Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics
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About the Author
Yevgenia Nayberg is an illustrator, painter, and theater designer whose books include Anya's Secret Society (Charlesbridge) and Mona Lisa in New York (Prestel Junior). Her illustrations for Drop by Drop (Kar-Ben) received a Sydney Taylor Silver Medal. Originally from Ukraine, she now lives in New York, where she makes delicious borsch. Follow her on Instagram @znayberg or visit her website at nayberg.org.
The first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics gets her due. This engrossing portrait of Sophie Kowalevski (1850-1891) traces her struggles and eventual success despite assumptions about women made in her native Russia and the various countries in which she obtained an education. Though the pale, relatively small type may be a trifle difficult for young (or older) eyes to decipher, all else works quite well here. Distinctive, stylized illustrations portray Sophie's world in exaggerated proportions using unusual points of view. They are dotted with mathematical formulae while concise, accessible text tells Sophie's story, emphasizing how men's perceptions of women were ever present obstacles. Her fascination with math and her development as a mathematician pervade the text. In her childhood, she lived in a room wallpapered in math problems and explored physics by herself, much to the surprise of others. As a young adult she made a marriage of convenience that allowed her to travel from Russia to Germany, where she studied--but, as a woman, was only allowed to audit classes initially. The story continues, depicting her trials and failures as a mathematician, her struggles to be recognized in all-male academic settings, and her many achievements and awards. Informative endnotes round out this intriguing selection. An inspiring choice for budding feminists, explorers, historians, and scientists.--Kirkus Reviews
Wallmark's picture book biography profiles Russian mathematician Sophia Kowalevski (1850-1891). Born at a time when many universities would not accept women as students, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate for original research in mathematics. She later became a professor and earned the prestigious Bordin prize. Her perseverance and thirst for knowledge is stressed throughout the narrative. Kowalevski displayed a precocious childhood fascination with math, which followed her into adulthood. She was determined to learn advanced mathematics even when denied credit for her work, and she took on the challenge of the 'spinning top problem, ' which took many years to solve. The watercolor and collage-style illustrations, rendered in shades of green and gold, feature handwritten equations and pages of mathematical text. The expressive faces and gestures convey the many emotional aspects of Kowalevski's journey. While the book is beautifully designed overall, the small and densely set typeface will likely make it less accessible to children. Despite this flaw, the book deserves a place on shelves as it highlights the story of a pioneering women in the STEM fields. VERDICT A celebration of perseverance in the face of adversity and a strong addition to all young biography collections.--School Library Journal-- "Journal"
In a bedroom wallpapered with her father's math problems, Sophie Kowalevski 'traced the mysterious numbers and symbols, searching for patterns. She was fascinated by the secret language of calculus.' But Kowalevski, born in 1850, faced extensive obstacles to becoming a professional mathematician--she had to seek private instruction and find a university willing to accept her thesis: 'The University of Berlin refused to give Sophie a degree. They thought only men should receive doctorates. Not women, no matter how brilliant.' Wallmark relates Kowalevski's extraordinary story, showcasing her persistence and describing her landmark achievements in the field of partial differential equations ('the mathematical tools that can be used to describe many natural phenomena, such as sound, heat, and movement'), including her Kowalevski Property, which mathematically describes the path of a spinning top. Though the small font can be hard to read, Nayberg's deep-toned, Chagall-esque illustrations depict Kowalevski's obstacles and triumphs, and portray the paths traced by spinning tops through the determined mathematician's numeric dreams.--Publishers Weekly-- "Journal"
Meet Sophie Kowalevski, a girl who loved numbers, math, and solving equations, in this inspiring children's biography based on a real-life legend. Notes and calculations dance across the pages in fanciful patterns and ciphers, and dramatic lights and shadows surround Sophie as she follows her dreams of becoming a successful woman mathematician, a feat unheard of in the late 1800s. End notes include a timeline, bibliography, and further details about Sophie's personality and projects.--Foreword Reviews-- "Website"