This content was developed by the AMATYC Diversity Dialogues team.
Please join AMATYC in celebrating Women’s History month by incorporating into your classroom information about great women mathematicians. Here are a few bios to get you started.
Mary Cartwright (1900 – 1993), Mathematician
During WWII, British soldiers needed more powerful amplifiers so signals would not become jumbled. This problem was considered critical to winning the war. Mary rose to the challenge. She had a particular skill for combining mathematical concepts together in unusual ways. She and her friend J.E. Littlewood provided the British army with enough information to get around the problem; however, their publication in 1945 became known as “chaos theory,” the idea that tiny fluctuations can cause widely varying outcomes.
Cartwright, Mary Lucy | Encyclopedia.com. (n.d.). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cartwright-mary-lucy
Mary Lucy Cartwright. (n.d.). https://cns.gatech.edu/~predrag/courses/PHYS-4267-06/Cartwright.html
Mary Winston Jackson (1921 – 2008), Mathematician & Engineer
Mary became NASA’s first African American female engineer in 1958. Her work was highlighted in the movie Hidden Figures. Mary’s journey was not an easy one; there were many job changes, more schooling, glass ceilings and segregation. After reaching the top as an engineer, she took a demotion to fill the position of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager to help the next generation.
Biography, M. W. J. (n.d.). Mary W. Jackson Biography. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-w-jackson-biography
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2023, February 7). Mary Jackson | Biography & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Jackson-mathematician-and-engineer
Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852), Mathematician
Ada was the brilliant daughter of Lord Byron. She met Charles Babbage in 1833 and was intrigued by his Analytical Engine. She translated his publication into English and added the "Note G.” In it, she explained how a punch-card-based algorithm could return a scrolling sequence of special rational numbers called Bernoulli numbers. This was considered the world's first computer program. Babbage gives her credit for the most important paper in the history of digital computing. The Department of Defense named a computer language after her.
Ada Lovelace. (2023, February 21). Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/ada-lovelace-20825323
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1999, March 21). Ada Lovelace | Biography, Computer, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ada-Lovelace
Emmy Noether (1882 – 1935), Mathematician
For Albert Einstein's problems with the theory of relativity, he pulled together a team, and Emmy was their draft pick. For years she worked for no pay or low pay. A colleague wrote of her, "...her theorem is the backbone of modern physics..." She was the founder of abstract algebra. Some say her accomplishments outshined Einstein's.
Emmy Noether: Creative Mathematical Genius. (n.d.). https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/noether.html
Conover, E. (2021, September 15). In her short life, mathematician Emmy Noether changed the face of physics. Science News. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/emmy-noether-theorem-legacy-physics-math
Hee Oh (1969 – Present), Mathematician
Hee Oh (오희, born 1969) is a South Korean mathematician who works in dynamical systems. She has made contributions to dynamics and its connections to number theory. She is a student of homogeneous dynamics and has worked extensively on counting and equidistribution for Apollonian circle packings, Sierpinski carpets and Schottky dances. She is currently the Abraham Robinson Professor of Mathematics at Yale University.
Korean Becomes Yale’s 1st Female Math Professor. (2013, May 30). The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News From Korea - National/Politics > National. http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/05/30/2013053001636.html
Hee Oh designated the Abraham Robinson Professor of Mathematics. (2021, November 18). YaleNews. https://news.yale.edu/2015/04/06/hee-oh-designated-abraham-robinson-professor-mathematics
Dorothy Vaughan (1910 – 2008), Mathematician
In 1949, Dorothy was the first African American supervisor at NASA. During that time, “Jim Crow” laws were in effect, which meant African Americans had separate bathrooms, work areas, and eating areas. The West Ares Group distinguished themselves with major contributions to every area of research at Langley. Dorothy was featured in the movie Hidden Figures.
Dorothy Vaughan Biography. (n.d.). NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/content/dorothy-vaughan-biography
McFadden, C. (2021, September 20). Dorothy Vaughan: NASA’s “Human Computer” and American Hero. https://interestingengineering.com/dorothy-vaughan-nasas-human-computer-and-american-hero
Maryna Viazovska (1984 – Present), Mathematician
Maryna Sergiivna Viazovska is a Ukrainian mathematician known for her work in sphere packing. As well as for her work on sphere packing, Viazovska is also known for her research on spherical designs with Bondarenko and Radchenko. In 2016, Viazovska received the Salem Prize and, in 2017, the Clay Research Award and the SASTRA Ramanujan Prize for her work on sphere packing and modular forms. And she is now the second woman to receive one of the highest honors in mathematics, the Fields Medal, for her work in number theory and sphere-packing.
Taheri, A. (2022, July 6). Ukrainian Professor Becomes Second Woman to Receive Prestigious Fields Medal for Mathematics. Peoplemag. https://people.com/human-interest/ukrainian-professor-awarded-prestigious-mathematics-medal-making-her-the-second-woman-in-the-world/