Women in Mathematics

Women Mathematicians at Berkeley

Annie Dale Biddle Andrews

Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley

Annie Dale Biddle AndrewsAnnie Dale Biddle Andrews was at the vanguard when she received her B.A. from the University of California in 1908 and when she was the Math Department’s first woman (and only the third student) to earn a Ph.D. She wrote her thesis, entitled "Constructive theory of the unicursal plane quartic by synthetic methods," supervised by Derrick Norman Lehmer and Mellen Haskell. In 1914, the University of California appointed Andrews as Teaching Fellow. After she married Mr. Andrews, an Irish lawyer, Annie Biddle Andrews raised two children. Her academic horizon narrowed because of attitudes against married women. She was an instructor in mathematics at UC Berkeley off and on between 1915 and 1932, when her appointment was terminated. She had taught Mathematical Theory of Investment; Plane Analytic Geometry and Differential Calculus; Solid Analytic Geometry, Integral Calculus, and Infinite Series; College Algebra; and Introduction to Projective Geometry.

Courtesy of Maria Hjelm and Sheila Humphreys

Jenny Harrison

Professor, Mathematics: Berkeley

Jenny HarrisonJenny Harrison was born in Atlanta GA on Feb 4, 1949, and grew up in Tuscaloosa AL. She was a music major at the University of Alabama, but her philosophy courses convinced her that mathematics was the best tool to reliably solve mysteries of physics. In 1971, a Marshall Scholarship funded her undergraduate studies in mathematics at the University of Warwick, England. Four years after her arrival, she was awarded a PhD under the guidance of Sir Christopher Zeeman and Larry Marcus. Her thesis Unsmoothable Diffeomorphisms provided counterexamples to the Denjoy Conjecture. She subsequently became a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study where Hassler Whitney and John Milnor were her advisers. In 1977, she was appointed Fellow by the Miller Institute at UC Berkeley and an Assistant Professor in 1978. She concurrently held a tenured position at Oxford University, England, but chose to return to Berkeley in 1981. When she was denied tenure in 1986 due to sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation, the Berkeley Dean Leonard Kuhi asked her to sue the university to help uncover evidence of gender bias and sexual harassment in the Mathematics Department. Therein began a seven-year lawsuit which made international news. In 1993, the lawsuit culminated in a victory when a panel of seven mathematicians, chosen from a list agreed by all parties to be fair, unanimously voted for tenure as a full professor. By this time, she had proved a general version of Stokes’ theorem which extended the classical result for smooth surfaces to rough domains, such as fractals. Recently, she and Harrison Pugh proved a general version of Plateau’s Problem by way of a novel axiomatic approach which extended prior results. She has received a number of awards, including a major award from the foundation FQXi (Foundational Questions in Physics), an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women at Yale University, and a Miller Professorship at Berkeley. She has had several noteworthy women students, including Dame Angela McLean, FRS, Professor of All Souls College in Oxford; Julie Mitchell, Director of the Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Mary Lou Zeeman, Chair of Mathematics at Bowdoin College; Kaavya Valivetti, 2016 winner of the Berkeley Medal; and Khalilah Beal, Lecturer in the Mathematics Department at UCB.

Courtesy of Tera Neff

Sophie Levy Macdonald

Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley

Sophie Levy MacdonaldSophia Levy was the daughter of California pioneers. Levy developed an interest in astronomy as an undergraduate at Berkeley, where she earned a BS in 1910 and PhD in 1920. For the bulk of her career, however, Levy belonged to the faculty in mathematics at Berkeley., While pursuing graduate study she was hired as an astronomy assistant from 1910-1914. After that she worked in two administrative posts, assistant to the dean of the Graduate Division and Secretary to the California State Board of Education for the Commission of Credentials. She was appointed as astronomy instructor in 1921. Levy contributed many papers in theoretical astronomy. Because of her ability in mathematical analysis, she was hired as an instructor in mathematics at Berkeley in 1923. Eventually Levy rose to full professor of mathematics in 1949, twenty-six years later. During World War II, Levy directed the mathematics instruction for the Army Specialized Training Program at Berkeley.[1] She taught courses on anti aircraft gunnery and even published a text, Introductory Artillery Mathematics and Anti aircraft Mathematics.[2]Levy was deeply committed to improving the quality of mathematics instruction at the secondary school level, and assumed leadership roles in the training of math teachers and prospective teachers. She advised the state of California on math curriculum for the California Committee for the Study of Education in California public schools. She served as chair and sectional governor of the recently organized Northern California Section of the Mathematical Association of America. In 1941, the Northern California and Southern California Sections established a Joint Committee on Mathematical Education under her chairmanship “to study means of strengthening the program of mathematics in schools and colleges.” Levy developed a summer session for math teachers to meet state requirements and published articles in The Mathematics Teacher on the teaching of mathematics in the schools.[3]
Levy chose to defer her marriage to a colleague in the math department (John McDonald) until he retired in 1944 because, under nepotism rules, one of the two would have had to resign from the faculty had they married. Anti-nepotism rules, which were not dropped until the 1970s, often had the effect of inhibiting women’s careers.

Courtesy of Sheila Humphreys, from “Women Pioneers in Science and Math at Berkeley”

[1] Louis E. Keefer, The Army Specialized Training Program in World War II
[2] Sophia Hazel Levy, Introductory Artillery Mathematics and Antiaircraft Mathematics (Berkeley: University of California, 1943).
[3] V.F. Lenzen, S.Einarsson and G. Evans.  In Memoriam. Sophia Levy McDonald. University of California, April 1965.

Marina Ratner

Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley

Marina RatnerMarina Ratner was born in Moscow, Russia to a Jewish family of scientists who instilled in her from a young age a love of mathematics. From 1956, Ratner studied mathematics at Moscow State University (MSU) and became particularly interested in probability theory, inspired by A.N. Kolmogorov and his group. Upon graduating from Moscow State, Ratner joined Kolmogorov’s applied mathematics group for four years until she returned to MSU to complete her Ph.D. thesis. She completed her Ph.D. thesis, titled “Geodesic Flows on the Unit Tangent Bundles of Compact Surfaces of Negative Curvature” in 1969.

In 1971, Ratner emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel to lecture at the Hebrew University, and in 1975, she accepted a faculty appointment in the Mathematics Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Marina Ratner is best known for her proofs of conjectures dealing with unipotent flows on quotients of Lie groups made by S.G. Dani and M. S. Raghunathan. Ratner received several honors in recognition of her research in Lie groups and other accomplishments. Some of her awards include the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science, an invitation to deliver a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians, the Ostrowski Prize, and an election to the National Academy of Sciences.

Courtesy of Maria Hjelm and Tera Neff

Julia Robinson

Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley

Julia RobinsonJulia Hall Bowman Robinson is known for her still relevant contributions to the solution of Hilbert's 10th problem - joint work with Martin Davis and Hilary Putnam and later completed by Yuri Matiyasevich. Their solution indicates that there is no algorithm to determine the solvability of polynomial equations in integers. At age 16, Robinson started her mathematical journey at San Diego State University, and three years later, she decided to transfer to the University of California Berkeley to complete her B.A.

In her first semester at Berkeley, Robinson enrolled in five upper division courses. One of those courses was number theory, taught by Raphael M. Robinson. Robinson received her B.A. in mathematics in 1940, and a year later she married Raphael. After graduating, Robinson continued her graduate studies at Berkeley. While in her graduate program, Robinson was employed as a teaching assistant in the Mathematics Department, and later as a statistics lab assistant where Robinson published her first paper, “A Note on Exact Sequential Analysis.”

In 1948, under the supervision of Alfred Tarski, Robinson completed her Ph.D. dissertation titled "Definability and Decision Problems in Arithmetic," hence, earning her Ph.D. degree.

By 1975, Robinson was the first female mathematician elected to the National Academy of Science. At that point, she was finally offered a position as Professor of Mathematics at Berkeley. In 1983, she was the first woman elected as president of the American Mathematical Society. Some of her other honors include Noether Lecturer 1982, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship 1983, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Courtesy of Maria Hjelm and Tera Neff

Elizabeth Scott

Professor Emeritus, Statistics: Berkeley

Elizabeth Scott was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on November 23, 1917. Scott earned her B.A. in Astronomy in 1939 and in 1949, her Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. By 1951, Scott obtained a position as assistant professor inElizabeth Scott was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on November 23, 1917. Scott earned her B.A. in Astronomy in 1939 and in 1949, her Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. By 1951, Scott obtained a position as assistant professor in the Mathematics Department at Berkeley. When statistics split from mathematics in 1955 to become the new Statistics Department, Scott moved to the statistics faculty as the first woman professor. Scott eventually served as a strong Chair of Statistics, and spent much of her time doing astronomy research, in which she incorporated and expanded the use of statistics. In 1957 she noted a flaw in the observation of galaxy clusters, which is now referred to as the Scott effect. The Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies awards an annual prize in her honor, the Elizabeth L. Scott Award, for "fostering opportunities in statistics for women."

Courtesy of Maria Hjelm, Sheila Humphreys and Tera Neff

Pauline Sperry

Associate Professor Emeritus, Mathematics: Berkeley

Pauline SperryPauline Sperry was born in Peabody, Massachusetts on March 5, 1885. In 1916, Sperry received her Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago and accepted an instructor position in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. After five years at Berkeley, Sperry was appointed Assistant Professor, becoming the first female tenure-track mathematics faculty member, and was appointed Associate Professor in 1931. During her academic life Sperry advised five doctoral students and twelve descendants.

Under the guidance of Ernest Julius Wilczynski, Sperry’s doctoral thesis, "Properties of a certain projectively defined two-parameter family of curves on a general surface", drew on his work as the founder of the American school of projective differential geometry.

At the height of McCarthyism, the Board of Regents required university employees to sign a loyalty oath. When Sperry and others refused, they were fired in 1950. In the case Tolman vs. Underhill the California Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that the loyalty oath was unconstitutional and reinstated those who refused to sign. Sperry was reinstated with the title Emerita Associate Professor.—but she chose to retire.

Courtesy of Maria Hjelm, Sheila Humphreys and Tera Neff