Sunday, October 28, 2012

Notable Skeptic #5 Hypatia


I’ve wanted to write about Hypatia for awhile. Writing about her is not the easiest task as information on Hypatia is mostly incomplete. We know she was a mathematician and astronomer. We know she was killed by a group of Christians and her life’s work was destroyed. Her faith is questioned. She was raised within the Pagan religion. It is thought that Hypatia was non-religious or a Neo-Platonist. The latter makes sense because she was a devote follower of Plato. There are some who believe she was an atheist. Whatever her true religious standing, I believe it is safe to say she was at the very least a skeptic. 

I’m going to leave it to Carl Sagan to help summarize Hypatia.

The last scientist who worked in the Library (of Alexandria) was a mathematician, astronomer, physicist and the head of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy – an extraordinary range of accomplishments for any individual in any age. Her name was Hypatia. Cyril, the Archbishop of Alexandria, despised her because of her close friendship with the Roman governor, and because she was a symbol of learning and science, which were largely identified by the early Church with paganism. On her way to work she was set upon by a fanatical mob of Cyril’s parishioners. They dragged her from her chariot, and flayed her flesh from her bones. Her remains were burned, her works obliterated, her name forgotten. Cyril was made a saint. The glory of the Alexandrian Library is a dim memory. Its last remnants were destroyed soon after Hypatia’s death. It was as if the entire civilization had undergone some self-inflicted brain surgery, and most of its memories, discoveries, ideas and passions were extinguished irrevocably. ~from Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos



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