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A Writer and a Mathematician

The Accomplishments of Lady Murasaki and Leonardo Fibonacci

Mariana G Mercado
AP World History
November 1st, 2016

People are often very polar in their scholarly preferences; it is most typical that you will
either love literature and despise math or love math and despise literature. It is understandable of
course, they are often thought of as using two very different forms of thinking, hence the
polarization. Even so, there are many similarities between the great minds of both subjects,
specifically the minds of Leonardo Fibonacci and Lady Murasaki. And even though their focus
was on two completely different fields, both their works have survived throughout the ages and
are still used praised today. Both these notable people were encouraged by their fathers to pursue
their education in their appropriate scopes of work. A difference between the two is that
Leonardo had a very large and international impact during his time while Murasaki had a much
more local influence.
Although Lady Murasaki and Leonardo Fibonacci worked very opposite subjects, they
both excelled in their respective lines of work. They both produced opuses and ideas that are still
used today; Fibonaccis work by mathematicians and Murasakis work in English studies and her
Japanese characters are still in use. Leonardo Fibonaccis most notable accomplishment is his
discovering of a pattern of numbers later dubbed the Fibonacci Sequence: 1, 1, 2, 5, 8,
13, 21 To the untrained eye this may seem like a configuration of random numbers, but
Fibonacci found that that these numbers were found everywhere throughout nature. For example,
rabbits follow the Fibonacci sequence, not consciously of course, but their reproductive cycles
produce the sequence like clockwork. This is just one way his sequence is seen in nature, other
examples include flower petals, tree branches and lightning bolts. And Fibonacci numbers are
not just observed in the world, but can and are applied by modern day scientists in mathematical
problems. All in all, Leonardo Fibonacci was a great influence to the math culture. Similarly,
Lady Murasaki was a major part of literatures history. She was the author of The Tale

of Genji, which has been christened the first modern novel and may very well be the worlds
first novel of any kind. She wrote this book based very loosely on her life experience to describe
the customs of the Japanese culture and court life. This very historical piece is still used by
English teachers and professors; it is also highly acclaimed by the modern literature society, still
read and enjoyed in the contemporary era. Even though Lady Murasaki is most known for her
novel, she also contributed quite extensively to the Japanese script, Katakana, which was derived
from the Chinese script, Kanji. Since she knew Chinese and developed the Japanese script,
her writing was most likely penned in both languages.
Both Leonardo Fibonacci and Lady Murasaki were encouraged by their fathers to pursue
their work but in different ways. Lady Murasakis dad supported her in secret since he was not
proud of the fact that she was his daughter instead of his son. The only reason her father allowed
her to follow her studies was because she excelled much faster than her brother, causing him
to cheer her on to follow in his shoes to become a scholar like he was. Murasakis will and
determination was fueled by the backing of her father as well as the conservative thinking of
society to the point that almost nothing could stop her from reaching new levels of greatness for
the women of the society of Japan. In the case of Leonardo Fibonacci, there were no
gender setbacks that hindered public support from his family members. Therefore, his
father, Guilielmo Bonacci, was very open about his encouragement of his son
Leonardo. Guilielmo held a diplomatic position in North Africa, where he allowed Leonardo to
join him and continue his studies there. Fibonacci was influenced by his father to learn
accounting, probably spurring his love and devotion to mathematics. Therefore, both
Lady Murasaki and Leonardo Fibonacci were encouraged by their fathers to pursue their
respective studies, though in different ways. Murasaki's dad allowed her to continue her

education despite her being a woman, which would have cause him to be looked down on by
society if word got out. Fibonacci's dad on the other hand was open with his support and had
Fibonacci travel with him on diplomatic travels.
A difference between these two scholars is that Fibonacci had a very large, even
international influence on the world, while Lady Murasaki created a more local impact. This can
mostly be attributed to the fact that Fibonacci's father was a prestigious diplomat who had
Fibonacci traveling with him from a young age. In adulthood, Leonardo traveled far and
wide, bringing his mathematical theories with him. His travels led Fibonacci throughout most of
the Mediterranean familiarized him with many different types of numerical systems including
Arabic and Roman. Leonardo discovered his most prominent accomplishment, the Fibonacci
sequence, sometime in his 30s or 40s about the propagation of rabbits. And even though this and
other abstract formulas are what he is most known for in this contemporary age, he was highly
regarded for the practical application of his theorems during his lifetime. In fact, around 1220,
emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, who had heard of Fibonacci through other
mathematicians, brought him to the attention of a mathematician in his court by the name of
Jordanus. Jordanus then tested Leonardo with many complicated math problems that he thought
would stump the great Fibonacci. Much to the surprise of both the emperor Frederick II of
Hohenstaufen, and his court mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci displayed extensive knowledge
of great mathematicians, such as Archimedes, understanding of algebra and a uniqueness of
originality in the sophisticated ways he solved the problems he was faced with. In short,
Fibonacci had a large, international influence with his works. Lady Murasaki on the other hand
stayed relatively local. Although she did take influence from the Chinese script of Kanji in her
creation of the Japanese script of Katakana that has lasted throughout the ages, which some

might same is greater than physical distance. For the most part, Murasakis impact from her
writings stayed within Japan in her lifetime. Of course, now, in the modern age, her work is read
and praised by scholars across the globe. Although Lady Murasaki didnt have as great an impact
in regards to distance in comparison to Leonardo Fibonacci, she did have a big impact in her
region.
Lady Murasaki and Leonardo Fibonacci may have been scholars in two very different
subjects, they still had quite a bit in common than one might think. They were both quite
exemplary in their respective fields. Fibonacci was an excellent mathematician who understood
the works of Archimedes and Euclid as well as displaying a uniqueness that set him apart as an
original academic thinker. He produced many theorems including both the abstract and the
concrete types. Murasaki was an iconic woman who created what is known as the worlds first
novel, the Tale of Genji. Both these scholars were encouraged to pursue their studies by their
fathers. Contrarily, these two note-worthy people of the middle ages had very different scales of
impact while they were alive. Fibonacci travelled quite a bit allowing him to alter his theorems
per different numerical systems as well as share his ideas throughout the Mediterranean.
Murasaki, on the other hand, had an influence smaller, mostly isolated to her home country of
Japan. Nevertheless, both Lady Murasaki and Leonardo Fibonacci were highly distinguished
people of the middle ages and left a legacy that survived into the 21st century.

Work Cited
Bialo, Ellen. "Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras,
ABC-CLIO, 2016, ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1185664 Accessed 18
Oct. 2016.
Annotation: I used this reference to learn about the life of Lady Murasaki and the
accomplishments she made throughout her life.
Cumo, Christopher. "Japan and Korea." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO,
2016, www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Topics/Display/32 Accessed 23 Oct. 2016.
Annotation: I used this reference to understand why Lady Murasaki wrote her
novel, Tale of Genji and understand
Enzensberger, Hans Magnus., Rotraut Susanne Berner, and Michael Henry Heim. The Number
Devil: A Mathematical Adventure. New York: Henry Holt, 1998. Print.
Annotation: I used this reference for the mathematical accomplishments of Fibonacci as
well as to gain an understanding of why and how his sequence was so important.
Georgedes, Kimberly. "Leonardo Fibonacci." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABCCLIO, 2016, ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1939452. Accessed 25 Oct.
2016.
Annotation: I used this resource to learn more about Fibonaccis international
accomplishments and how he had such a large scale influence.
O'Connor, J. J., and E. F. Robertson. "Fibonacci Biography - MacTutor History of Mathematics."
JOC/EFR, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.
Annotation: I used this website to learn the details regarding Fibonacci's life.

Specifically, I learned how he gained his reputation and what people/courts he was
affiliated with. I also used this site to understand his fathers influence on his career.
"Murasaki Shikibu: Passage from Chapter 1 of The Tale of Genji (11th Century)." World History:
Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2016, ancienthistory.abcclio.com/Search/Display/1465699. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.
Annotation: I used this source to understand Murasaki's book, The Tale of Genji and
why she wrote it.