the walking polyglot / by mrm

Supposedly, this is how Maria Agnesi's family referred to her. By the time she was eleven. (In my next life, can I be a walking polyglot? Or better yet, can it not be too late for me this time around?) In addition to being precociously multi-lingual, at age nine she delivered an hour-long lecture in Latin on women's right to be educated. (And did I mention that we're talking about Renaissance Italy? Oh, flowering of arts and culture, sure, but hardly a time of leaps and bounds in the advancement of women. Sit tight while I paint another Virgin Mary, thank you very much, was more like it.) Her big goal? To enter a convent so that she could dedicate her life to, you guessed it, calculus! Wait, you didn't guess it? Weird. Maybe you should go back and try again. She didn't join a convent until quite late in life, after she'd written a fancy book on the fancy math and had become a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at the nothing-to-scoff-at-here University of Bologna. 

Wikipedia is at pains to point out that her contemporaries were at pains to point out that she was pretty (ahem, "dazzlingly beautiful"). Not that there's anything wrong with being pretty, in and of itself, but one does get a bit tired of the...she was smart and pretty! She didn't get married even though she was pretty! Implied: isn't that amazing? Give us a break, why don't you. Obviously her physical beauty wasn't her most important characteristic as far as she was concerned.

And so we are, for the time being, up to speed. March 14th. Maria Agnesi.