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Marie-Sophie Germain

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Nicole Sornson

on 4 December 2013

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Transcript of Marie-Sophie Germain

Marie-Sophie Germain
Sophie Germain was born April 1, 1776-June 27, 1831
She was born in Rue Saint-Denis, Paris France
Women in the Time of Germain
Mathematics was not found to be appropriate for women in Germain's time period.
Germain was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher
By: Nicki Sornson
Her parents did not at all approve of her fascination; they would actually deny her warm clothes and a fire in her bedroom at night to try to keep her from studying.
However, when they left she would take out candles and wrap herself in quilts and begin mathematics.
When her parents found Sophie "asleep at her desk in the morning, the ink frozen and her slate covered with calculations," they realized that their daughter was serious and relented.
Eventually her mother even secretly supported her.
Despite initial opposition from her parents and difficulties presented by society, she gained education from books in her father's library
She also gained education from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as:
Correspondence with Legendre:
Germain first became interested in number theory in 1978 when Adrien Legendre published
Essai sur la théorie des nombres.
After studying the work, she opened correspondence with him on number theory, and later, elasticity.
Legendre eventually showed some of Germain's work in the Supplément to his second edition of the
Théorie des Nombres
, where he calls it trés ingénieuse ("very ingenious")
Interests Continued
Germain's father was a wealthy silk merchant and goldsmith.
In 1789, he was appointed chief representative of the Etats-Généraux bourgeoisie. (in layman's terms-political figure!)
Through this, Sophie witnessed many discussions between her father and his friends on politics and philosophy.
Also through his status, the family remained well-off enough to support Germain throughout her endeavors as an adult.
Germain was very intrigued by Archimedes and the story of his death.
She decided that if geometry, which at that time referred to all of pure mathematics, could hold such fascination for Archimedes, it was a subject worthy of study.
Contributions to Mathematics
One of the pioneers of
Elasticity Theory
Won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject.
Her work on
Fermat's Last Theorem
provided a foundation for mathematicians
exploring the subject for hundreds of years after
Elasticity Theory
She took interest in a contest sponsored by the Paris Academy of Sciences concerning Ernst Chladni's experiments with vibrating metal plates.
The object of the competition was "
to give the mathematical theory of the vibration of an elastic surface and to compare the theory to experimental evidence
Even though her experiments "
presented ingenious results
", the first time she submitted her work, she did not win the prize.
She won an honorable mention the second time she entered, and finally at the third entry, she was awarded a prize.
She was the
first woman
to win a prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences!
Later Work in Number Theory
Germain's best work was in number theory
Her most significant contribution to number theory dealt with
Fermat's Last Theorem
In 1815, after the elasticity contest, the Academy offered a prize for a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.
It reawakened Sophie's interest in number theory, and she realized the whole time she was studying elasticity,
it was at the back of her mind
"Sophie Germain's Theorem"
Germain proposed the following:
Her goal was to prove that for each odd prime exponent p, there are an infinite number of auxiliary primes of the form 2Np+1 such that the set of non-zero p-th power residues xp mod (2Np+1) does not contain any consecutive integers.
If there were a solution to xp + yp = zp, then Germain observes that any such auxiliary prime would have to necessarily divide one of the numbers x, y, or z. Her letter and manuscripts found in various libraries showed her analysis for the primes p less than 100 and for auxiliary primes with N from 1 to 10.
Suppose we take the case p = 5. Let's also consider N = 1. Then we need to look at the non-zero 5th power residues mod 11.

These are:
{15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, 95, 105} mod 11

= {1, 32, 243, 1024, 3125, 7776, 16807, 32768, 59049, 100000} mod 11

= {1, 10, 1, 1, 1, 10, 10, 10, 1, 10} mod 11

= {1, 10}

Those numbers are not consecutive, so 11 is an auxiliary prime that works for p = 5.
For Example:
Let p be an odd prime. If there exists an auxiliary prime P = 2Np + 1 such that:
if xp + yp + zp = 0, then P divides xyz, and

p is not a pth power residue.

Then the first case of
Fermat's Last Theorem
holds true for p.
Another Example:
Germain used this result to prove the first case of Fermat's Last Theorem for all odd primes p<100. L.E. Dickson later used Germain's theorem to prove Fermat's Last Theorem for odd primes less than 1700.
Did Sophie Germain ever overcome resistance to participating in mathematics?
Well, because of prejudice against her gender, she was unable to officially make a career out of mathematics. However, she worked independently throughout her life.
In recognition of her contribution towards advancement of mathematics, an honorary degree was also conferred upon her by University of Göttingen six years after her death.
At the Centenary of her life, a street and a girl's school were named after her, and the Academy of Sciences established
The Grand Prix Sophie Germain
in her honor.
• Del Centina, Andrea. “Unpublished manuscripts of Sophie Germain and a revaluation of her work on Fermat's Last Theorem.” Archive for History of Exact Sciences62.4 (2008): 349-392. Web. Sept. 2009.

• Gray, Mary (1978). "Sophie Germain (1776-1831)". In Louise S. Grinstein and Paul Campbell. Women of Mathematics: A Bibliographic Sourcebook. Greenwood. pp. 47–55. ISBN 978-0-313-24849-8.

• Osen, Lynn. Women in Mathematics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984. Print.

• Riddle, Larry. "Sophie Germain and Fermat's Last Theorem." Sophie Germain and FLT. Agnes Scott College, 21 July 2009. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.
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