Women in Mathematics

Women Mathematicians at Berkeley
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Annie Dale Biddle Andrews
Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley
Annie Dale Biddle Andrews
Annie 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.






Sophie Levy Macdonald
Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley
Sophie Levy Macdonald
Sophie Levy Macdonald attended the University of California, Berkeley where she became interested in astronomy. Levy later went on to graduate in 1910 with a B.S. in astronomy. Levy also served as a Watson assistant in astronomy from 1912 to 1914. She later transitioned into a position as the assistant Dean of the graduate division, and from March 1918 to February 1920 she was the secretary for the Commission of Credentials, California state board of education. Sophia Levy completed a dissertation under Professor Armin Leuschner on the motion of comets and minor planets. In 1920 she received her Doctor of Philosophy in astronomy from Berkeley. She was the second woman to be hired in the Mathematics Department.







Marina Ratner
Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley
1938-2017 Marina Ratner
Marina 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.




Julia Robinson
Professor Emerita, Mathematics: Berkeley
Julia Robinson's poster
Julia 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.






Elizabeth Scott
Professor Emeritus, Statistics: Berkeley
Elizabeth Scott
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 in the Mathematics Department at Berkeley. When statistics split from the 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 statistical. 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."




Pauline Sperry
Associate Professor Emeritus, Mathematics: Berkeley

Pauline Sperry
Pauline 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 didn’t come back.



Profiles written by Maria Hjelm, Sheila Humphreys, and Tera Neff.