Wang Zhenyi

Wang Zhenyi (simplified Chinese: 王贞仪; traditional Chinese: 王貞儀; pinyinWáng Zhēnyí; 1768–1797) was a Chinese scientist from the Qing dynasty. She breached the feudal customs of the time, which hindered women’s rights, by working to educate herself in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, geography, and medicine. She was well known for her contributions in astronomy, mathematics, and poetry. She was an acclaimed scholar: “An extraordinary woman of 18th century China.”

One of her contributions was being able to describe her views of celestial phenomena in her article, “Dispute of the Procession of the Equinoxes.” She was able to explain and simply prove how equinoxes move and then how to calculate their movement. She wrote many other articles such as “Dispute of Longitude and Stars” as well as “The Explanation of a Lunar Eclipse.” She commented on the number of stars; the revolving direction of the sun, the moon, and the planets Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturn; as well as describing the relationship between lunar and solar eclipses. Not only did she study the research of other astronomers, but she was also able to do her own original research.

One of her experiments to study a lunar eclipse included placing a round table in a garden pavilion, acting as a globe; she hung a crystal lamp on a cord from the ceiling beams, representing the sun. Then on one side of the table, she had a round mirror like the moon. She moved these three objects as if they were the sun, earth, and moon according to astronomical principles. Her findings and observations were very accurate and recorded in her article, “The Explanation of a Solar Eclipse.

In the realm of mathematics, Zhenyi mastered trigonometry and knew the Pythagorean theorem. She wrote an article called “The Explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem and Trigonometry,” where she described a triangle and the relationship between the shorter leg of a right triangle, the long leg, and the triangle’s hypotenuse all correctly.

She admired the mathematician Mei Wending (1633–1721 A.D.).  He was famous in the early Qing dynasty and wrote the book, Principles of Calculation. Wang Zhenyi became a master of this book, rewriting it with simpler language, and made it available to others under the title, The Musts of Calculation. She was able to simplify multiplication and division to make learning mathematics easier for beginners. She was very dedicated in her study of mathematics and wrote a book called The Simple Principles of Calculation when she was twenty-four. Her studies were difficult and she once said, “There were times that I had to put down my pen and sigh. But I love the subject, I do not give up.”


Wang Zhenyi: The Mystery of the Red Moon

Bedtime: Wang Zhenyi – The Mystery of the Red Moon

A relaxing story about Wang Zhenyi. Wang Zhenyi was a mathematician, poet, and astronomer who lived in China. One day, she saw the moon turn red, so she went on a scientific adventure to find out why. This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls.

It’s made to believe,
Women are the same as men;
Are you not convinced,
Daughters can also be heroic?

Wang Zhenyi

Eclipses Explained

Solar Eclipses Explained | PBS LearningMedia

Learn about the mechanics of solar and lunar eclipses with these videos and visualizations. Use this resource to view and engage with different ways of seeing how the alignments of the Moon, the Sun, and Earth result in eclipses and to provide opportunities for students to develop and use models or make evidence-based claims about eclipses.


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