Math historian Michael Crowe wrote, “Revolutions never occur in mathematics.”
Perhaps that explains how Sophie Germain hid from the French Revolution – in books – where she read about the death of Archimedes and, as a result, embarked on a lifelong study of mathematics and geometry, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
As a woman, she was banned from studying at the École Polytechnique, the prestigious institution for higher learning and research located near Paris.
However, she found a workaround to the problem by obtaining lecture notes and submitting her papers under a false name to Joseph Lagrange, a faculty member. When he learned she was a woman, he became her mentor.
She became the first woman to win a prize from the French Academy of Sciences, for work on a theory of elasticity, and her proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, though unsuccessful, was used as a foundation for work on the subject well into the 20th century.
A school in Paris – L’École Sophie Germain – stands in honor of her memory today. Certain prime numbers are called "Sophie Germain primes.”