People You Might not have read about in the History Books

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Do you have trouble with Math? Or are you good at it? Either way, you might enjoy hearing about Maria Gaetana Agnesi.

Maria was born in the Italian city of Milan in 1718. She was very good at school. By the time she was 11, she could speak seven different languages! She studied philosophy, mathematics, and theology. People would visit her parents’ home just to hear her discuss difficult topics. When she was 30, she wrote the first Italian textbook about calculus. (Calculus is a kind of advanced mathematics.)

Her family was wealthy, and she became quite famous. Powerful people sent her gifts and letters. The Pope appointed her to an important position at a university. But all this worldly success wasn’t important to her.

Maria didn’t just know seven languages; she knew what was important and what was not. She realized that loving God and serving her neighbor was more important than becoming rich and famous.

When her father died, she gave away all her wealth to the poor and founded a house dedicated to caring for the elderly. She lived with them and begged for money to help feed them.

 But what about math? Is math important? Obviously, math isn’t as important as loving God. But Maria thought that studying math could help us to love God more. She thought that knowing about math can help us to know more about God. By paying attention to math, and to everyone and everything in your life, you can get better at paying attention to God.