The First Philosopher with a Doctorate: Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia

Zdeňka Kalnická, Juraj Kalnický


The paper analyzes the specific conditions leading to the fact that Elena Lucrezia Cornaro received the doctoral degree in philosophy in 1678 as the first woman in the world. The authors map the broader social and intellectual context of this extraordinary event. They underline the fact that universities did not accept women as regular university students at that time; however Elena Cornaro was successful due to the synergy of several circumstances which created favorable environment leading to her doctorate of philosophy. Among them, the authors focus on the tradition of intellectual centers at Renaissance courts on the territory of present-day Italy, organized by educated aristocratic women; the character of the Republic of Venice, having an impact on the position of aristocratic Venetian women; an open attitude of Italian universities, especially the University of Padua and the University of Bologna, towards women students. The main attention is given to Elena Cornaro’s family environment, life and studies. At the end, other women philosophers and scientists of the 17th and 18th centuries are mentioned.


doctorate of philosophy, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro, Laura Bassi, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Republic of Venice, University of Padua, University of Bologna

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ISSN: 1212-9097