Sofia Kovalevskaya was a Russian mathematician who was born on January 15th, 1850. She made huge advances in partial differential equations. Her groundbreaking work and advocacy for women’s rights combined helped make her male coworkers reconsider their views on gender equality. It is unknown whether or not Kovalevskaya identified with an LGBTQ+ label, but she was openly in a romantic relationship with the actress and feminist playwright Anne-Charlotte Edgren-Leffler.
Her interest in mathematics started at an early age. She would often study her father’s old calculus notes that were pasted on the wall of her nursery in lieu of proper wallpaper, and her uncle Peter often took time to explain complicated mathematical concepts to her. At the age of 14, she taught herself trigonometry for the sake of understanding optics, which she was reading about in a physics textbook.
In 1868, she was determined to continue pursuing education at a university. However, in order to study abroad, she needed to travel with a male relative, so she entered a marriage of convenience with Vladimir Kovalevsky.
Kovalevskaya graduated from the University of Gottingen with a Ph.D. in 1874. She had difficulty finding work, as did her husband, and they decided to temporarily move back together. During this time, the pair had one daughter who was raised by Kovalevskaya’s sister Anne Jaclard.
However, money continued to be an issue, and Kovalevsky committed suicide in 1883. Shortly thereafter, Kovavlevskaya entered a romantic relationship with Anne-Charlotte Edgren-Leffler. She then met Edgren-Leffler’s brother Gösta Mittag-Leffler, from whom she received an invitation to lecture at the University of Stockholm.
In 1888, she received the Prix Bordin of the French Academy of Sciences for her work “On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point”. She became ill with pneumonia and died on February 10th, 1891.
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.