Wang Zhenyi (simplified Chinese: 王贞仪; traditional Chinese: 王貞儀; pinyin: Wáng Zhēnyí; 1768–1797) was a scientist from the Qing dynasty. She broke the feudal customs of the time, which limited women’s rights, by working to educate herself in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, geography, and medicine. She was well known for her contributions in astronomy, mathematics, and poetry, and was a highly regarded scholar.
Though she lived only a short life (dying at age twenty-nine), Wang Zhenyi was a highly accomplished academic in both astronomy and mathematics. She was able to prove, for example, how equinoxes move and how to calculate their movement. Wang Zhenyi wrote about the movement of the planets around the sun as well as how lunar and solar eclipses were related.
In mathematics, Zhenyi mastered the Pythagorean theorem and trigonometry. She wrote an article where she described a triangle and the relationship between the shorter leg of a right triangle, the long leg, and the triangle’s hypotenuse correctly. She wrote The Simple Principles of Calculation as a means for explaining mathematical calculations in order to make mathematics easier for beginners.
She also wrote thirteen volumes of poetry which were very highly regarded for their exceptional quality.
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