In 1678, it is believed on 25th June, Elena Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman to receive a university academic degree. Padua was the awarding university.
Piscopia received her degree in philosophy at a special ceremony in the Duomo in Padua in the presence of dignitaries from the University of Padua.
Born in Venice in 1646, her father held an important post and was there entitled to accommodation in St. Mark’s Square.
On the advice of a family friend, she was taught Latin and Greek when a young child. She was proficient in both languages by the time she was seven. She then went on to master other languages as well as mathematics, philosophy and theology.
Her tutor wanted her to study for a degree in theology at Padua University. However, the Bishop of Padua refused to allow it because she was female. Instead, he allowed her to study philosophy.
On the day of her degree ceremony, Piscopia demonstrated her brilliance in front of the specially invited audience by explaining difficult passages from Aristotle in faultless Latin. She received congratulations from the distinguished audience- A laurel wreath was placed on her head.
Piscopia died in 1685 in Padua and her academic writings were published a few years later.READ MORE: Padua to dedicate public statue to Piscopia