The following is a complete timeline of important events in the life of Sophie Germain, including early childhood, dates of important publications/ research, collabarations with other famous scientists, and important historical events occurring during her lifetime. I have tried to include exact dates (month, day, and year) as often as possible. The purpose of this timeline is to, in some way or another, organize the various bits of historical information I have gathered over the years into an easy to read form. The events that shaped her life and career can be better understood and related to each other, I believe, if viewed on a continuum. What do you think???
1776: April 1st: Marie-Sophie Germain is born to parents Ambroise-Francoise Germain and Marie-Madeline Grugulien in a house on the Rue Ste. Denis in Paris. Her father is 40 years old. 1789: The Bastille is stormed and the French Revolution begins (July 14th). Ambroise-Francoise is elected the Etats-Generaux (The Constituent Assembly of 1789.) Sophie is thirteen years old, and put under virtual "house arrest" in the interest of her protection, therefore resorting to the library and discovering Archemedes. 1794: The Ecole Polytechnique opens. Sophie begins receiving notes from male friends attending the institution. She submits papers under the name "Monsieur LeBlanc," a former student at the institute. The brilliance of her work catches the attention of Professor Joseph-Louis Lagrange. He seeks her out, therefore discovering her true identity. 1801: "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae" by Carl Friedrich Gauss is published. 1804: After reading his work, Sophie begins corresponding with Gauss, once again, under the pseudonym of "M. LeBlanc." She begins her work on Fermat's Last Theorem. 1806-07: Napoleon's armies invade Germany. Fearing for the safety of Gauss, Sophie sends a message, expedited to the front lines, via family friend Commander Joseph-Marie Perenety in which she requested that Gauss be kept safe from harm. After writing to "M. LeBlanc" telling of his mysterious rescue by an "unknown woman," Sophie finally reveals her identity to Gauss. 1808: In her last letter to Carl Friedrich Gauss for almost 2 decades, Sophie outlines what would come to be considered as her finest contribution to Number Theory- her ingenious approach to Fermat's Last Theorem. Gauss never replies to this letter, and the correspondence ceases for 13 years. 1808-09: German physicist Ernst Chladni arrives in Paris and performs his experiments with vibrating surfaces. He announces that he is looking for a mathematical explanation of this phenomenon. Napoleon announces that a contest shall be held and prize awarded to the first individual able to come up with an explanation. The original contest was opened in 1809 and a 2-year deadline was set. 1811: The two-year deadline for entries is up. Sophie's first (and anonymous) entry into the contest- submitted for review on 21 September- is the only entry received by the judges. She does not win due to errors in her submission, and the contest is extended for two more years. 1813: 10 April: Sophie's early mentor, Joseph Louis Lagrange, dies at age 76. 23 September: Sophie's second entry is sent to the academy. This entry (again, anonymous) receives only an honorable mention due to errors in the calculus of variations involved. However, the prize was not retired. 1814: Simeon-Denis Poisson, a member of the First Class of the Institute of France, emerges as Sophie's chief rival in her struggle to devise her theory of elasticity. Since he is a member, he is ineligible to compete for the prize. However, this does not stop him from publishing a rival paper on elasticity- using some of the same approaches first implemented by she and Lagrange. 1815: The year of Sophie's third and final entry into the contest. This time, she chose not to remain anonymous. Although she never had a chance to read Poisson's entire elasticity memoir, she was aware of his theory and approach to the problem. She attacked this approach in her third paper. Despite some shortcomings, the First Class awarded her the prize. 1816: 8 January: A public award ceremony is held to honor Sophie's prizewinning effort. She does not attend, much to the disappointment of the public. Nonetheless, she is awarded the medal of one kilogram of gold, and is granted permission to attend sessions of the Academy; the highest honor this body has ever conferred upon a woman. 1820's: Overall, a decade of ambitious effort on Sophie's part at refining her proofs. She also developed a new friendship with Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier. 1821: In the years following the prizewinning, Sophie continued to improve her memoir on elasticity theory. In 1821, she sent another memoir to the Academy. Sophie's father dies at the age of 95. 1824: The above mentioned memoir is published. 1825: Sophie submits an additional research paper to the commission of the Instituit.. This paper was initially ignored due to shortcomings. (It was eventually published- posthumously- among the papers of DeProny in 1880.) Sophie never regained possession of the manuscript. 1826: Yet another elasticity memoir with new improvements is written. 1829: Sophie is diagnosed with Breast Cancer. 1830: Gauss petitions the University of Gottengen to grant Sophie an honorary doctoral degree, but fails to persuade them. July: During the onslaught of the 1830 Revolution, Sophie (by this time, quite ill) completes papers on Number Theory, Elasticity, and Philosophy. December: Sophie publicly expresses concern for the welfare of outspoken young genius, Evariste Galois. 1831: 27 June: Sophie Germain dies of Breast Cancer at the age of 55. Her Memoir of the Curvature of Surfaces is published posthumously in Crelle's Journal. Gauss finally succeeds in persuading the University of Gottengen to award Sophie her honorary doctorate. She died before she could receive it.
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