Someone You Should Know: Karen Uhlenbeck

Karen Uhlenbeck

Dr. Uhlenbeck was born in Ohio in 1942. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1964 and her M.A. and Ph.D. (1966 and 1968 respectively) from Brandeis University where she worked under the supervision of Richard Palais. After moving around for a few years, Dr. Uhlenbeck became the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chairholder at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is currently a professor emeritus. She also holds positions as a visiting associate at the Institute for Advanced Study and as a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University.

In March 2019, Dr. Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize for her work in partial differential equations, gauge theory, and integrable systems. She is one of the founders of the field of geometric analysis which uses differential geometry to study solutions to differential equations.
Dr. Uhlenbeck has received several other awards as well. She won the National Medal of Science in 2000 and the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research of the American Mathematical Society in 2007. She is a MacArthur Fellow and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. She is also a Guggenheim Fellow, an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society, and a Fellow of the AMS. She gave the Noether Lecture for the Association of Women in Mathematics in 1988. In 1990, she was a plenary speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians where she was only the second woman after Emmy Noether to give such a lecture. 

In 1991, Dr. Uhlenbeck co-founded the Park City Mathematics Institute with Herbert Clemens and Dan Freed. She also co-founded the Women and Mathematics Program at the Institute for Advanced Study. She has served as a role model, particularly for young women in mathematics, throughout her entire career. 

For more information about Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck, see her Wikipedia page, her personal profile, this inclusion/exclusion blog post, our previous post, or any of the hundreds of articles that have been posted about her since her Abel Prize was announced.

Someone You Should Know: David Blackwell

David Blackwell

Dr. David Harold Blackwell was born in 1919. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics in 1938, his Master of Arts in Mathematics in 1939, and his Ph.D. in Statistics in 1941, all from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. He was a professor of statistics at University of California at Berkeley until his retirement in 2008. He is the seventh African American to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Dr. Blackwell is also the first and only African American to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a President of the American Statistical Society, and a Vice President of the America Mathematics Society. In 1979, Dr. Blackwell won the von Neumann Theory Prize.

Dr. Blackwell was appointed a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1941-1942. As a member of the Institute, he was listed as a visiting fellow of Princeton University. There had never been an African American student or faculty fellow at the university. Dr. Blackwell’s colleagues wanted to extend his appointment at the institute, but the president of Princeton opposed it.

Dr. Blackwell applied to all 105 Black schools in the country at the time, and joined Howard University in 1944. After 3 years, he earned the rank of Full Professor and Chairman. Despite heavy teaching and administrative duties, he published substantial amounts of research, spending summers at the RAND corporation and a visiting professor at Stanford University in 1950-1951. Dr. Blackwell stayed at Howard until 1954 and was appointed Professor of Statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was chairman of the Statistics Department.

For more information about Dr. Blackwell, see his page on Mathematics of the African Diaspora or his Wikipedia page.

Someone You Should Know: Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Dr. Haynes was born Martha Euphemia Lofton, though she rarely went by the name Martha. She grew up in Washington, D.C. She received her Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Smith College in 1914, a Master’s in education from University of Chicago in 1930, and her Ph.D. in mathematics from The Catholic University of America in 1943. She was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

Dr. Haynes spent 45 years teaching in Washington, D.C. at the elementary level to university level. She served as professor of mathematics at Miner Teaching College, organizing and chairing the department. After desegregation, she was a professor and chair of the DC Teacher College until her retirement in 1959.

Dr. Haynes was very involved with service to her community, starting at a young age through her church. She was a member of the United Service Organization, the National Committee on Service to Negroes, and the National Committee on Service to Women and Girls. She was also a member of the American Mathematical Society, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, president of the National Association of College Women-DC Branch, and chairman of the Committee on Education for Sigma Delta Epsilon.

Shortly after her retirement, Dr. Haynes was selected to serve on the DC school board. In this role, she fought to end the “track system”, which placed students on a college prep curriculum, general curriculum, or basic curriculum. This led to the Hobson v. Hansen district court case in 1966, where the court ruled that black and poor students were unconstitutionally deprived of their right to equal education.

Dr. Haynes died in 1980 in Washington, D.C. She lived a life full of faith and service. Issues that she fought still continue this day, including unequal access to public education, unequal quality of education in poorer neighborhoods, and divisions among race and income for gifted and talented programs.

For more information on Dr. Haynes, see this AMS Notices article or her Wikipedia biography.

Someone You Should Know: Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden

Dr. Christine Darden was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1942. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Hampton Institute, her Master’s in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College, and her Ph. D. in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University.

Dr. Darden started her career teaching mathematics to college and high school students. In 1967, she was added as a ‘human computer’ at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She worked for NASA for almost 40 years, retiring in 2007.

At NASA, she began processing data and doing calculations. Dr. Darden was upset that males with equivalent educational backgrounds were being promoted to engineer while she remained as a ‘computer’. After approaching her supervisor about the issue, he promoted her to the engineering division where she was one of the few female aerospace engineers at the time.

Her first task in the engineering division was to write a computer program for the sonic boom. This began her 25-year career in sonic boom minimization. She wrote more than 57 papers and articles while at NASA and was awarded two NASA medals, the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award, and the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Darden acknowledged that she was “able to stand on the shoulders of those women who came before me,” such as Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who were depicted in the film “Hidden Figures”.