Lady Doctor Elena
June 25, 1678: The first Doctorate of Philosophy to be earned by a woman is awarded to Elena Lucrezia Piscopia. The University of Padua also awarded the 32-year-old the Doctor’s Ring, the Teacher’s Ermine Cape, and the Poet’s Laurel Crown. Dr. Piscopia was born into a noble Italian family in Venice. Her father was the Procurator of San Marco and her mother was also from the upper classes. She was the eldest daughter in her family and by age seven was already being tutored.
She first studied Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors. After mastering these languages, she learned Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic. With seven languages at her disposal, she was given the title “Oraculum Septilingue.” She went on to study mathematics, philosophy, and theology. In 1665 she took the habit of the Benedictine Oblate, however she never became a nun.
Her father wanted her to enter the University of Padua. She excelled in her studies and was granted her PhD in the cathedral of Padua on this day. The University authorities were in attendance as were professors and the lesser faculty. Many of the students also came to witness this event along with a great number of prestigious invited guests from other Italian Universities. Elena spoke for an hour in classical Latin and explained random selections from the works of Aristotle. She was not permitted by the Catholic Church to receive a doctorate in theology. She went on to teach and write a variety of treatises before her death at age 38.
A Doctorate in Philosophy or PhD (sometimes Ph.D.) means teacher of philosophy and is the most advanced degree awarded by universities. The term has grown to include the highest degrees for other disciplines in the sciences and humanities. In the Middle Ages, European universities considered all areas of study outside theology, medicine, and law to be the area of “philosophy” or natural philosophy if it was scientific. The first PhD was awarded in Paris in 1150. Today, the granting of this prestigious degree has a variety of requirements based on both the area of study and the university granting the degree.
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. – Aristotle
Education is that which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. – Ambrose Bierce
Life at university, with its intellectual and inconclusive discussions at a postgraduate level is on the whole a bad training for the real world. Only men of very strong character surmount this handicap. – Paul Chambers
The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. – Carl Rogers
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