Wang Zhenyi

Mathematician, Astronomer, and Poetess

Wang ZhenyiWho is Wang Zenhyi?

Wang (simplified Chinese: 王贞仪; traditional Chinese: 王貞儀😉 was a mathematician and scientist from the Qing Dynasty, who broke the customs of the era by becoming educated in math, medicine, and astronomy. 

Her Early Life and Education

Born in 1768 in the Anhui province in China, Wang and her family moved to Jiangning (present-day Nanjing) when she was young. At the time, women were not allowed to study in school, but Wang was able to study science and math because of her family’s wealth and position. When she was quite young she was fascinated by eclipses, so much so that she not only wrote a paper about she thought they worked, but she also built a model to demonstrate her theory. Amazingly, she also believed that the earth was round, not flat, which was not a prevalent view.

Her Contributions to Math and Science

By the age of 24, she made a major contribution to math when she published, “Simple Principles of Calculation.” Unfortunately, Wang lived a very short life and died at the tender age of 29 in 1797.

She was incredibly prolific and wrote articles on a wide variety of subjects in math and science, and she was also well known as a poetess. Her papers included: “Dispute of the Procession of the Equinoxes,” “Dispute of Longitude and Stars,” “The Musts of Calculation (A re-imagining of Mei Wending’s “Principles of Calculation”), and “The Explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem and Trigonometry.”

Her Legacy

Wang Zhenyi changed many people’s views of women’s contributions in math and science and her writings made mathematics more accessible to students of her era.

Learn more about Wang Zhenyi from Women in History

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