I'd like to read something about the history of women in mathematics. I'd love to have reading suggestions of books in English or Italian, of 3 kinds:

1) History of math books, academic style;

2) Popular mathematics books, for a broader audience;

3) Books for young girls (8-11yo), possibly in Italian.


  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of hsm.stackexchange.com/q/2940/2066 . Their accomplishments is extremely small compared to men. $\endgroup$
    – user5402
    Nov 3, 2019 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ How is that a duplicate? I am interested in book-references, not in names or theorems of female mathematicians. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2019 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ The answers and references given there can make a book. There's many many books on the topics you want but if you only want to focus on a tiny part of mathematicians, you'll get very few number of such books. $\endgroup$
    – user5402
    Nov 4, 2019 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ I do not see your point. That is indeed one of her main results. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2019 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ @user5402: That is not true. She did quite a lot. For example she discovered the third case of the rotation of a solid about a point. The problem goes back to Euler. $\endgroup$
    – markvs
    Feb 21 at 0:38

8 Answers 8


Margaret Murray's "Women Becoming Mathematicians" (MIT Press) is great.

Also, Prof. Murray has a website with even more info:


(All in English.)

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! I will read the web site and try to get the book! $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2019 at 15:58

Ciao Alberto,

I do not know if you ever came across "Remembering Sophia Kovalevskaja" which is a quite curious book written by Michele Audin. It is not "popular" in that the math discussions in the book are at a very high level and it is not "academic" in that the way in which it is written is more towards literary style. A very interesting reading in my opinion.

Also Teri Perl wrote a couple of books popularizing figures of women mathematicians, quite some years ago. A colleague of mine has a very good opinion on this: Math Equals , which I think is out of print now. But this is just a second hand comment.

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    $\begingroup$ Grazie Nicola. I will try to have a look at "Remembering Sophia Kovalevskaya", which seems nice, indeed! $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2019 at 12:52

Clara Viola, Donne matematiche. (Italian) [Women mathematicians] Matematiche Complementari, 3. Aracne Editrice, Rome, 2015. 83 pp. ISBN: 978-88-548-8037-5

My Italian is limited, but it seems that this collection of biographies of selected women mathematicians (including Maria Gaetana Agnesi and Sophie Germain, among others) is for readers older than 12 years. Still, it looks pretty accessible.


Sofya Vasilevneya Kovalevskaya is a famous female Russian mathematician:

who made noteworthy contributions to analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics. She was a pioneer for women in mathematics around the world – the first woman to obtain a doctorate (in the modern sense) in mathematics, the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe and one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor.[1] According to historian of science Ann Hibner Koblitz, Kovalevskaia was "the greatest known woman scientist before the twentieth century"

In the 20th Century, the most famous female mathematician is Emmy Noether and

she was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. As one of the leading mathematicians of her time, she developed the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. In physics, Noether's theorem explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws.

The articles above list a number of books describing their achievements and life-story, amongst them are:

  • Kennedy, Don H. (1983). Little Sparrow, a Portrait of Sofia Kovalevsky. Athens: Ohio University Press.

  • Koblitz, Ann Hibner (1993). A Convergence of Lives: Sofia Kovalevskaia -- Scientist, Writer, Revolutionary.


  • Tent, M.B.W. (2008), Emmy Noether: The Mother of Modern Algebra

I can't resist mentioning that Sofia also wrote a memoir later in life, titled A Russian Childhood, where she described Dostoyevsky as ugly and also how she first discovered a fascination for mathematics:

She used to stare fascinated at one of the walls of one of the rooms in the Palibino estate which had been covered with the lithographed noted of a calculus course ... Kovalevskaya apparently believed that this haphazard introduction to the subject nevertheless gave her a familiarity with the symbols and formulas of the calculus.

(quoted from The Mathematics of Sofia Kovalevskaya)

As for a book about for young girls and which is about the paradoxes and peculiarities of logic, language and reasoning and written in a vivid, personable style you can't beat Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking-Glass. I expect this is available in Italian.

Another possibility is Rosalind Franklin, who although is not a mathematician, as an X-ray crystallographer would have definitely have used mathematics in her work in obtaining the data for the structure of DNA. Her life is outlined in:

  • Cambridge Women: twelve Portraits (CUP).
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I have read the autobiography "A Russian childhood" by Sofia Kovalevskaja... $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2019 at 14:15

One such book is She Does Math!, by Marla Parker, published by the American Mathematical Society.


arXiv:1910.01730 Twenty Female Mathematicians by Hollis Williams,

arXiv:1903.02543 A data analysis of women's trails among ICM speakers by Helena Mihaljević, Marie-Françoise Roy

arXiv:1502.07597 Women mathematicians in France in the mid-twentieth century by Yvette Kosmann-Schwarzbach


You can search a book in the site


Here you will surely find books on the history of mathematics, and they also hold conferences for secondary school teachers. This is a book I recommend:

Vite Matematiche, protagonisti del '900 da Hilbert a Wiles, Springer

written by Bocconi professors

Donne nella matematica

Donne nella scienza

Donne di scienza. 50 donne che hanno cambiato il mondo

Superdonne di scienza

La trottola di Sofia


Here are a few historical titles I ran into:
- Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics
- The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (graphic novel)
- Proving it her way: Emmy Noether, a Life in mathematics.
- My Remarkable Journey: A memoir by Katherine Johnson

They are all appropriate for public reading (i.e. they do not assume any special knowledge). I found some of these books on this site which includes several others, including options for children: https://aperiodical.com/2020/03/iwd-2020-books-about-maths-by-women/

  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure if the OP is interested in film but imdb.com/title/tt4846340 is about the group of which Johnson was a member. $\endgroup$
    – mdewey
    Feb 23 at 14:31

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