• Biography

Elena Cornaro Piscopia was known as a Venetian philosopher. She was most famous for being one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university, and the first to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree


Elena Cornaro Piscopia was born on June 5, 1646, in Venice, Italy, into the honorable Venetian House of Cornaro. The Cornaro family is most celebrated for appointing over numerous years the construction of royal residences, sanctuaries and church art, estates, works of art, theaters. They cemented their place in Venetian history as a large portion of their creations remains in the twenty-first century.

The Cornaro family was additionally outstanding for having a family tree that traces right back to the honorable Roman group of Cornelii, which included such individuals as the popular general Scipio Africanus and various representatives of Rome. They were also recognized for having turned out four Venetian Doges, a Queen of Cyprus, and nine Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pledge of Chastity

At age eleven, she took a pledge of chastity. Because this holy promise she was never married to any man or woman. Piscopia passed on July 26, 1684 due to tuberculosis. She was buried in the Church of Santa Giustina at Padua. In 1895, Abbess Mathilda Pynsent of the English Benedictine Nuns in Rome had Piscopia's tomb opened so that her remaining parts could be put into another, progressively detailed coffin with a tablet recorded to her memory set on it. She is still known to this day as one of the most influential figures in woman's education.


Elena eventually earned all the important credits to get her Ph.D. in Theology, the year after the celebrated occasion occurred, yet she was not granted the degree, nor was she permitted to graduate. The explanation behind this was the Roman Catholic Church did not think it was legitimate that a lady pursues a degree in religious philosophy. Up to and including the mid twenty-first century the Catholic Church restricted females from being appointed as ministers, and in spite of the fact that that was not what Piscopia needed, the congregation felt that allowing a female such an extent was close enough to being appointed to be perilous and against their statutes. Members of the University were agitated with the Church's choice, thus after it was made high members of the school gathered and chose an answer. As opposed to acquiring her Ph.D. in theology, the University permitted Piscopia to graduate with her Ph.D. in Philosophy.

Date modified: Aug 9, 2020
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