National Hispanic Heritage Month
In an effort to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to recognize the accomplishments of a group of Hispanic and Latinx Mathematicians.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
In an effort to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to recognize the accomplishments of a group of Hispanic and Latinx Mathematicians.
Ruth Gonzalez, born in Houston to Mexican parents, was interested in math throughout elementary school and high school. In 1976, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Texas. While doing research at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas from 1976 to 1980, she earned her master’s degree in mathematics.
In 1980, Gonzalez joined the Exxon Production Research Company as a geophysical mathematician and continued her graduate work at Rice University. In 1986, she received her Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Rice University, making her the first U.S born Hispanic woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics.
She’s had an extensive career developing seismic imaging tools and encourages other minority girls and women to pursue a career in math and science.
Alberto Pedro Calderón, widely considered one of the 20th century’s most important mathematicians, was born in Mendoza, Argentina. He studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Buenos Aires. While in Chicago, he studied under Antoni Zygmund, a Polish mathematician who was an expert analyst. They went on to collaborate for more than 30 years.
Calderón and Zygmund developed the theory of singular integral operators. The theory was the basis for one of the most influential movements in mathematics: the Chicago School of (hard) Analysis. This school of thought emphasizes applying mathematical analysis to the study of partial differential equations (PDEs). PDEs are used in science and engineering to measure and describe a variety of phenomena such as sound, heat, electrostatics, and quantum mechanics.
Calderón’s original work, with and without his mentor, greatly influenced mathematical analysis and ranged over a variety of topics including PDEs, interpolation theory, Cauchy integrals on Lipschitz curves, ergodic theory, and inverse problems in electrical prospection. Some practical applications for Calderón’s work include signal processing, geophysics, and tomography.
Portuguese mathematician Ruy Luís Gomes was one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century. However, he was persecuted by Portugal’s government for his outspoken ideas and independent thinking. Nonetheless, he was committed to teaching and research, making many significant mathematical contributions and serving as a role model for a generation of intelligent, creative mathematicians.
Gomes passionately believed that teachers should be more than the transmitters of theory. Rather, they should act as active research agents, inspiring students to come up with their own new theories and conclusions. He was an innovator in connecting Portuguese mathematicians with mathematicians and other scientists around the globe. He believed in a global mathematics community, promoted through seminars, conferences, short courses, study and research centers and scientific societies. At the time, this idea of global cooperation was radical. The Portuguese government didn’t approve. Gomes, his associates and his students created two influential magazines dedicated to mathematics: Portugaliae Mathematica, mainly composed of research articles and Gazeta Matemática. Both magazines are still published today by the Portuguese Mathematical Society.
Lewis Fry Richardson was a mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, and the application of similar techniques to studying the causes of wars and how to prevent them. He is also noted for his pioneering work concerning fractals and a method for solving a system of linear equations known as modified Richardson iteration.
Richardson worked from 1916 to 1919 for the Friends’ Ambulance Unit attached to the 16th French Infantry Division. After the war, he rejoined the Meteorological Office but was compelled to resign on grounds of conscience when it was amalgamated into the Air Ministry in 1920. He subsequently pursued a career on the fringes of the academic world before retiring in 1940 to research his own ideas. His pacifism had direct consequences on his research interests. According to Thomas Körner the discovery that his meteorological work was of value to chemical weapons designers caused him to abandon all his efforts in this field, and destroy findings that he had yet to publish.
Richardson also applied his mathematical skills in the service of his pacifist principles, in particular in understanding the basis of international conflict. For this reason, he is now considered the initiator, or co-initiator of the scientific analysis of conflict—an interdisciplinary topic of quantitative and mathematical social science dedicated to systematic investigation of the causes of war and conditions of peace. As he had done with weather, he analyzed war using mainly differential equations and probability theory. Considering the armament of two nations, Richardson posited an idealized system of equations whereby the rate of a nation’s armament build-up is directly proportional to the amount of arms its rival has and also to the grievances felt toward the rival, and negatively proportional to the amount of arms it already has itself. Solution of this system of equations allows insightful conclusions to be made regarding the nature, and the stability or instability, of various hypothetical conditions which might be obtained between nations.
Bob Moses was an American educator and civil rights activist known for his work as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on voter education and registration in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, and his co-founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. As part of his work with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of the Mississippi branches of the four major civil rights organizations (SNCC, CORE, NAACP, SCLC), he was the main organizer for the Freedom Summer Project.
Born and raised in Harlem, he was a graduate of Hamilton College and later earned a Master’s degree in philosophy at Harvard University. He spent the 1960s working in the civil rights and anti-war movements, until he was drafted in 1966 and left the country, spending much of the following decade in Tanzania, teaching and working with the Ministry of Education.
After returning to the US, in 1982, Moses received a MacArthur Fellowship and began developing the Algebra Project. The math literacy program emphasizes teaching algebra skills to minority students based on broad-based community organizing and collaboration with parents, teachers, and students, to improve college and job readiness.
Helene Stähelin was a Swiss mathematician, teacher, and peace activist. Helene Stähelin was born in the vicarage of Wintersingen Stähelin attended the Basel girls’ school and then studied mathematics at the Universities of Basel and Göttingen. Since there was a surplus of teachers in Basel at the time, in 1922 she accepted a position as a teacher of mathematics and natural sciences at the Daughters’ Institute in Ftan in Graubünden. In 1924 she received her doctorate from Hans Mohrmann and Otto Spiess in Basel. From 1934 to 1956 Stähelin was a secondary school teacher at the Protestant high school in Zug. After her retirement she returned to Basel and worked for several years as a colleague of Otto Spiess on the Bernoulli Edition.
As a pacifist, Stähelin was active in the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom (IFFF) against scientific warfare. She chaired the Swiss section of the IFFF from 1948 to 1967. During Stähelin’s tenure, the UN, the atomic bomb and the Vietnam War were particularly important issues for the IFFF. Through her commitment, she attracted the attention of the authorities in the mid-1950s and was temporarily under state surveillance. Stähelin represented the League in the Swiss Peace Council. She campaigned for the introduction of women’s suffrage and suffrage.
Stähelin was a member of the Swiss Mathematical Society from 1926 until her death.
Bastille Day, which is a national holiday in France, is the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. It celebrates the actions of a mob of Frenchmen, tired of the rule of their king, who stormed a prison to get weapons and free prisoners. It marked the start of the French Revolution. The Revolution resulted in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which served as a constitution and proclaimed the rights of French citizens.
Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher, physicist, inventor, writer, and mathematician who is known for his invention of the mechanical calculator.
Pascal also contributed greatly to other research areas such as probability theory, projective geometry, cycloid and the arithmetic triangle known as Pascal’s triangle.
Pascal’s development of probability theory was his most influential contribution to mathematics. Originally applied to gambling, today it is extremely important in economics, especially in actuarial science. John Ross writes, “Probability theory and the discoveries following it changed the way we regard uncertainty, risk, decision-making, and an individual’s and society’s ability to influence the course of future events.” However, Pascal and Fermat, though doing important early work in probability theory, did not develop the field very far. Christiaan Huygens, learning of the subject from the correspondence of Pascal and Fermat, wrote the first book on the subject. Later figures who continued the development of the theory include Abraham de Moivre and Pierre-Simon Laplace.
In 1654, prompted by his friend the Chevalier de Méré, he corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on the subject of gambling problems, and from that collaboration was born the mathematical theory of probabilities. The specific problem was that of two players who want to finish a game early and, given the current circumstances of the game, want to divide the stakes fairly, based on the chance each has of winning the game from that point. From this discussion, the notion of expected value was introduced. Pascal later (in the Pensées) used a probabilistic argument, Pascal’s wager, to justify belief in God and a virtuous life. The work done by Fermat and Pascal into the calculus of probabilities laid important groundwork for Leibniz’ formulation of the calculus.
Joseph Fourier was a pioneering French mathematician and physicist, famous for developing the Fourier Series, which eventually developed into Fourier analysis and harmonic analysis, and their applications to problems of heat transfer and vibrations. Fourier is also famously known for discovering the greenhouse effect explaining how the Earth should ideally be much cooler than it is and the reason for this heat was incoming solar radiation.
Fourier left an unfinished work on determining and locating real roots of polynomials, which was edited by Claude-Louis Navier and published in 1831. This work contains much original matter—in particular, Fourier’s theorem on polynomial real roots, published in 1820. François Budan, in 1807 and 1811, had published independently his theorem (also known by the name of Fourier), which is very close to Fourier’s theorem (each theorem is a corollary of the other). Fourier’s proof is the one that was usually given, during the 19th century, in textbooks on the theory of equations. A complete solution of the problem was given in 1829 by Jacques Charles François Sturm.
Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States, with varying official recognition. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.
Through much of the 1800s and even into the twentieth century, African-Americans were thought incapable of high intellectual achievement. In the United States, this is partly a result of slavery, which created a negative image of blacks in the public mind, a view that was reinforced by pseudoscientific findings that “proved” the inferiority of African-Americans. While there are many other reasons for these erroneous views, the truth is that African-Americans are as capable as members of any other race, a fact that is amply demonstrated by the success of the African-American mathematicians below.
Although best known as an African-American scientist, Benjamin Banneker was a multi-talented person who self-educated himself in astronomy and mathematics. He was also a writer, compiler of almanacs, surveyor and inventor. At the age of 24, Banneker observed a wrist-watch and used it to construct his own clock from wood which struck on the hour. He created puzzles for trigonometry which demonstrated his knowledge of logarithms. Banneker also attempted to find the exact lengths of an equilateral triangle which is inscribed within a circle where the diameter of the circle is known. He brought about a positive contribution in mathematics years before any black mathematician came to rise.
In August 19, 1791, Banneker wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, where he complains that although African Americans “have long been considered rather as brutish than human, and scarcely capable of mental endowments, . . . one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties.” In the letter Banneker also quotes from the first lines of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
Elbert Frank Cox was the first African-American ever to receive a PhD in Mathematics, which he earned in 1925 from Cornell University. In his 40 year-long teaching career, he taught at Howard University and West Virginia State College.
The National Association of Mathematicians established the Cox-Talbot Address in his honor, which is annually delivered at the NAM’s national meetings. The Elbert F. Cox Scholarship Fund, which is used to help black students pursue studies, is also named in his honor.
Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman to receive a PhD in Mathematics from an American university which she earned in 1949 from Yale University. She graduated from Smith College in 1945 and performed pioneering work in the field of computing.
She took a position at California State University, Los Angeles in 1967 as a full professor of mathematics. After retiring from CSULA in 1984, she taught at Texas College for four years, and then in 1990 joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Tyler as the Sam A. Lindsey Professor of mathematics. There she developed elementary school math enrichment programs. Since 1967, Granville has remained a strong advocate for women’s education in tech.
Arab American Heritage Month
Arabic mathematicians have always been remembered for developing algebra and trigonometry, combining Greek geometry with Indian and Babylonian ideas, re-introducing zero to modern civilization, and contributing through applied mathematics in astronomy.
Muslim mathematician and astronomer whose major works introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals and the concepts of algebra into European mathematics. Latinized versions of his name and of his most famous book title live on in the terms algorithm and algebra.
In the 12th century a second work by al-Khwārizmī introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals and their arithmetic to the West. It is preserved only in a Latin translation, Algoritmi de numero Indorum (“Al-Khwārizmī Concerning the Hindu Art of Reckoning”). From the name of the author, rendered in Latin as Algoritmi, originated the term algorithm.
Finally, al-Khwārizmī also compiled a set of astronomical tables (Zīj), based on a variety of Hindu and Greek sources. This work included a table of sines, evidently for a circle of radius 150 units. Like his treatises on algebra and Hindu-Arabic numerals, this astronomical work (or an Andalusian revision thereof) was translated into Latin.
Al-Khwārizmī’s contributions to mathematics, geography, astronomy, and cartography established the basis for innovation in algebra and trigonometry.
Abu Kamil Shuja’ ibn Aslamwas a prominent mathematician of Islamic Golden age who is considered the first mathematician to use irrational numbers as solutions and coefficients to equations methodically. Fibonacci later embraced this method; it made Abu Kamil harbinger of algebra to Europe. His contribution to algebra and geometry were plenty. He effortlessly worked on algebraic equations having powers higher than x2, solved sets of non-linear simultaneous equations with three unknown variables, exemplified the rules of signs for expanding the multiplication, and always computed all possible solutions to some of his problems. One of his strengths was to write the issues rhetorically, rather than to use mathematical notation. It made it understandable even to ordinary people.
Roshidi Rashed is a mathematician, philosopher, and historian of science. He is well known for his work on illuminating the works of medieval Arab mathematicians and physicists. He highlights through his work the unrecognized Arabic scientific tradition. It is through the numerous publications that he has highlighted the immense contributions of the Arabic world to the development and formalization of mathematics.
There was a time when the Arab world was far ahead from all its peers. Thousands of years ago, it had tremendous technological advantages over the west in many fields, but the most prominent among them was in Mathematics. It is impressive to note that in the medieval period, the task of translating the work of Greek and Hindu mathematicians was almost an industry in its own right. The tradition has continued and even today, many Arabic mathematicians show the way in this field.
Women’s History Month
In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to recognize the accomplishments of a group of Female Mathematicians.
Iranian-born Maryam Mirzakhani was one of the greatest mathematicians of her generation, making exceptional contributions to the study of the dynamics and geometry of mathematical objects called Riemann surfaces.
She was a professor at Stanford University and held a Ph.D from Harvard University. In 2014, she was the first and only woman, and first Iranian, to be awarded a Fields Medal (also known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics) for “her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces”. In 2005, as a result of her research, she was honored in Popular Science’s fourth annual “Brilliant 10” in which she was acknowledged as one of the top 10 young minds who have pushed their fields in innovative directions.
Her work had a huge impact in shaping her field and has opened up new frontiers of research that are just starting to be explored. She shows us that, even in a male-dominated field, women can be role models and lead the way forward with their discoveries.
Mary Cartwright was a British mathematician and a woman of many firsts! She was not only the first woman to obtain a first in her university degree, but also one of the first mathematicians to study what is now known as chaos theory. She was the first woman to receive the Sylvester Medal (awarded for the encouragement of mathematical research), the first woman to be President of the Mathematical Association and the first woman to be President of the London Mathematical Society.
Thanks to her bravery in daring to defy the status quo, her work has gone on to strongly influence the modern theory of dynamical systems, and she even has a mathematical theorem named after her.
Mary Jackson, also known as Mary Winston, was an American mathematician and aerospace engineer who in 1958 became the first African American female engineer to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
In 1951, she started working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), where she was a member of its West Area Computing unit – the West Computers, comprising African American female mathematicians – and Jackson’s supervisor was Dorothy Vaughan. The women provided data that were later essential to the early success of the U.S. space program. At the time, NACA was segregated, with Black employees required to use separate bathrooms and dining facilities. In1958, she became the first Black female engineer at NASA, which had been established earlier that year; NACA had been incorporated into it.
Jackson worked as an aerospace engineer for some 20 years. Much of her work centered on the airflow around aircraft. Despite early promotions, she was denied management-level positions, and in 1979 she left engineering and took a demotion to become manager of the women’s program at NASA. In that position, she sought to improve the opportunities for all women at the organization. She retired in 1985.
Jackson’s contributions to the space program received greater recognition after her death in 2005. She and other West Computers – including Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson – were the inspiration for Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which was made into an acclaimed film; both were released in 2016.
Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, we would like to recognize the accomplishments of a group of African-American Mathematicians.
Fern Hunt attended Bryn Mawr College, earning an AB in mathematics in 1969. She went on to earn a master’s degree and PhD in mathematics from the Courant Institute of Mathematics at New York University. Her PhD thesis (1978) Genetic and Spatial Variation in some Selection-Migration Models was advised by Frank Hoppensteadt.
Fern lectures at colleges and universities in order to encourage students in mathematics. She uses her experiences of the setbacks she experienced as a black woman in mathematics to mentor minority students interested in mathematics. In 1998 she was an instructor at a summer workshop for women entering PhD programs in mathematics run by the Edge Foundation (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education).
In 2000, Hunt received the Arthur S. Flemming Award for her contributions to probability and stochastic modeling, mathematical biology, computational geometry, nonlinear dynamics, computer graphics, and parallel computing. From 1988 to 1991, she was a member of the Graduate Record Examination Mathematics Advisory Board. She has been a member of the Bryn Mawr College board of trustees since 1992 and the Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee for the Department of Energy since 1994.
Hunt was included in the 2019 class of fellows of the American Mathematical Society “for outstanding applications of mathematics to science and technology, exceptional service to the US government, and for outreach and mentoring”. The Association for Women in Mathematics has included her in the 2020 class of AWM Fellows for “her exceptional commitment to outreach and mentoring; for her sustained efforts to make the AWM organization more inclusive; for her service to higher education and government; and for inspiring those underrepresented in mathematics with her work in ergodic theory, probability, and computation.”
Hunt’s work earned her recognition by Mathematically Gifted & Black as a Black History Month 2017 Honoree.
Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr. was an African American nuclear scientist, mechanical engineer and mathematician. A child prodigy, he attended the University of Chicago at the age of 13, becoming its youngest ever student. His graduation at a young age resulted in him being hailed as “the Negro Genius” in the national media.
Wilkins had a widely varied career, spanning seven decades and including significant contributions to pure and applied mathematics, civil and nuclear engineering, and optics. Wilkins was one of the African American scientists and technicians on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. He also conducted nuclear physics research in both academia and industry. He wrote numerous scientific papers, served in various important posts, earned several significant awards and helped recruit minority students into the sciences.
In 1940, Wilkins completed his AB in mathematics at the University of Chicago. He went on to an MS and PhD in mathematics at the same institution, which he completed in 1941 and 1942.
In 1944 he returned to the University of Chicago where he served first as an associate mathematical physicist and then as a physicist in its Metallurgical Laboratory, as part of the Manhattan Project. Working under the direction of Arthur Holly Compton and Enrico Fermi, Wilkins researched the extraction of fissionable nuclear materials, but was not told of the research group’s ultimate goal until after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Wilkins was the co-discoverer or discoverer of a number of phenomena in physics such as the Wilkins effect and the Wigner–Wilkins spectra.
In 1970 Wilkins went on to serve Howard University as its distinguished professor of Applied Mathematical Physics and also helped found the university’s new PhD program in mathematics. During his tenure at Howard he undertook a sabbatical position as a visiting scientist at Argonne National Laboratory from 1976 to 1977. From 1990 Wilkins lived and worked in Atlanta, Georgia as a Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at Clark Atlanta University, and retired again for the last time in 2003.
Throughout his years of research Wilkins published more than 100 papers on a variety of subjects, including differential geometry, linear differential equations, integrals, nuclear engineering, gamma radiation shielding and optics, garnering numerous professional and scientific awards along the way.
Annie Jean Easley was an American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. She worked for the Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). She was a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and was one of the first African-Americans to work at NASA. Easley was posthumously inducted into the Glenn Research Hall of Fame in 2015. On February 1, 2021, a crater on the moon was named after Easley by the IAU.
In 1955, Easley read a story in a local newspaper about twin sisters who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as “computers”. She applied for a job the next day and was hired two weeks later – one of four African Americans out of about 2500 employees. She began her career as a computer at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (which became NASA Lewis Research Center, 1958–1999, and subsequently the John H. Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, Ohio. Later after electronic computers started being used at NASA her title changed to mathematician and computer technician. After receiving her degree Easley also had to complete specialization courses at NASA in order to be considered a professional at NASA. Easley was denied financial aid that other employees received for education, without explanation from the agency. She also noted that she did not feel that her pay was very high when she first started with two years of college. Although she was promised a GS-3 in her interview, her first paycheck was a GS-2, and when she questioned it, she was told there were no more GS-3s available.
Easley lived in a time where women and African-Americans were facing discrimination from society, although she prided herself in her work ethic and achieved her goals nonetheless. She also experienced some discrimination related to being an African-American during her career, especially with the picture-cutting incident at her work, when her face was cut out from a picture to put it on display. In her 34-year career she worked in four different departments: the Computer Services Division, the Energy Directorate, the Launch Vehicles Group and the Engineering Directorate, although none of her moves were due to promotions, which she recognized may have been due to her race or sex.
Throughout the 1970s, Easley advocated for and encouraged female and minority students at college career days to work in STEM careers. She tutored elementary and high school children as well as young adults who had dropped out of school in a work-study program.
National Braille Literacy Month
Lev Semenovich Pontryagin was a Soviet mathematician. He was born in Moscow and lost his eyesight completely due to an unsuccessful eye surgery after a primus stove explosion when he was 14.
Despite his blindness he was able to become one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, partially with the help of his mother Tatyana Andreevna who read mathematical books and papers (notably those of Heinz Hopf, J. H. C. Whitehead, and Hassler Whitney) to him. He made major discoveries in a number of fields of mathematics, including algebraic topology and differential topology. Pontryagin authored several influential monographs as well as popular textbooks in mathematics.
Louis Antoine was a French mathematician who discovered Antoine’s necklace, which J. W. Alexander used to construct Antoine’s horned sphere. He lost his eyesight in the first World War, at the age of 29.
In 1919, Antoine began his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Strasbourg. Antoine was assisted by his friends during his studies, who produced braille copies of mathematical papers. Antoine developed a system of braille mathematical notation, with the assistance of a student at École Normale Supérieure. Antoine discovered Antoine’s necklace in 1921. He submitted his thesis in 1921. In 1922, Antoine became an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Sciences in Rennes. He subsequently became a professor of Pure Mathematics at Rennes in 1925.
Emmanuel Giroux is a blind French geometer known for his research on contact geometry and open book decompositions. Giroux has Marfan syndrome, because of which he became blind at the age of 11. He earned a doctorate from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1991 under the supervision of François Laudenbach
He has been the director of the Unit of Mathematics, Pure and Applied (UMPA) at the École normale supérieure de Lyon. In 2015, he left Lyon to co-direct the Unité Mixte International of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique and the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Giroux is known for finding a correspondence between contact structures on three-dimensional manifolds and open book decompositions of those manifolds. This result allows contact geometry to be studied using the tools of low-dimensional topology. It has been called a breakthrough by other mathematicians. In 2002 he was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians.
Human Rights Month
Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. Her social influence as a pioneer in space science and computing is demonstrated by the honors she received and her status as a role model for a life in science. Johnson was named West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1999. President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of 17 Americans so honored on November 24, 2015. She was cited as a pioneering example of African-American women in STEM. President Obama said at the time, “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.” NASA noted her “historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist. She was also featured in Vanity Fair for being a Human Rights activist in 2016.
Lee Lorch was an American mathematician, early civil rights activist, and communist. His leadership in the campaign to desegregate Stuyvesant Town, a large housing development on the East Side of Manhattan, helped eventually to make housing discrimination illegal in the United States but also resulted in Lorch losing his own job twice. He and his family then moved to the Southern United States where he and his wife, Grace Lorch, became involved in the American civil rights movement there while also teaching at several Black colleges. He encouraged black students to pursue studies in mathematics and mentored several of the first black men and women to earn PhDs in mathematics in the United States. After moving to Canada as a result of McCarthyism, he ended his career as professor emeritus of mathematics at York University in Toronto, Ontario.
Kandalla Balagopal was a human rights activist, mathematician and lawyer who was known for his work on the issue of civil liberties and human rights. He was a staunch civil liberties activist in Andhra Pradesh. He had broken away from the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), with which he was associated since its inception in ‘80’s, on the issue of violence perpetrated by the erstwhile CPI-ML Peoples War. He was a writer on people’s issues and had recently written about the developments on the Maoist front in west Bengal. Balagopal was a mathematician, he began his career as a teacher in Warangal but soon turned full-time human rights activist. He was a Mathematics professor at Kakatiya University before quitting in 1985. He did his PhD in Kakatiya University. He chose to become a lawyer much later, after getting fully associated with the human rights movement.
Robert Parris Moses
Robert Parris Moses is an American educator and civil rights activist, known for his work as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on voter education and registration in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, and his co-founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. He is a graduate of Hamilton College and completed a master’s in philosophy at Harvard University. Since 1982 Moses has developed the nationwide Algebra Project in the United States. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship and other awards for this work, which emphasizes teaching algebra skills to minority students based on broad-based community organizing and collaboration with parents, teachers and students. He currently runs the Algebra Project, which is a continued effort to improve math education in poor communities with the goal of sending more students to the workforce. Starting as a civil rights leader and transitioning into an advocate for the poor through his work with the Algebra Project, Moses has revolutionized the ideal of equal opportunity and has played a vital role in making it a reality.