Why is Sophie Germain considered to be a revolutionary?

           Sophie Germain was born in an era of revolution. In the year of her birth, the American Revolution began. Thirteen years later, the French Revolution began in her own country. She herself became a revolutionary mathematician, number theorist, and mathematical physicist.

              When Sophie Germain was 13, her parents kept her isolated from the turmoil of the French Revolution by keeping her in the house. She fought boredom by reading from her father’s extensive library. It is said that she read the story of Archimedes of Syracuse who was reading geometry as he was killed – and she decided to commit her life to a subject that could so absorb one’s attention. After discovering geometry, Sophie Germain taught herself mathematics, and also Latin and Greek so that she could read the classical mathematics texts.

            Calling herself M. Le Blanc, Sophie corresponded with many mathematicians and ‘M. Le Blanc’ began to have an impact in turn on them. She gave herself a man’s name, because she felt that a woman’s views on Mathematics would not be taken seriously. However, even when it was discovered that M. Le Blanc was a woman, leading mathematicians continued to correspond with her.

           Before 1808, Germain mainly worked in number theory. Then she became interested in Chladni figures, patterns produced by vibration, and won a prize for a paper on that subject. This work laid the foundation to the applied mathematics used in the construction of skyscrapers today, and was important at the time to the new field of mathematical physics, especially to the study of acoustics and elasticity.

           Sophie Germain was, without doubt, a revolutionary, for she battled against the social prejudices of the era and a lack of formal training in order to become a celebrated mathematician.