A Swallow Press Book
By Don Kennedy
“This book has many facts, and libraries concerned with developing a women's history holdings should acquire it.”
Little Sparrow is the first complete biography in any language of Sophia Kovalevsky, the nineteenth-century Russian mathematical genius, champion of equal education for women, and first woman professor of higher mathematics. She pushed the development of analytical mathematics — such as ultraelliptical functions — beyond that of anybody before her. From the French Academy of Science she won an award as important as the later Nobel prize.
Sophia Kovalevsky was born January 15, 1850, into the Russian nobility, daughter of a general, descendant on the paternal side from a Hungarian king and on the maternal side from German astronomers. She joined the nihilist movement at age 16. At age 18, in order to escape Russia and study abroad, she obtained parental permission to enter a marriage, which for five years remained platonic.
Though a woman, she obtained special permission to study at Heidelberg. When rejected for higher study at Berlin University, she was accepted as a special pupil by the foremost mathematics teacher of the age, Professor Karl Theodore William Weierstrass. After receiving a Gottingen doctorate magnacum laude, in abstentia, she returned to Russia to enter the intellectual life of St. Petersburg, to consummate her marriage, and to bear a daughter.
She was a friend of Dostoevsky, Turgenev, George Eliot, and other literary lights of the period, and she wrote an account of her Russian childhood that was considered on a par with Tolstoy’s book on his youth.
Kennedy’s work focuses less on the professional mathematician than on the unusual woman whose life reflects the plight of the female intellectual and scientist in Russia and Europe late in the century.
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“There are many reasons for writing a biography of Semyon Frank. Quite apart from his philosophy, he lived a remarkable life. Born in Moscow in 1877, he was exiled from Soviet Russia in 1922 and died in London in 1950. The son of a Jewish doctor, he became a revolutionary Social Democrat in his teens and finished his life as a Neoplatonist Christian.
The Unknowable is Frank’s most mature work and possibly the greatest work of Russian philosophy of the 20th century. It is a work in which epistemology, ontology, and religious philosophy are intertwined: the soul transcends outward to knowledge of other souls and thereby gains knowledge of itself, becomes itself for the first time; and the soul transcends inward to gain knowledge of God and acquires stable, certain being for the first time in this knowledge of God.Frank’s
George Kennan’s career as a specialist on Russian affairs began in 1865, with his first journey to the Russian empire. A twenty-year-old telegraphic engineer at the time, he was a member of the Russian-American Telegraph Expedition, a now virtually unknown but nevertheless remarkable nineteenth-century adventure story.
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