Maria Gaetana Agnesi
  • introduction

    Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) is a philosopher and mathematician of the eighteenth century. Whereas in her time she was a celebrated member of the philosophical and scientific community, her contribution to the development of eighteenth century mathematical and scientific ideas, as well as her legacy in the history of ideas have largely been neglected by contemporary scolarship.

    The Agnesi Project is part of the Early Modern women in Mathematics research area at the Center for History of Women Philosophers and Scientists. This larger project aims at philosophically assessing the impact of these women’s mathematical contributions on natural philosophy.

    The Agnesi scholarship has so far been propelled by the interest for how Agnesi and her family constructed her public image in the Milanese society and the republic of letters, by which she built the identity of a learned woman and scholar. However, little attention has been paid to Agnesi’s philosophical work and natural philosophy, or to the connections of her philosophical views to her mathematical oeuvre. In order to shed light on these issues, this project explores Agnesi’s work as philosophical in its own right.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) rose to fame in her lifetime as a child prodigy in her native Milan. Later she became known mostly for her 1748 Instituzioni Analitiche, a calculus textbook, that caught the attention of mathematicians throughout Europe, including Leonhard Euler. This work earned her an honorary place in the Academy of Sciences of Bologna. She has been found to be an enigmatic figure of the history of science, as she gave up her scientific pursuits in her thirties for a life of piety helping the poor.

    Agnesi wrote about the rights of women to an education while still a child; she published in 1727 the Oratio in which the worth of women was assessed and defended.

    Her scientific interests go from Newtonian mechanics to natural history and the relationship of the soul with the body. Her mathematics combines Leibnizian and Newtonian perspectives on calculus, as well as differential and integral calculus.

  • Project: Agnesi on Natural Philosophy and Mathematics
    by Iulia Mihai

    The Agnesi Project is centered upon Agnesi’s first book, Propositiones philosophicae (1738). The book is a compendium of science, whose structure is similar to that of textbook introductions to philosophy in the tradition of Latin language philosophy of the early modern period. It starts with topics in logic, the mind, goes on to the nature of body and motion, and ends with topics in meteorology and the organic soul. What is surprising about the book is that, instead of going with either Newtonianism or Cartesianism, Agnesi appeals instead to Stoicism in decisive philosophical matters.

    Thus, the current Agnesi project is focused on exploring (i) the extent to which Agnesi embraces Stoic philosophy in her natural philosophy prior to her 1748 Instituzioni analitiche; and (ii) how Newtonian mechanics is incorporated in her views on nature. Moreover, a critical edition of the Latin text with an English translation of Agnesi’s Propositiones philosophicae is in preparation.

     

  • Bibliography

    Agnesi published three titles under her name, as follows:

    1727. Oratio qua ostenditur artium liberalium studia a femeneo sexu netiquam abhorrere, Milano: In Curia Regia.

    Translated as The Studies of the Liberal Arts by the Female Sex Are by No Means Inappropriate (1727) in Massbarger, R. and Findlen, P. (eds.) 2005. The Contest for Knowledge: Debates over women’s learning in Eighteenth-Century Italy, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

    1738. Propositiones Philosophicae, Milan: In Curia Regia.

    1748. Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana, Milan: Nella Regia-Ducal Corte (2 vols).

     

    There is also a number of reviews of Agnesi’s 1748 Institutions:

    Anon. 1749. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Novelle letterarie 10(31), col. 492-496; (37), col. 586-587.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Journal des Scavans, 309-310.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Nova Acta Eruditorum n. 13, 605-609.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Novelle della Repubblica Letteraria n. 23, 180-181.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Lettres sur quelques écrits de ce temps, Tome III, Genève et Amsterdam, Pierre Mortier, p. 66–71.

    de Mairan, Dortous 1749. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Les registres de l’académie royale des Sciences (republished in A. F. Frisi 1799. Elogio storico di D. Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Milano: Presso Giuseppe Galeazzi).

     

  • Links

    Vox Project

    A website devoted to changing the narratives in the history of philosophy by incorporating the works of women.

    Querelle

    This website is devoted to the early modern querelle des femmes, a debate about the role and worth of women, and sketches the intellectual context for Agnesi’s 1727 Oratio.

     

  • introduction

    Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) is a philosopher and mathematician of the eighteenth century. Whereas in her time she was a celebrated member of the philosophical and scientific community, her contribution to the development of eighteenth century mathematical and scientific ideas, as well as her legacy in the history of ideas have largely been neglected by contemporary scolarship.

    The Agnesi Project is part of the Early Modern women in Mathematics research area at the Center for History of Women Philosophers and Scientists. This larger project aims at philosophically assessing the impact of these women’s mathematical contributions on natural philosophy.

    The Agnesi scholarship has so far been propelled by the interest for how Agnesi and her family constructed her public image in the Milanese society and the republic of letters, by which she built the identity of a learned woman and scholar. However, little attention has been paid to Agnesi’s philosophical work and natural philosophy, or to the connections of her philosophical views to her mathematical oeuvre. In order to shed light on these issues, this project explores Agnesi’s work as philosophical in its own right.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) rose to fame in her lifetime as a child prodigy in her native Milan. Later she became known mostly for her 1748 Instituzioni Analitiche, a calculus textbook, that caught the attention of mathematicians throughout Europe, including Leonhard Euler. This work earned her an honorary place in the Academy of Sciences of Bologna. She has been found to be an enigmatic figure of the history of science, as she gave up her scientific pursuits in her thirties for a life of piety helping the poor.

    Agnesi wrote about the rights of women to an education while still a child; she published in 1727 the Oratio in which the worth of women was assessed and defended.

    Her scientific interests go from Newtonian mechanics to natural history and the relationship of the soul with the body. Her mathematics combines Leibnizian and Newtonian perspectives on calculus, as well as differential and integral calculus.

  • Project: Agnesi on Natural Philosophy and Mathematics
    by Iulia Mihai

    The Agnesi Project is centered upon Agnesi’s first book, Propositiones philosophicae (1738). The book is a compendium of science, whose structure is similar to that of textbook introductions to philosophy in the tradition of Latin language philosophy of the early modern period. It starts with topics in logic, the mind, goes on to the nature of body and motion, and ends with topics in meteorology and the organic soul. What is surprising about the book is that, instead of going with either Newtonianism or Cartesianism, Agnesi appeals instead to Stoicism in decisive philosophical matters.

    Thus, the current Agnesi project is focused on exploring (i) the extent to which Agnesi embraces Stoic philosophy in her natural philosophy prior to her 1748 Instituzioni analitiche; and (ii) how Newtonian mechanics is incorporated in her views on nature. Moreover, a critical edition of the Latin text with an English translation of Agnesi’s Propositiones philosophicae is in preparation.

     

  • Bibliography

    Agnesi published three titles under her name, as follows:

    1727. Oratio qua ostenditur artium liberalium studia a femeneo sexu netiquam abhorrere, Milano: In Curia Regia.

    Translated as The Studies of the Liberal Arts by the Female Sex Are by No Means Inappropriate (1727) in Massbarger, R. and Findlen, P. (eds.) 2005. The Contest for Knowledge: Debates over women’s learning in Eighteenth-Century Italy, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

    1738. Propositiones Philosophicae, Milan: In Curia Regia.

    1748. Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana, Milan: Nella Regia-Ducal Corte (2 vols).

     

    There is also a number of reviews of Agnesi’s 1748 Institutions:

    Anon. 1749. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Novelle letterarie 10(31), col. 492-496; (37), col. 586-587.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Journal des Scavans, 309-310.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Nova Acta Eruditorum n. 13, 605-609.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Novelle della Repubblica Letteraria n. 23, 180-181.

    Anon. 1750. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Lettres sur quelques écrits de ce temps, Tome III, Genève et Amsterdam, Pierre Mortier, p. 66–71.

    de Mairan, Dortous 1749. Review of Agnesi’s Instituzioni analitiche in Les registres de l’académie royale des Sciences (republished in A. F. Frisi 1799. Elogio storico di D. Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Milano: Presso Giuseppe Galeazzi).

     

  • Links

    Vox Project

    A website devoted to changing the narratives in the history of philosophy by incorporating the works of women.

    Querelle

    This website is devoted to the early modern querelle des femmes, a debate about the role and worth of women, and sketches the intellectual context for Agnesi’s 1727 Oratio.