350–370 - 415 AD

“exceedingly beautiful and fair of form. . . in speech articulate and logical, in her actions prudent and public-spirited, and the rest of the city gave her suitable welcome and accorded her special respect.” Suda Lexicon, 10th Century

Hypatia was a Greek astronomer, philosopher, and the earliest known female mathematician, her work sadly did not survive the test of time, but we know from other sources and commentaries that she exceeded her father (the famous scholar Theon) in mathematics and advanced his studies on geometry and number theory.

Hypatia commented and edited several ancient texts, such as Diophantus’ Arithmetica and is also known to have worked on Ptolemy’s Book III of the Almagest, the paramount resource for astronomical studies - it described a geocentric universe - until Copernicus came along. 
Being able to range over diverse fields, Hypatia proved to have a very versatile mind. She seems to have been instrumental in the invention of the hydrometer (measures relative density of liquids) and the astrolabe (2d model of the celestial sphere).

Hypatia lived in Alexandria in an unstable historical moment. She was a well-respected public figure, proud of her Greek heritage. Her lectures on Neoplatonist philosophy always attracted a wide audience, but soon ignited hatred in those who considered her pagan and heretical. 
Rumors began to spread accusing her of being the reason why Orestes, the Roman prefect of Alexandria, whom she served as a personal advisor, would not reconcile a dispute with Cyril, the bishop.

In March 415 AD she was brutally murdered by Christian extremists.

We now remember Hypatia perhaps more because of the tragic circumstances of her death, rather than her intellectual contributions.

In the 20th century, she arose as a symbol of enlightenment in the face of ignorance and prejudice and as an icon for the feminist movement.

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

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Youyou Tu is was the first Chinese (and woman!) pharmacist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (2015) for a discovery that has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has isolated and characterized the compound artemisinin (qinghaosu), still used to fight malaria.


In a way, artemisinin is a product of the Vietnam War. In the 1960s North Vietnam asked the Chinese allies for help against the greatest and tiniest adversary in the war: the one-celled parasite Plasmodium. Mosquitoes carrying this parasite cause malaria, which was killing more soldiers on both sides than actual combat.

It is worth noting that iIn the mid-60s, China was in the midst ofamid the Cultural Revolution, a time in which intellectuals were persecuted and often tortured. Mao Zedong however needed capable researchers to find a solution to the pressing Malaria problem. So, calling up more than 500 people, he launched a covert effort called “project 523”, after the day it started: May 23rd, 1967. When Youyou was recruited to work on “523” she was sent to the Hainan province and had to leave her 4-yo daughter in an orphanage, since her husband was detained in a labour camp.

Thanks to her training in traditional herbal medicine, she thought of looking through ancient manuscripts for hints on antimalarial formulations. In the ‘Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies’ (340 CE), she found a mention of a medication based on Artemisia annua, the sweet wormwood. She tested several methods to preserve the active ingredient and tried the plant extracts on mice, monkeys and on herself.

She had solved it!

But it was a the breakthrough that could not be published. At the end of the day as, it was a secret military project. The results were published in China Oonly after Mao’s death, the results were published in China but the authors were not named. In 1982, Tu’s name appears on the international journal The Lancet.

It was so extremely difficult to trace back her contributions back!

Youyou Tu is often referred to as the “3 NOs professor”: no doctorate, no affiliation with national academies and no abroad working experience. Through this story we remember her, and her contributions to science.

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories


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 "Don't fear difficult moments, the best comes from them."

These inspiring words come from one of the most determined and courageous scientists of the 20th century: Rita Levi-Montalcini.


 Rita and her twin sister Paola were born in the early 1900s and raised according to traditional principles. Pursuing a professional career was highly discouraged - but Rita had set her mind to study medicine and was unstoppable! She enrolled at the University of Turin and graduated in Medicine and Surgery in 1936. She trained with neurohistologist Giuseppe Levi, where she learnt how to visualize nerve cells under a microscope.

 Soon after her graduation, the fascist regime published the “Manifesto for the defence of Race” (1938), de facto banning “inferior races” from education. From that moment on, being of Jewish origins, she was repeatedly forced to flee.

 During wartime, Rita was able to withstand the fascist oppression and prejudice against women with tenacity and intelligence. She had to practice her medical profession incognito and endured the challenges and solitude that come with being at the forefront of science.

 She turned her bedroom into a small laboratory. With only a microscope, a microtome and an incubator, she studied neurological chick development. Back then, some eggs were her food - and others her research tools.

 After the war, she moved to the US to have the most scientifically productive moments of her life. In 1952, along with biochemist Stanley Cohen, she isolated the nerve-growth factor (NGF). Both were awarded the Nobel Prize for in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for this discovery.

 She returned to Italy in 1977 and in 2001 she was made Senator for life by the President of Italy.

 Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

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Sci-Illustrate is celebrating Ada-Lovelace day, a day marked to celebrate women in STEM, their accomplishments, and really, just their mere presence, anywhere (coz women rock).

Featured below is the lovely artwork of Dr. Eleonora Adami from the Sci-illustrate team. Through Women in Science, Sci-Illustrate Stories. we bring to you profiles of incredible women who touch lives with their passion, mentorship, and scientific accomplishments. 


 More about Ada, she has often been cited as the first computer programmer, and the first person to truly foresee the creative potential and possibilities of computing.

 Her work between 1842-43, simply called “Notes” was the first computer programme. She would label her notes from A to G. In Note G (hints of which you see in the illustration) was the first algorithm tailored for implementation on a computer ( specifically the Analytical Engine - Charles Baggage’s general-purpose computer) to compute Bernoulli numbers. The engine was never completed, her program was never tested.

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