Wang Zhenyi was a great scientist who lived long ago. She was born in 1768 in the Chinese province of Anhui. At that time, girls were not allowed to go to school. But Wang was lucky. Members of her wealthy family were scholars. They wanted her to learn.
Wang’s father, a doctor, taught her about medicine and mathematics. She learned about astronomy from her grandfather. Her grandmother taught her poetry. The more she studied, the more she wanted to learn.
This young woman realized that if she could learn, others could, too. She noticed that books used to teach science and math were confusing. Wang believed more people would learn if those books were written more clearly. So, she wrote her own versions, using simple language.
Wang also offered new ideas about why things happened. For example, many educated people thought that gods ruled the world. They believed that solar and lunar eclipses occurred when those gods were angry. Wang’s studies convinced her there was a better explanation. She did an experiment to prove it. Using a lamp, a mirror, and a table, she showed how the moon could be temporarily covered by Earth’s shadow. That experiment became famous throughout China.
Wang often used science to help people to understand the world better. During her lifetime, many Chinese believed the Earth was flat. Wang knew it was round, like a ball. But if our planet was round, some said, wouldn’t people just fall off? Wang explained how the force of gravity kept people on Earth.
Wang Zhenyi died in 1797. She was just 29 years old, but she accomplished a lot in her short life. She wrote 12 books. Her work in astronomy and math is still important. And in 1994, scientists named a crater on the planet Venus after her. It was a fitting way to honor this noted scientist’s work.