World’s first female professor of mathematics

The minute I get to do mathematics, I am oblivious of everything else in the world.

I inherited my passion for science from my ancestor, Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus; my love for mathematics, music and poetry from my maternal grandfather, astronomer Schubert; my personal freedom from Poland; my love for vagrancy and inability to conform from my Romany great-grandmother; the rest I inherited from Russia.*

My first teacher of advanced mathematics was the wall. Don’t be surprised. It was an ordinary wall in my nursery room wallpapered with the faded pages from my father’s advanced mathematics textbook by Mikhail Ostrogradsky. I would stare at this mysterious wall for hours trying to decipher the alien language of differential and integral calculus. Those formulas have been imprinted in my brain forever.

The price for my fame was ordinary woman’s happiness. Why can’t anyone fall in love with me? I am capable of giving even more to my beloved than many women. Then why do the most inconsequential get to be loved and I don’t?

I developed a belief early on that I am not loved and that influenced my entire personality. I became more and more otherworldly and intent.

The minute I get to do mathematics, I am oblivious of everything else in the world.

My motto is say what you know, do what you have to do and come what may.

Many confuse mathematics with arithmetic and think of it as a dry and fruitless science. As a matter of fact, it is an endeavour that requires plenty of imagination. You cannot be a mathematician without also being a poet in your heart.

All my life I could not decide whether I was drawn more to mathematics or literature. As soon as my head gets weary of purely abstract speculation, I feel this urge to observe life and to tell stories. And vice versa, sometimes everything in life seems insignificant and dull – and only perpetual, fundamental laws appeal to me. It may be that in either of these areas I would have achieved more if I had devoted myself completely. However, I cannot bring myself to abandon either of them.

* The information is based on the accounts of the personas featuring in this section as well as accounts of their family members, acquaintances and colleagues