Marie-Sophie Germain (April 1, 1776 – June 27, 1831) was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. Despite initial opposition from her parents and difficulties presented by a sexist society, she gained education from books in her father’s library and from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss. One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after. Because of prejudice against her gender, she was unable to make a career out of mathematics, but she worked independently throughout her life. (continue

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