Mon. Feb 24th, 2020

The numbers of an advanced | Culture


In the archives of the National Library of Spain (BNE) the only copy of the book rests Arithmetic Tyrocinio, from 1738, signed by Casandro Mamés de la Marca and Araioa. The text explains basic mathematical operations and is dedicated to the Pía School of the Colegio de Santo Tomás de Zaragoza. But Casandro Mamés de la Marca and Araioa did not really exist. It is only the name (and anagram) under which the true author of the book was hidden: María Andresa Casamayor y de la Coma, born 300 years ago and considered the first Spanish author of a scientific text. In addition to explaining basic arithmetic operations to his contemporaries with everyday examples, he dedicates some chapters to currencies, weights and linear and solids measurements.

His story is collected in the documentary The woman who dreamed of numbers, premiered this Thursday at the National Library on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and that this Friday can be seen in Zaragoza. The production, directed by Mirella R. Abrisqueta, mixes fiction and reality to narrate the life and environment of mathematics, born on November 30, 1720 in Zaragoza. The work of the documentary began two years ago, when most of Casamayor’s data was unknown. Abrisqueta allied with a team from the University Institute of Mathematics and Applications (IUMA), of the University of Zaragoza, who found the birth certificate and some biographical data. Still large gaps remain, which the director has filled in her documentary with fictional sequences. “The most difficult thing is to make a documentary about a character that you have almost no data about. That is why the fiction part has so much weight, ”says the director, who advocates rescuing the work of“ There must be an intention to recover the lives of all these women, although many of them have remained anonymous, and want to claim your work It is an intention and a desire to want to investigate them. ”

Finding the birth certificate also revealed the precocity of the author of the text, published when she was only 17 years old. What also reveals the determination of character of the young mathematician, who renounced her identity in exchange for seeing her work published. “The audience she was addressing were men, who at that time had not read a book written by a woman. She preferred to remain anonymous, but that her book fulfilled its purpose, ”says Abrisqueta.

Cover of the book 'Tyrocinio arithmético', by María Andresa Casamayor.


Cover of the book ‘Tyrocinio arithmético’, by María Andresa Casamayor.

The volume of Arithmetic Tyrocinio It is kept in the BNE deposit. Your physical consultation is restricted to avoid deterioration, although it can be viewed on the website of the institution. However, there are mists around the book. According to María José Rucio, head of the BNE Manuscripts and Incunables Service, there is no certainty that Casamayor’s text is complete: “The sentence with which it ends does not allow to determine if it really was the end of the work. It is not known if it would carry an index or an additional element ”. It is also not clear when he arrived at the library, although it is believed that “from very early dates.”

Of what there is no doubt is that behind Maria and Mamio de la Marca and Araioa is María Andresa Casamayor y de la Coma. It was confirmed by the bibliographer Felix de Latassa in his book New library of Aragonese writers (1802), who describes the author as a woman “of particular ingenuity and wisdom in arithmetic.” In that volume he also explained that there was another work by Casamayor, The Parasi alone, which was not published because the author died in 1780. Of this 109-page manuscript nothing is preserved.

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