Theano of Thuria defeated the male establishment of science and philosophy and emerged as a great astronomer and mathematician of Greek antiquity. She was born in about 546 BC. at the Thurians of lower Italy, the Athenian colony of Greece. She was probably the daughter of Doctor Brontinus. The name Theano for the ancient Greeks was a unique and signifying name. Theano was called, according to The Iliad, the priestess of Athena. From her name, we understand that Theano’s parents had envisioned an extraordinary fate for their daughter early on, and this seems to have become a reality early on, as Theano became a well-known philosopher and scientist.
Theano was an excellent student who, in time, came to become a teacher. She taught astronomy and mathematics at the schools of Pythagoras in Croton. They met with Pythagoras during the philosopher’s speech in the Temple of Hera to the women of the city. She eventually studied at his school, where men and women coexisted harmoniously. A select group of philosophers and mathematicians used to study there at that time. As a schoolgirl, Theano became Pythagoras’ wife, although he was 30 years older than her. She had five children with him, Damo, Myia, Arignotis Mnesarchos, and Telaugis.
She is one of the so-called “Pythagorean philosophers” and is considered the most famous female astronomer and cosmologist of antiquity. She is said to have formulated the theory of the Golden Ratio and the Theory of the Harmony of Spheres. The central principle of the Harmony of Spheres was that the universe consists of ten concentric spheres moving around one central fire. Historians attribute other works to Theano as well. Some examples are Pythagorean Quotes, Female Advice, On Piety, Philosophical Commentaries, Epistolae, Pythagoras’s Life, The Theory of Numbers, and The Construction of the Universe. But it is believed that Theano had extensive philosophical, mathematical, and even medical contributions. From her mathematical investigations, the approach to the existence of the Golden Ratio, a concept related to the essence of the universe, emerged. A theory that scientists developed much later.
She developed the Pythagorean theories related to the existence of natural numbers in all things and to the ability to numerically express the magnitude of any element of nature. She fervently advocated order and harmony not only in mathematics but also in life in general. Pythagoras’ wife was a woman who defended the established order and therefore believed in the need to preserve tradition.
After the death of Pythagoras, as was customary in ancient Greece, Theano had to marry a relative of her husband or even someone very trusted in order to ensure both her own protection and the protection of the inheritance and tradition of Pythagoras. Thus her second husband was another student of Pythagoras called Aristaeus, who took over for a period the Pythagorean community.
Theano died during the 5th century BC. and is said to have been buried near the Pythagorean School. Although scholars have traditionally overlooked and underestimated the contribution of women to history and science, Theano’s work was well-known to her contemporaries and was an inspiration to many men and women.
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