Timeline of women in mathematics

This is a timeline of women in mathematics.


Early Common Era

Before 350: Pandrosion, a Greek Alexandrine mathematician known for an approximate solution to doubling the cube and a simplified exact solution to the construction of the geometric mean.[1]

c. 350–370 until 415: The lifetime of Hypatia, a Greek Alexandrine Neoplatonist philosopher in Egypt who was the first well-documented woman in mathematics.[2]

18th Century

1748: Italian mathematician Maria Agnesi published the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus, called Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana.[3][4]

1759: French mathematician Émilie du Châtelet's translation and commentary on Isaac Newton's work Principia Mathematica was published posthumously; it is still considered the standard French translation.[5]

c. 1787 – 1797: Self-taught Chinese astronomer Wang Zhenyi published at least twelve books and multiple articles on astronomy and mathematics.[6]

19th Century

1827: French mathematician Sophie Germain saw her theorem, known as Germain's Theorem, published in a footnote of a book by the mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre.[7][8] In this theorem Germain proved that if x, y, and z are integers and if x5 + y5 = z5 then either x, y, or z must be divisible by 5. Germain's theorem was a major step toward proving Fermat's last theorem for the case where n equals 5.[7]

1829: The first public examination of an American girl in geometry was held.[9]

1874: Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya became the first woman in modern Europe to gain a doctorate in mathematics, which she earned from the University of Göttingen in Germany.[10]

1880: Charlotte Angas Scott of Britain obtained special permission to take the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos Exam, as women were not normally allowed to sit for the exam. She came eighth on the Tripos of all students taking them, but due to her sex, the title of "eighth wrangler," a high honour, went officially to a male student.[11] At the ceremony, however, after the seventh wrangler had been announced, all the students in the audience shouted her name. Because she could not attend the award ceremony, Scott celebrated her accomplishment at Girton College where there were cheers and clapping at dinner, and a special evening ceremony where the students sang "See the Conquering Hero Comes", and she received an ode written by a staff member, and was crowned with laurels.[11]

1886: Winifred Edgerton Merrill became the first American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, which she earned from Columbia University.[12]

1888: The Kovalevskaya top, one of a brief list of known examples of integrable rigid body motion, was discovered by Sofia Kovalevskaya.[13][14]

1889: Sofia Kovalevskaya was appointed as the first female professor in Northern Europe, at the University of Stockholm.[10][15]

1890: Philippa Fawcett who was educated at Newnham College, became the first woman to obtain the top score in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos Exam. Her score was 13 per cent higher than the second highest score. When the women's list was announced, Fawcett was described as "above the senior wrangler", but she did not receive the title of senior wrangler, as at that time only men could receive degrees and therefore only men were eligible for the Senior Wrangler title.[16][17]

20th Century

1913: American mathematician Mildred Sanderson published her theorem about modular invariants in her thesis. It states: “To any modular invariant i of a system of forms under any group G of linear transformations with coefficients in the GF[pn], there corresponds a formal invariant I under G such that I = i for all sets of values in the field of the coefficients of the system of forms.” She was Leonard Dickson’s first female graduate student, and he later wrote of her thesis, “This paper is a highly important contribution to this field of work; its importance lies partly in the fact that it establishes a correspondence between modular and formal invariants. Her main theorem has already been frequently quoted on account of its fundamental character. Her proof is a remarkable piece of mathematics.” E.T. Bell wrote, “Miss Sanderson’s single contribution (1913) to modular invariants has been rated by competent judges as one of the classics of the subject.”[18]

1918: German mathematician Emmy Noether published Noether's (first) theorem, which states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law.[19]

1927: American mathematician Anna Pell-Wheeler became the first woman to present a lecture at the American Mathematical Society Colloquium.[20]

1930: Cecilia Kreiger became the first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics in Canada, at the University of Toronto.[21]

1930s: British mathematician Mary Cartwright proved her theorem, now known as Cartwright's theorem, which gives an estimate for the maximum modulus of an analytic function that takes the same value no more than p times in the unit disc. To prove the theorem she used a new approach, applying a technique introduced by Lars Ahlfors for conformal mappings.[22]

1943: Euphemia Haynes became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, which she earned from Catholic University of America.[23]

1949: American mathematician Gertrude Mary Cox became the first woman elected into the International Statistical Institute.[24]

1956: American mathematician Gladys West began collecting data from satellites at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. Her calculations directly impacted the development of accurate GPS systems.[25]


1960 and 1966: British mathematician Lucy Joan Slater published two books about the hypergeometric functions from the Cambridge University Press.[26][27]

1962: American mathematician Mina Rees became the first woman to win the Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics, which is the most prestigious award made by the Mathematical Association of America.[20]

1963: Grace Alele-Williams became the first Nigerian woman to earn a Ph.D when she defended her thesis in Mathematics Education at the University of Chicago (U.S.)[28][29]

1964: Mary Cartwright became the first woman to win the Sylvester Medal of the Royal Society of London, which is given every three years since 1901 for the encouragement of mathematical research, without regard to nationality.[20]

1966: American mathematician and physics professor Mary L. Boas published Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, which was still widely used in college classrooms as of 1999.[30][31][32]

1968: Mary Cartwright became the first woman to win the De Morgan Medal, the London Mathematical Society's premier award.[20]


1970: American mathematician Mina Rees became the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[33]

1971: American mathematician Mary Ellen Rudin constructed the first Dowker space.[34][35]

1971: The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) was founded. It is a professional society whose mission is to encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity for and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences. It is incorporated in America in the state of Massachusetts.[36]

1971: The Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences (JCW), was founded as a committee of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). It is now a joint committee of seven mathematical and statistical societies which works to identify mechanisms for the enhancement of opportunities for women in the mathematical and statistical sciences, recommend actions to the governing bodies of the member societies in support of these opportunities, and document its recommendations by presenting data.[37]

1973: American mathematician Jean Taylor published her dissertation on “Regularity of the Singular Set of Two-Dimensional Area-Minimizing Flat Chains Modulo 3 in R3” which solved a long-standing problem about length and smoothness of soap-film triple function curves.[38]

1974: American mathematician Joan Birman published the book Braids, Links, and Mapping Class Groups. It has become a standard introduction, with many of today’s researchers having learned the subject through it.[39]

1975–1977: American amateur mathematician Marjorie Rice, who had no formal training in mathematics beyond high school, discovered three new types of tessellating pentagons and more than sixty distinct tessellations by pentagons.[40]

1975: American mathematician Julia Robinson became the first female mathematician elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[41]

1979: Mary Ellen Rudin became the first woman to present the Earle Raymond Hedrick Lectures; these lectures were established by the Mathematical Association of America in 1952 to present to the Association a lecturer of known skill as an expositor of mathematics "who will present a series of at most three lectures accessible to a large fraction of those who teach college mathematics."[20]

1979: American mathematician Dorothy Lewis Bernstein became the first female president of the Mathematical Association of America.[42]


1980: Joséphine Guidy Wandja, from the Ivory Coast, became the first African woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics[43][44]

1981: Canadian-American mathematician Cathleen Morawetz became the first female mathematician to give a Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture; these lectures are of a semi-popular nature and are given by invitation, and are usually devoted to mathematics or its applications.[20][45]

1981: American mathematician Doris Schattschneider became the first female editor of Mathematics Magazine.[46][47]

1982: Rebecca Walo Omana became the first female mathematics professor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[48][49]

1983: Julia Robinson became the first female president of the American Mathematical Society.[41]

1983: Julia Robinson became the first female mathematician to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[20]

1988: Doris Schattschneider became the first woman to present the J. Sutherland Frame Lectures, which are presented at the summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America.[20]


1992: American mathematician Gloria Gilmer became the first woman to deliver a major National Association of Mathematicians lecture (it was the Cox–Talbot address).[50]

1995: American mathematician Margaret Wright became the first female president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.[20]

1995: Israeli-Canadian mathematician Leah Edelstein-Keshet became the first female president of the Society for Mathematical Biology.[51]

1996: Joan Birman became the first woman to receive the Chauvenet Prize, which is awarded annually by the Mathematical Association of America to the author of an outstanding expository article on a mathematical topic by a member of the association.[20]

1996: Ioana Dumitriu, a New York University sophomore from Romania, became the first woman to be named a Putnam Fellow.[52] Putnam Fellows are the top five (or six, in case of a tie) scorers on The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.[53][54]

1998: Melanie Wood became the first female American to make the U.S. International Math Olympiad Team. She won silver medals in the 1998 and 1999 International Mathematical Olympiads.[55]

21st Century


2002: Susan Howson became the first woman to win the Adams Prize, given annually by the University of Cambridge to a British mathematician under the age of 40.[20]

2002: Melanie Wood became the first American woman and second woman overall to be named a Putnam Fellow in 2002.[56][57][58]

2004: Melanie Wood became the first woman to win the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student. It is an annual award given to an undergraduate student in the US, Canada, or Mexico who demonstrates superior mathematics research.[58]

2004: American Alison Miller became the first ever female gold medal winner on the U.S. International Math Olympiad Team.[59]

2006: Polish-Canadian mathematician Nicole Tomczak-Jaegermann became the first woman to win the CRM-Fields-PIMS prize, which recognizes exceptional achievement in the mathematical sciences.[20][60]

2006: Stefanie Petermichl, a German mathematical analyst then at the University of Texas at Austin, became the first woman to win the Salem Prize, an annual award given to young mathematicians considered to have done outstanding work in Raphael Salem's field of interest, primarily Fourier series and related areas in analysis.[61][20] She shared the prize with Artur Avila.[62][61]


2012: Latvian mathematician Daina Taimina became the first woman to win the Euler Book Prize, which is awarded annually to an author or authors of an outstanding book about mathematics, for her book Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes.[20][63]

2012: The Working Committee for Women in Mathematics, Chinese Mathematical Society (WCWM-CMS) was founded; it is a national non-profit academic organization in which female mathematicians who are engaged in research, teaching, and applications of mathematics can share their scientific research through academic exchanges both in China and abroad.[64] It is one of the branches of the Chinese Mathematical Society (CMS).[64]

2013: The African Women in Mathematics Association was founded. This professional organization with over 300 members promotes mathematics to African women and girls and supports female mathematicians.[65][66]

2014: Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman as well as the first Iranian to be awarded the Fields Medal, which she was awarded for "her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces."[67][68][69] She shared the prize with Martin Hairer, Manjul Bhargava, and Artur Avila.[70] It is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union, and is often viewed as the greatest honor a mathematician can receive.[71][72]

2016: French mathematician Claire Voisin received the CNRS Gold medal, the highest scientific research award in France.[73]

2016 The London Mathematical Society's Women in Mathematics Committee was awarded the Royal Society's inaugural Athena Prize.

2019: American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, with the award committee citing “the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics."[74][75]

See also

List of women in mathematics

Timeline of women in mathematics in the United States


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