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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index K > Sofia Kovalevskaya Quotes

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Sofia Kovalevskaya
(15 Jan 1850 - 10 Feb 1891)

Russian mathematician and novelist , known as Sofya, Sonya or Sophie, was the first major Russian female mathematician. When she became a full professor in 1889, she was the first female to accomplish this in Europe.


Science Quotes by Sofia Kovalevskaya (6 quotes)

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Sofia Kovalevskaya
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It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
In a letter to Madame Schabelskoy, quoted in Sónya Kovalévsky: Her Recollections of Childhood, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood (1895), 316.
Science quotes on:  |  Being (1278)  |  Impossible (253)  |  Mathematician (389)  |  Poet (86)  |  Soul (227)

It is strange, but the longer I live the more I am governed by the feeling of Fatalism, or rather predestination. The feeling or free-will, said to be innate in man, fails me more and more. I feel so deeply that however much I may struggle, I cannot change fate one jot. I am now almost resigned. I work because I feel I am at the worst. I can neither wish nor hope for anything. You have no idea how indifferent I am to everything.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
In Letter to Anna Carlotta, collected in Anna Charlotte Leffler, Sonya Kovalevsky: A Biography (1895), 133, as translated by A. De Furuhjelm and A.M. Clive Bayley.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (595)  |  Deeply (17)  |  Everything (476)  |  Fail (185)  |  Fatalism (2)  |  Fate (72)  |  Feel (366)  |  Feeling (252)  |  Free (233)  |  Free Will (15)  |  Govern (65)  |  Hope (299)  |  Idea (845)  |  Indifferent (16)  |  Innate (14)  |  Jot (3)  |  Live (629)  |  Longer (10)  |  Man (2249)  |  More (2559)  |  Resign (4)  |  Strange (157)  |  Struggle (106)  |  Will (2354)  |  Wish (212)  |  Work (1351)  |  Worst (57)

It seems to me that the poet has only to perceive that which others do not perceive, to look deeper than others look. And the mathematician must do the same thing.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
In a letter to Madame Schabelskoy, quoted in Sónya Kovalévsky: Her Recollections of Childhood, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood (1895), 317.
Science quotes on:  |  Deep (233)  |  Do (1908)  |  Look (582)  |  Mathematician (389)  |  Must (1526)  |  Other (2236)  |  Perception (97)  |  Poet (86)  |  Thing (1915)

Many who have never had an opportunity of knowing any more about mathematics confound it with arithmetic, and consider it an arid science. In reality, however, it is a science which requires a great amount of imagination.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
In a letter to Madame Schabelskoy, quoted in Sσnya Kovalιvsky: Her Recollections of Childhood, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood (1895), 316.
Science quotes on:  |  Amount (151)  |  Arid (6)  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Confound (21)  |  Consider (416)  |  Great (1575)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Knowing (137)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  More (2559)  |  Never (1087)  |  Opportunity (87)  |  Reality (262)  |  Require (219)  |  Science (3880)

Say what you know, do what you must, come what may.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
The motto on her winning entry in the 1888 Prix Bordin competition of the French Academy. While being judged, the 15 submissions were anonymous, except for a motto inscribed on them. The author’s name was sealed in an envelope bearing the same motto, opened only after the winning paper was selected. The prize was presented to her on Christmas Eve of 1888. Her exceptional paper was, 'Sur le problθme de la rotation d’un corps solide autour d’un point fixe' ('On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point'), subsequently published in Acta Mathematica (22 Jan 1889), 12, H.2, 177-232. Motto as translated in Pelagei︠a︡ I︠A︡kovlevna Kochina, Sophia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya, Her Life and Work (1957), 60.
Science quotes on:  |  Do (1908)  |  Know (1519)  |  Must (1526)  |  Say (984)

You are surprised at my working simultaneously in literature and in mathematics. Many people who have never had occasion to learn what mathematics is confuse it with arithmetic and consider it a dry and arid science. In actual fact it is the science which demands the utmost imagination. One of the foremost mathematicians of our century says very justly that it is impossible to be a mathematician without also being a poet in spirit. It goes without saying that to understand the truth of this statement one must repudiate the old prejudice by which poets are supposed to fabricate what does not exist, and that imagination is the same as “making things up”. It seems to me that the poet must see what others do not see, and see more deeply than other people. And the mathematician must do the same.
— Sofia Kovalevskaya
In letter (1890), quoted in S. Kovalevskaya and ‎Beatrice Stillman (trans. and ed.), Sofia Kovalevskaya: A Russian Childhood (2013), 35. Translated the Russian edition of Vospominaniya detstva (1974).
Science quotes on:  |  Actual (117)  |  Arid (6)  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Being (1278)  |  Century (310)  |  Consider (416)  |  Demand (123)  |  Do (1908)  |  Dry (58)  |  Exist (444)  |  Fabricate (6)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Impossible (253)  |  Learn (632)  |  Literature (105)  |  Making (300)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  More (2559)  |  Must (1526)  |  Never (1087)  |  Occasion (85)  |  Old (480)  |  Other (2236)  |  People (1005)  |  Poet (86)  |  Prejudice (88)  |  Repudiate (7)  |  Say (984)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Art (186)  |  See (1082)  |  Spirit (265)  |  Statement (142)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Understand (607)


See also:
  • 15 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Kovalevskaya's birth.
  • Beyond the Limit: The Dream of Sofya Kovalevskaya, by Joan Spicci. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 70 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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