hypatia : glyph
watercolor, ink and graphite on Fabriano Uno paper
29.75 x 22 inches / 75.5 x 56 cm
private collection, Takoma Park, Maryland
"Among Theon's scientific associates, Hypatia was his closest collaborator. Given the evidence of Theon's dedications, his other students appear to have applied themselves assiduously to science, and especially to Ptolemy's works; but only the titles of Hypatia's mathematical studies are extant. As her father's child and associate, she is highly esteemed in the sources, which describe her as a mathematician who surpassed her father's talents. Philostorgius, for example, writes that having been introduced by her father to the arcana of mathematics, she eclipsed her teacher not only in mathematics but, above all, in astronomy. Hesychius, recalling Hypatia's sagacity and fame, stresses her own abilities in the context of her work with her father. Damascius in turn, as if summarising his predecessor's opinions remarks that she was "by nature more refined and talented than her father." As we remember, in another fragment Damascius disparages Hypatia's philosophical skills and present her - in contrast to the philosopher Isidore - only as a mathematician. Finally, at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Nicephorous Callistus recalls the excellent education Hypatia received from her father, which she developed and cultivated.
Although the sources praise Hypatia's mathematical talent, historians of mathematics have treated Theon better than his daughter. The incongruity reflects Hypatia's greater versatility as a scholar interested not just in mathematics but in "all philosophy". In addition, beginning with Socrates and Philostorgius, historians writing about her achievements as a mathematician have praised her accomplishments as a humanist. Moreover, Theon's mathematical fame has been fostered by the survival of his editions of Greek mathematician's writings, whereas we have not had Hypatia's works (although this, as we shall see, is beginning to change.)
Hesychius' list of Hypatia's mathematical titles suggest that she occupied herself with the works of native Alexandrian mathematicians; she wrote commentaries on Apollonius of Perge, who lived in the third century BC; on Diophanus, who lived around the middle of the third century AD; and on a piece entitled 'The Astronomical Canon'. Apollonius' work, 'The Conic Sections', was in trigonometry; Perl has attempted to reconstruct Hypatia's commentary on it. Diophanus was and continues to be considered the most difficult mathematician of antiquity. Several scholars believe that the survival of the bulk of his 'Arithemetica' is due to the qaulity of Hypatia's elucidations. Out of thirteen books of the original we have six in Greek and four translated into Arabic in the ninth century. They contain notes, remarks, and interpolations that may come from Hypatia's commentary. If this is the case, the nature and content of her commentaries in the Alexandrian mathematicians were exegetical, intended for students."