Famous Women in Mathematics

April 29, 2009

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There is a very special relationship between one of my math professors this semester and a student in the class. The professor has said several times during the semester: “I need to find out about some female mathematicians”, usually after comments like: “…and that math book was written by a man, right?”  They have inspired me to do a little bit of research about famous women in mathematics to arm my professor with much needed information to respond to the student before this semester is over!

Hopefully this information will be useful to others to encourage young girls to pursue a career in mathematics or related fields.

I found three websites with lists of famous women mathematicians. Some of the links in the websites link you to biographical databases in other websites.  The three websites are: Biographies of Women in Mathematics, Famous Mathematicians from Underrepresented Groups, and Female Mathematicians. I checked all the mathematicians that were in more than one of the three lists and here are the ones I picked:

Name

Achievement

Theano

c.16 Century B.C

Wife of Pythagoras. Ran School of Pythagoras after his death. Wrote works on the Golden Ratio.

Hypatia

370?-415

Made idea of conics easier to understand.

Florence Nightingale

May 12, 1820 – August 13, 1910

Called: Prophetess of Applied Statistics

Invented Polar Area Chart in the form of polar wedges to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions and the need for reform.

Winifred Edgerton Merrill

September 24, 1862 – September 6, 1951

First American woman to receive a PhD in math.

Worked on the geometrical interpretation of multiple integrals and figure out the computation of the orbit of a comet.

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

May 16, 1718 – January 9, 1799

“By far the most important and extraordinary figure in mathematics during the 18th century.”

Most important work: Analytical Institutions gave a clear summary of the state of knowledge in mathematical analysis. It included: analysis of finite quantities; elementary problems of maxima, minima, tangents, and inflection points; analysis of infinitely small quantities; integral calculus; and the inverse method of tangents and differential equations.

Grace Chisholm Young

March 15, 1868 – March 29, 1944

Worked with her husband on set theory. Authored 13 publications with her husband and 18 by herself.

Bruckner and Thomson wrote that “The whole field of what was then called ‘the theory of functions of a real variable’ was reworked and rewritten in those first decades [of the 20th century]. The Youngs played a major role in that effort.”

Edith Clarke

February 10, 1883 – October 29, 1959

Achievements in applications of mathematics to engineering.

She became an authority on the manipulation of hyperbolic functions, equivalent circuits, and graphical analysis.

Irmgard Flugge-Lotz

July 16, 1903 – May 22, 1974

Professor Flugge-Lotz acted in a central role in the development of the aircraft industry in the Western world. Her contributions spanned a lifetime during which she demonstrated, in a field dominated by men, the value and quality of a woman’s intuitive approach in searching for and discovering solutions to complex engineering problems.

Ellen Amanda Hayes

September 23, 1851 – October 27, 1930

Hayes wrote several textbooks on Lessons on Higher Algebra (1891, revised 1894), Elementary Trigonometry (1896), and Calculus with Applications, An Introduction to the Mathematical Treatment of Science (1900).

Edna Kramer Lassar

May 11, 1902 – July 9, 1984

Kramer’s greatest work is considered the book, The Nature and Growth of Modern Mathematics, which was published in 1970. This work took her 14 years to complete. In 1972 she was elected into the Hall of Fame at Hunter College. Her many books still are read and studied today, including A First Course in Educational Statistics, Mathematics Takes Wings: An Aviation Supplement to Secondary Mathematics, and The Main Stream of Mathematics.

Rózsa Péter

February 17, 1905 – February 16, 1977

Péter was the author of Playing with Infinity: Mathematical Explorations and Excursions, translated into at least 14 languages, and Recursive Functions in Computer Theory. The latter was the second Hungarian mathematical book to be published in the Soviet Union because its subject matter was considered indispensable to the theory of computers.

Helena Rasiowa

June 20, 1917 – August 9, 1994

Helena Rasiowa greatly contributed to the development of research in Poland on applications of logical methods in the foundations of computer science. She was one of the first to realize the great importance of mathematical logic for computer science – and at the same time she clearly saw the significance of computer science for the development of logic itself.

Argelia Velez-Rodriguez

1936-

Cuban Black Woman: First Black woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Habana. She taught in several American schools before joining the mathematics faculty at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas, where she was chairperson of the Department of Mathematical Science from 1975 to 1978. In 1979 she became a program manager with the Minority Institutions Science Improvement Program in Washington, D.C. Since 1980 she has been a program director for the Department of Education.

As the author of Famous Mathematicians from Underrepresented Groups said: “… until recently, women were mostly prevented from doing mathematics, so relatively few women have become famous in mathematics.” Therefore, now that women are able to study mathematics, we must inspire, encourage and help girls become interested in mathematics at an early age and help them pursue careers in math or related fields.

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Best Job in the US: Mathematician

January 14, 2009

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You might be saying: WHAT?

Yes, based on a Wall Street Journal report, Mathematicians have the best jobs. Based on the report, they have the best job because they work in better conditions that other occupations on the list and have a pretty good median annual income of $94,160.

The jobs in second and third positions, actuary and statistician respectively, are also branches of mathematics. Software Engineer and Computer Systems Analyst, which are in the fifth and sixth positions respectively on the list, are applications of math.

Teachers and Parents: you can use this to encourage your students and children to study for mathematics related professions if they like and are good in math.

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