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Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799) was an Italian mathematician and philosopher. Born in Milan into a wealthy family, she was recognized as a child prodigy. At age nine, she published a detailed argument in Latin on the importance of education for women. At age 15, her father, a mathematics professor at the University of Bologna, presented her talents in language and philosophical reasoning to Bologna's intellectual elite. Uncomfortable with public life, she educated her twenty siblings and published on mathematics. After her father's death in 1752, she studied theology and devoted the rest of her life to helping the poor, homeless, and sick.

Agnesi's best known work, Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù itliana (Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth), written in 1748, helped develop the analysis of finite quantities and infinitesimals. At the time, it was hailed as the best introduction to calculus. The work also discussed an asymptotic curve that, because of mistranslation, would come to be known as the "Witch of Agnesi". In 1750, Pope Benedict XIV appointed her to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at Bologna, though she never served.

In addition to being recognized as an important mathematician, Agnesi is revered in the Basilica of San Nazaro in Milan. At her death, she was mourned by radical authors as a proponent for women's rights and by the Catholic faithful as a symbol of personal piety.


James Durbin

James Durbin (1923–2012) was a British statistician who was born in Wigan, near Manchester. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and after military service and various research posts joined the London School of Economics in 1950. Later in life, he was also affiliated with University College London. His many contributions to statistics centered on serial correlation, time series (including major contributions to structural or unobserved-components models), sample survey methodology, goodness-of-fit tests, and sample distribution functions, with emphasis on applications in the social sciences. He served terms as president of the Royal Statistical Society and the International Statistical Institute.


Benjamin Gompertz

Benjamin Gompertz (1779–1865) came from a Jewish family who left Holland and settled in England. Excluded from a university education, he was self-educated in mathematics. In 1819, his publications in mathematics earned him an invitation to join the Royal Society. In 1824, he was appointed as actuary and head clerk of the Alliance Assurance Company.

Gompertz carried out pioneering work on the application of differential calculus to actuarial questions, particularly the dependence of mortality on age. He is credited with introducing, in 1825, the concept that mortality is a continuous function over time. From this idea came the notion of a survival function, and ultimately, parametric survival-time analysis. Gompertz's work also had a strong influence on the practice of demography, where it is used in the study of parity and fertility.

Aside from his work in actuarial sciences, Gompertz contributed to astronomy and the study of astronomical instruments. He was a member of the Astronomical Society nearly from its founding in 1820. The society's memoirs recognize him as an important contributor to the study of the aberration of light. He also helped to develop the society's catalog of the stars and make improvements to its instruments, including the convertible pendulum, transit instruments for studying the position of stars, and the differential sextant, his own invention.


Leopold Kronecker

Leopold Kronecker (1823–1891) was born in Liegnitz, Prussia (now Legnica, Poland), to a well-off family. He attended the universities of Berlin, Bonn, and Breslau before completing a doctorate on the complex roots of unity. For several years, Kronecker devoted himself to business interests while working on mathematics in his spare time, publishing particularly in number theory, elliptic functions, and the theory of equations. He later started giving lectures at the University of Berlin, as was his right as a member of the Academy of Science. In 1883, he was appointed as the chair. Kronecker came to believe that mathematical arguments should involve only finite numbers and a finite number of operations, which led to increasing mathematical and personal disagreements with those who worked on irrational numbers or nonconstructive existence proofs.


Siméon-Denis Poisson

Siméon-Denis Poisson (1781–1840) was a French mathematician and physicist who contributed to several fields: his name is perpetuated in Poisson brackets, Poisson's constant, Poisson's differential equation, Poisson's integral, and Poisson's ratio. Among many other results, he produced a version of the law of large numbers. His rather misleadingly titled Recherches sur la probabilité des jugements embraces a complete treatise on probability, as the subtitle indicates, including what is now known as the Poisson distribution. That, however, was discovered earlier by the Huguenot–British mathematician Abraham de Moivre (1667–1754).





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