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Say Her Name: Hypatia of Alexandria

Updated: Jan 25

She was a great thinker and popular educator, and many people came to her for counsel in the Hellenic world--until a mob of Christian men dragged her to a church where they subjected her to a horrific death. To those small men whose names and faces are forgotten by history, I will remember Hypatia of Alexandria, Egypt. Out of fear, they killed her body and silenced her voice, but her example lives on thousands of years later.

In the 5th century A.D., Hypatia was one of the first women to study and teach mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. It is now believed that she--rather than her father Theon--established the Earth-centric model for the universe that wouldn’t be overturned until the time of Copernicus and Galileo. Hypatia was a Neoplatonist, and one of her students who later became a Christian bishop incorporated Neoplatonic elements in the doctrine of the Trinity.

My alma mater Cherry Hill Seminary recognizes Hypatia as our patron, and we mark today, March 15, as Hypatia Day to keep her memory alive and to stand against violent religious zealotry and for education and freedom of thought. For more about Hypatia, click here. The film Agora is a good fictional representation about Hypatia and her time.

In his 2007 book about Hypatia, Micheal Deakin writes, "Almost alone, virtually the last academic, she stood for intellectual values, for rigorous mathematics, ascetic Neoplatonism, the crucial role of the mind, and the voice of temperance and moderation in civic life."

What is remembered lives.

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