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S. Germain, "Memoir on the Vibrations of Elastic Plates"

MichelleLOyen's picture

I have not read the above-mentioned paper, as I have never been able to find it. However it is said to be "a brilliantly insightful paper which was to lay the foundations of modern elasticity." However, I believe it is also noteworthy for being one of the major contributions by a female mechanician prior to the modern era. For a great biography of Sophie Germain, including a fantastic quote from a letter from Carl Gauss on discovering that she was female--and not "Monsieur Le Blanc"--visit this site (from which the above quote, on the impact of her paper, came).

There are no female mechanicians listed on but I believe it could be argued that Germain deserves a mention!


Zhigang Suo's picture

Michelle:  Why not just add her to the entry on Mechanicians in Wikipedia if you think she deserves a mention?  I don't know her, but you seems to have done some readings on her.  Anybody can add anything to Wikipedia:  you become a Wikipedian when you edit any entry.  Your fellow Wikipedians may argue with you about your entry, though.  I've described some of my (very limited) experience with Wikipedia in an early post on Wikipedia and Applied Mechanics.

Andrew Norris's picture

I have not read the original paper either - and would appreciate a copy if anyone finds it. Meanwhile, I recommend a short book: Bucciarelli, Louis L., and Nancy Dworsky. 1980. Sophie Germain: An Essay in the History of the Theory of Elasticity. Dordrecht: D. Reidel. Unlike other bios of Sophie Germain, which seem to concentrate on her work in number theory, this one is strictly on her contributions to the theory of vibrating plates.

The book describes the details of how Germain eventually won the contest set by the French Academy of Sciences to explain the experimental observations of Chladni. It was not easy matter, since, being a women at that time in France (as everywhere else) she was not a member of the male dominated scientific circles - although she did benefit from the assistance of Lagrange and Gauss.

 Glad to see that  Sophie Germain is now on the mechanicians list on wikipedia!


MichelleLOyen's picture

I wonder if her elasticity paper is in some archive in France?  My sister is a historian and I might see if she can help out with some tricks for finding it.  I'll share it with you if I manage to locate it (and get it translated, I'd assume)!

Thanks also for the book recommendation--that sounds great!  I'll have to see if I can track it down.  I've been starting to collect whatever information I could find on her in the last year or so, especially related to mechanics since, as you point out, so much of her biographies emphasize the work on prime numbers.  Perhaps some day I will gather enough info. to be organized into a little essay.  

I learned how to edit in Wikipedia this morning just so I could add her.  I hope she stays there!

Mogadalai Gururajan's picture

I managed to find the memoir of Sophie Germain in Google Books; wow, the wonders of technology! Unfortunately, there is no translation I could find either in Gutenberg or in google. Those of you who are comfortable in French, can, however, have fun! The book itself seems to be available in the (Physics department library of Harvard) University of Oklahoma.

While Googling, I also came across an article about the contributions of Sophie Germain published in 1939, and a review of the book that Andy referred to in his comments (The reviewer, however, does not seem to be impressed about the book and/or the contribution of Germain).

Therefore all in this oiece of imformation is so true to life. Current progress has influenced practically all spheres of human life and politics is not an acceptation. High-technologies are used by them as a mean to influence public opinion. It might be of a great interest as it was reviewed twice. Tips at are reasonable for everyone.

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