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What is a biographical precis?
A detailed definition and explanation to get you started in using this versatile writing format.

How will my biographical precis be evaluated?
Here are some guidelines to the grading of your effort.

How do I write a biographical precis?
Text instructions
How do I write a biographical precis?
Interactive tutorial  (requires Flash plugin)
Can I see an example of a biographical precis?
Of course. Three are available:
- Douglass
- Lao Tzu
- Annotated Example
What is the assignment?
How do I submit my assignments?
How do I read for this format?
a printable reading guide to help you read and write for the biographical precis format.

How do I write well-formed citations and references?
A brief guide to citation form with examples and a link to the Citation Machine.



  Biographical precis: example
Hypatia of Alexandria
Hypatia of Alexandra (370?-415CE), was a Egyptian philosopher and mathematician who is known as the first woman in recorded history to make original contributions to mathematics. All of Hypatia’s writings are lost and she is known only through the reports of others, especially the Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda in which Hypatia is noted as having written commentaries on mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and philosophy as well as having taught those subjects and having developed improved scientific instruments. In mathematics she wrote and taught on the theory of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. In philosophy Hypatia was a Neo-Platonic and built upon the ideas of Plotinus who held that the primary purpose of human life is to seek the highest possible understanding of ultimate reality, even though that ultimate reality is beyond the capacity of the human mind to fully understand or describe. In science Hypatia is known to have created an astrolabe (an ancient astronomical computer) and a hydrometer (a device to measure the specific gravity of fluids). Socrates Scholasticus wrote (450CE) of her; "There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time.” I feel a connection with Hypatia being a woman who made great intellectual achievements at a time when women were typically excluded from such work, because I am a woman in an engineering field dominated by men and Hypatia now stands as kind of a heroine for me. Hypatia was murdered by a mob of Christians monks who accused her of witchcraft, thus (if any information existed) I would like to know more about her scientific and spiritual ideas and why they were deemed such a threat to early Christianity.

Hypatia of Alexandria. 1999. The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved from the World Wide Web, August 17, 2002.

James Grout. 2002. Hypatia. Encyclopedia Romania. Retrieved from the World Wide Web, August 17, 2002.

  2003 © Jon Dorbolo