Essay: Laura Maria Caterina Bassi – the first woman to be a professor

Did you know that Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was the first woman to be a professor? Bassi was an amazing scientist and lecturer in her day. She also played with some of other scientists theories.

Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was born on October 31, 1711 into a wealthy Italian family. Her parents were, Giuseppe Bassi and her mother Rosa Cesarei. Her father was a Bolognese jurist and a lawyer. When she was a child, there were many diseases and she was the only child in her family to make it to adulthood. Throughout her childhood, she was mostly studying. Her father paid for her to be privately educated, and between the ages of 13 and 21, she was tutored by a professor at the College of Medicine. This professors’ name was Gaetano Tacconi. Some people believe that she studied at an advanced level of natural history, anatomy, logic, chemistry, hydraulics, metaphysics, algebra, geometry, ancient Greek, Latin Italian, French, and philology.

At the age of 20, she became a professor at a European University. She’s mostly famous for being the first female professor to teach. In 1734 she was appointed a chair of philosophy at the University of Bologna. Even though she was a professor, it was frowned upon for her to teach a room full of male students. At a lavish ceremony, that was also open to the public, she was awarded her doctorate. Other than receiving her doctorate, she was also presented with a jewel encrusted silver crown and ring, and an ermine cape. Not only that, but she was also pioneering in many subjects she taught. She mainly focused on Newtonian physics. For teaching courses of Newtonian physics for 28 years, made her a key figure in introducing Newtonian physics to Italy as well as natural philosophy.

Most people know her as Laura Bassi but she married a lecturer named Giovanni Guiseppe Veratti. So, even though she’s legally Laura Veratti, she is still recognized as Laura Bassi. Over the years, Laura and Giovanni had eight children. Only 5 reached adulthood. Giovanni, Giacomo, and Paolo were three of their sons. Giovanni and Giacomo became canons in the church, Paolo went on to become a physicist, while Catarina, their only surviving daughter, became a nun.

Bassi didn’t really invent or find anything, but she did advocate Franklin’s theory of one electric fluidum. She mostly gave lectures, was the first female professor, and she also did some experiments with other scientists’ theories though. She is mainly recognized for being the first female to teach at a university and being a lecturer. She did do research on more than one subject.

At the University of Bologna, she was appointed Professor of Anatomy. She was given a position in philosophy in 1734. She taught a course in Newtonian Physics for 28 years, and was one of the key figures in introducing Newton’s Physics and Philosophy to Italy. She wrote 28 articles, mainly on physics and hydraulics and they were all published. Later, in 1745 she was appointed to an elite group of academics known as the Benedettini. The Benedettini were asset up by Lambertini who was a pope. At age 65, in 1776, Bassi was appointed to a professorship in experimental physics at eh Institute of Sciences. Her husband was her teaching assistant. Later in 1778, she died but, her long career, and influence on Italian physics helped break new ground for female academics.

Like most of the eighteenth-century scientists her research activities didn’t deal with one subject. Some of the subjects she did research on were hydromechanics, electricity, and optics as well as pneumatics and the study of gases judging by her few publications and the unpublished talks she gave at the academy. Her work was explained by using the Newtonian concept of attraction. They were explained as interpretative framework, and by analogies to electricity which revealed how closely she followed the developments in this new field. With the help of her husband, she advocated Franklin’s theory of one electric fluidum. As a teacher of physics, Bassi was of supreme importance not only for Bologna but for the whole of northern Italy. She acted as a mentor and patron for such younger scientist as Lazzaro Spallanzani and Alessandro Volta and also was sought after by those who wanted to become members of the Bolognese Academy. Her most outstanding client was Boltaire. At Bologna, her private lectures on experimental physics gave virtually the only opportunity for instruction, let alone experimental demonstrations in physics. Due to her academy talks and the scientific instruments she bought, during her whole career Bassi kept up with the current developments. Her prominence in the learned culture of northern Italy brought attention to experimental physics. Through her work, physics formed as a discipline integrating experimental and mathematical traditions.

Even though she wasn’t a major inventor, she did some pretty amazing things in science. There aren’t any records that say she and her husband did achieve advocating Franklin’s theory of one electric fludium, so I guess we’ll never know. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was an amazing person and she did a lot of work in the scientific field.

Laura Bassi has influenced us in a few ways. She has showed us that women are capable of teaching. She also make use of rewards that would normally have remained symbolic, to carve out a position for herself in the scientific community.

Bassi was appointed Professor of Anatomy at the University of Bologna at age 21. In 1734, she was given a position in philosophy. Then, in 1738, she married and had eight children. Later in her life, she went to the university and requested mare teaching work. She was also allowed to give classes in her own home, setting up a laboratory for her students. She taught a course in Newtonian Physics for 28 years and she was also one of the key figures in introducing Newton’s Physics and Philosophy to Italy. She wrote 28 articles, mainly on physics and hydraulics and they were all published. Later, in 1745 she was appointed to an elite group of academics known as the Benedettini. The Benedettini were asset up by Lambertini who was a pope. At age 65, in 1776, Bassi was appointed to a professorship in experimental physics at eh Institute of Sciences. Her husband was her teaching assistant. Later in 1778, she died but, her long career, and influence on Italian physics helped break new ground for female academics.

Bassi’s research doesn’t easily relate to a single subject, like most of the eighteenth-century scientists. Her research activities comprehended hydromechanics, electricity, and optics as well as pneumatics and the study of. Bassis’ work was explained by using the Newtonian concept of attraction as interpretative framework, and by analogies to electricity which revealed how closely she followed the developments in this new field. With the help from her husband, she advocated Franklin’s theory of one electric fluidum. Records about Bassi and her husband say that they advocated Franklin’s theory but it never said that they accomplished it. As a teacher of physics, Bassi was of supreme importance not only for Bologna but for the whole of northern Italy. For younger scientists such as Lazzaro Spallanzani and Alessandro Volta, she acted as a mentor and patron. She was also sought out by people who wanted to become members of the Bolognese academy. Boltaire was the most prominent among her clients. Her private lectures gave her the only opportunity for instruction, virtually that is, at Bologna Academy. Her lectures were on experimental physics mostly. As suggested by her academy talks and the scientific instruments she bought, during her whole career Bassi kept awareness of current developments. Her prominence in the learned culture of northern Italy brought attention to experimental physics. Through her work, physics formed as a discipline integrating experimental and mathematical traditions.

Bassi was a huge inspiration to mankind today. She showed us that men can’t always do all of the work. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was a big part of history; she was a huge role model for all women.

Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was a huge part of our history. She was just one of those people who saw a chance and took it. Now, because of her, women can teach as well as men.

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/essays/history/essay-laura-maria-caterina-bassi-the-first-woman-to-be-a-professor/


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