Jan 4, 2022
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Interesting facts from the life of Sofia Kovalevskaya

Kovalevskaya Sofia Vasilievna

Hello dear readers of our site. Kovalevskaya Sofya Vasilievna is an outstanding Russian scientist, who became the world’s first female professional mathematician. In addition to her mathematical abilities, she was also a talented author who wrote a number of fiction and documentary works. Many of these works, unfortunately, remained unfinished at the time of her premature death.

And today we decided to better acquaint you with this outstanding person. In the article we have collected the most interesting facts from the life of Sofia Kovalevskaya.

# 1

Recalling her childhood, she said that at that time she was a “wild” child. She was careful with the guests and did not really want to be friends with stranger children. It was in childhood that the girl became confident that she was an unloved child in the family. She believed that her older sister Anna and her younger brother Fedya were loved more by their parents. A similar conviction in Kovalevskaya arose after several overheard conversations of the nanny, who communicated with the girl Thekla. According to Sophia, the nanny often said that her appearance happened at the wrong time. A few days before the birth of the future genius, Kovalevskaya’s father lost a huge amount of money. The debt turned out to be so large that he was forced to pledge his wife’s diamonds. In addition, parents, when they were expecting a child, hoped that God would send them a boy. When Sophia was born, Kovalevskaya’s own mother was so upset that she did not even want to look at her again.

# 2

Sofya Kovalevskaya pointed out two reasons that contributed to the emergence of her interest in mathematics. As the first, she calls the deep respect for this science, which her uncle Pyotr Vasilyevich instilled in the girl. He was the older brother of his father. Little Sophia spent a lot of time with him. She usually talked with a grown man about all sorts of things. In these conversations, the girl liked the fact that Pyotr Vasilievich, despite his age, spoke to her like an adult.

The second reason is associated with a curiosity that happened to the family after moving to the estate in Polybino. During the renovation, there was not enough wallpaper, which is why the father decided to paste over the walls in the children’s room with notes on the differential and integral calculus of the Russian mathematician Mikhail Vasilyevich Ostrogradsky. These notes were made by him during his student years. This material aroused genuine interest in the girl, and she began to study it.

No. 3

Kovalevskaya Sofia Vasilievna

In the era in which Sophia lived, women were forbidden to enter higher educational institutions in the Russian Empire. Therefore, to continue his studies, the future mathematician had to go abroad. But a foreign passport was issued only if there was permission from the parents or their own husband. Her father refused to issue a permit because he believed that a home education would be enough for her. He wanted his daughter to start a family, have children and do household chores.

For this reason, Kovalevskaya decided to arrange a fictitious marriage. Her fake husband was another scientist Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky. Taking part in a staged marriage, Vladimir Onufrievich could not even imagine that in the end his fictitious wife would become the love of his life.

# 4

Although mathematics was her main love in life, Kovalevskaya had other interests as well. In particular, she really enjoyed creating creative works. Therefore, she devoted some of her free time to writing. The works that came from the pen of Sophia, for the most part, were dedicated to her Motherland, Russia. She missed her very much while living abroad.

# 5

In 1869 she moved to Heidelberg to study at the University of Heidelberg. When she graduated from this university, she went to Berlin at the University of Berlin, where she took private lessons from the outstanding German mathematician, the father of modern analysis – Karl Weierstrass. Private lessons had to be taken due to the fact that at the University of Berlin it was forbidden to attend lectures for girls. In 1874, the University of Göttingen awarded her a Ph.D.

# 6

The most important research in the field of mathematics by Sofia Kovalevskaya is related to the theory of rotation of a rigid body. While pursuing her scientific activities, the brilliant mathematician discovered the third classical case of the solvability of the problem of the rotation of a rigid body around a fixed point. For this she even received two prizes: the Parisian (1888) and the Swedish (1889) academies of sciences.

Another achievement of her is the presentation of a proof of the existence of an analytical solution to the Cauchy problem for a system of partial differential equations.

# 7

In 1874 she returned to Russia. During the five years spent at home, she practically did not pay attention to mathematics. She could not work in the higher education system in Russia, since women were not allowed there. She was offered a job as a teacher in high school, to which she ironically replied that she was weak in the multiplication table.

This period was very difficult for Kovalevskaya and her husband, since he could not find a job in his field, and she earned money by writing scientific articles for a St. Petersburg newspaper. Professionally, life in Russia did not suit Sophia, so in 1880 she went back to Berlin, leaving her daughter (which she gave birth to in 1878) with her friend Yulia Vsevolodovna Lermontova.

No. 8

Kovalevskaya Sofia Vasilievna

In 1881, the marriage of Sophia and Vladimir began to disintegrate. The couple began to live separately. Sophia took her daughter to her in Berlin, and Vladimir stayed in Russia. Their marriage ended in 1883, when Vladimir committed suicide due to a court charge of embezzling a huge amount of money. Sophia was devastated by the death of her husband and refused to eat or meet with anyone for several days.

After she recovered from her grief, she returned to Russia to settle his affairs. She even managed to make sure that his name remained unsullied after his serious mistakes, which led to the ruin of the company in which he worked.

No. 9

Sofya Kovalevskaya, having a huge talent, realized in the field of mathematics, lived an eventful, but rather short life. Her life path ended at 41. But she did not die of some incurable disease. A common cold, which developed into pneumonia, became lethal for her.

This concludes our article, dear readers. Thank you for choosing our website.

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