Sonia Kovalevsky (Sofia Kovalevskaya) was the first major Russian female mathematician and the first woman appointed to full professorship in Northern Europe. She was born in Moscow in 1850. She displayed an aptitude for mathematics from a very young age; but her father discourage her because he believed that there was no need for educated women and put a stop to further mathematical instruction when she turned thirteen. She continued her mathematical studies secretly.
After concluding her secondary education, Sonia was determined to continue her studies; however, the closest university that accepted women was in Switzerland, and young unmarried women were not allowed to travel alone. She entered a marriage of convenience with Vladimir Kovalevsky. To pursue her Ph.D. she moved to Germany, but was obliged to be tutored privately since universities would not allow women to attend. She was, however, granted her doctorate, summa cum laude, from Gottingen University in 1874, having completed three papers, one of which was a remarkable contribution to the subject of partial differential equations.
Despite her gifts, she was unable to obtain an academic position for many years. She went on to become a respected figure in the European scientific community, lecturing in Stockholm, editing a new journal, organizing international conferences and winning prizes from the French and Swedish Academies of Science for her important work on the study of rigid bodies. She died of influenza in 1891. She published ten papers in mathematics and mathematical physics and also several literary works.