutors, mostly from religious orders, fostered Agnesi’s knowledge and faith within the broader purview of the Catholic Enlightenment (Mazzotti, 2001, 2008; Petrunic). Agnesi was recognized as a child prodigy by the age of five owing in part to her proficiency with languages. Although shy by nature, she joined in the seminars and discussions that took place in her family home in the evenings.

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Copyright © 2019, American Mathematical Society.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1090/noti1827.