Marie Curie worked hard for 10 years. She sacrificed her life for Science. In the end she was rewarded with a Nobel Prize.

Have we not heard such tales of Scientists sacrificing pleasures of life and working real hard to contribute to Science. Such tales are written by historians and parents who want to “inspire” thier kids. These are all false stories. A Scientist loves science. They appreciate the beauty of the laws of nature. They want to spend their lives surrounded by this beauty. Science makes them happy.They do not sacrifice the pleasures of life. Science is their pleasure of life. So the true story would be ” Marie Curie enjoyed herself for 10 years finding why radioactivity happens. Everyday

was a new adventure. In the end she also got a lil medal called the Nobel Prize.”

Today in VERITAS we will remember the story of Sophie Germain. You might think that it is a story of struggle and sacrifice. Try and read it from the correct angle: it is a story of love.

Sophie Germain was born in 1776 in Paris. When she was 13, Sophie read the story of Archimedes. She was surprised to read that Archimedes was so engrossed in doing mathematics that he ignored the soldier who threatened to kill him(and killed him). She thought that this subject must be really interesting. She started studying mathematics on her own and she loved it.

Now in those days women were not supposed to study Science and Mathematics. Her parents discouraged her. They even went to the extent of taking away her clothes at night and depriving her of heat and light so that she would only sleep and not get up to do mathematics. She

could not study in the daytime because they would not let her. But she loved the subject and eventually her parents realized the futility of keeping her away from it. They let he do whatever she wanted.

Women were not allowed to study in universities so she studied on her own. She borrowed lecture notes from Lagrange’s students to study. She assumed the male name of M. LeBlanc and even submitted a paper to Lagrange. Lagrange was impressed by the work and wanted to meet

his student. He was surprized when he realized that his student was actually a female and that she had been studying on her own. He advised

her on her work and encouraged her to do more.

Sophie became interested in number thery and started corresponding with Gauss. She did not reveal her real name and corresponded as LeBlanc. They discussed mathematics for three years(1804 to 1807 ) before Sophie revealed her true identity. Gauss was thrilled to find that his

“pen-friend” was a very talented woman. She even saved Gauss’ life. In 1806 when Napoleon invaded Germany she contacted a french commander, who was a friend of her family and told him that Gauss should not be harmed. She remembered Arichmedes and did not want Gauss to have the same fate.

Sophie proved that if x,y and z are integers then if x^5+y^5=z^5 then x,y or z must be divisible by 5. Sophie’s proof was a major step in proving Fermat’s last theorem.

In 1808 the physicist Chladini conducted experiments on vibrating plates which exibited some strange figures called Chaldini figures. The

Institut de France set a prize for anyone who could mathematically explain these figures.

Sophie Germain started thinking about this problem. In 1811 her’s was the only entry trying to explain the figures. But her analysis was wrong( since she was not formally educated and did not have access to modern journals she had holes in her knowledge). She did more research. In 1813 she came up with a better explanation of the figures. This work was rejected too. In 1815 however her third work on the subject got her the prize.

Most Scientists and Mathematicians however chose to ignore her and her work. Sophie was not discouraged by this and kept working on mathematics till her death in 1831. Her death certificate did not list her as a Scientist or a Mathematician, but a property holder.

Sophie did not have any formal education. Despite that she made great contributions to number theory, theory of elasticity, theory of vibrations etc.

Most of us lay too much stress on degrees acquired in colleges and universities. Are these degrees really important? Isnt having a “fire within” more important. Isnt love the supreme conquerer?

kanwar

|=============================

Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:

Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:

Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,

Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

|======================================================|

Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.