Thursday (May 16) was the birthday of one of the first well-known female mathematicians of the Western world. Maria Gaetana Agnesi was born in Milan (1718).

In 1738, Agnesi "began working on a math textbook that she could use to teach math to her siblings. But the book grew into more than just a teaching tool. In it she wrote an equation for a specific bell-shaped curve that is still used today and is known — because of mistranslation of the Italian by a British mathematician — as the "Witch of Agnesi." Analytical Institutions, which was published in 1748, was highly regarded in academic circles for synthesizing complex mathematical ideas with clarity and precision.

Analytical Institutions and the articulation of the Witch of Agnesi earned her a spot in the Bologna Academy of Sciences. But by that time, she had abandoned mathematics and devoted herself to charity work."