A Princess of Science? Becoming the first Woman Professor in Mathematics in Modern Europe


  • Maria Tamboukou University of East London




archive, gender science studies, memory work, women mathematicians


In this paper I look at the process of becoming the first Woman Professor in Mathematics in Modern Europe by reading the personal and literary writings of Sofia Kovalevskaya. The paper emerges from a wider Leverhulme funded project of writing a feminist genealogy of “automathographies,” tracing women mathematicians’ historical emergence as subjects of scientific knowledge, as well as creators of philosophy and culture. What I argue is that it is essential to throw light onto the social, cultural, and political practices that some women mathematicians deployed in surpassing the restrictions and limitations of their gendered position and excel in the field of mathematical sciences and beyond. In this light, I initiate a process of intense memory work against a wider background within which women mathematicians’ figure as exceptional, albeit marginalized, and largely unknown subjects, and not as active agents, whose scientific, philosophical and literary work has had a huge impact on the cultural formations of modernity and beyond. By highlighting the importance of memory work, as a way of understanding the lasting effects of the past into the present, I trace new paths in the field of gender and science studies to confront women mathematicians’ marginalization within the archive and beyond.

Author Biography

Maria Tamboukou, University of East London

Professor in Feminist Studies




How to Cite

Tamboukou, Maria. 2024. “A Princess of Science? Becoming the First Woman Professor in Mathematics in Modern Europe”. Nordic Journal of Educational History 11 (2):57-79. https://doi.org/10.36368/njedh.v11i2.1059.