Interesting post about Sophie Germain here at Angry for a Reason, below is an excerpt:
In 1794 the Ã‰cole Polytechnique opened in Paris. It’s mission statement was to”train mathematicians and scientists for the country”(Perl 64). The school did not admit women, but as with her earlier studies, she didn’t let this obstacle stop her from learning even though she could not physically sit in on the classes. She was able to obtain the lecture notes from students in the classes and would send comments to the professors, which would at times include original notes on mathematics problems, but unlike other students she had to use a pseudonym to disguise her femaleness. And so Sophie became M. le Blanc.
During this time she became especially interested in the work of one professor, Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Lagrange was so impressed by her work that he insisted upon meeting the student who had produced it. * Upon discovering that it was a woman who had created it he was surprised, but not put off by it. He praised her for her analysis and would continue to support her and her work, becoming a mentor and a friend. Such encouragement from such a prominent mathematician energized Sophie and gave her more confidence in her work as a mathematician. With this newfound confidence Sophie moved from solving problems in her course work and into studying unexplored areas of mathematics. It was at this point that she became aware of Fermat’s Last Theorem**. Fermat’s Last Theorem continues to puzzle mathematicians to this day. It states that there are no solutions to equations of the form x^n+y^n=z^n where n â‰¥ 3.