A pioneer in mathematics: First woman math Ph.D. in America

Mar 15, 2012

Winifred Edgerton Merrill (1862-1951) was the first woman to receive a PhD in mathematics in the United States. Throughout her life, she worked to advance women in a male-dominated society. She helped to found Barnard College, the renowned women's college affiliated with Columbia University, and she founded a college preparatory school for girls.

As March is National Women's History Month, it is a fitting moment to look back on the life of this outstanding pioneer. Merrill's compelling story is told in an article appearing in the April 2012 issue of the Notices of the , "Winifred Edgerton Merrill: `She Opened the Door'", by Susan E. Kelly and Sarah A. Rozner.

Nowadays it is difficult to imagine a time when women were not permitted to attend university lectures. And yet this is the stricture Merrill faced as a at Columbia University. Therefore, most women studied from course textbooks. The men in one of the courses Merrill wanted to take persuaded the instructor to adopt an especially difficult text, with the hope that Merrill would then fail. Unbeknownst to them, she had already studied the text as an undergraduate at Wellesley. When she received her PhD from Columbia in 1886, the event was so extraordinary it was covered in the New York Times.

Explore further: A numbers game: Math helps to predict how the body fights disease

More information: www.ams.org/notices

Provided by American Mathematical Society

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

An oblique look on the north lunar far west

Aug 09, 2006

This image, taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, provides an 'oblique' view of the lunar surface towards the limb, around the Mezentsev, Niepce and Merrill ...

Study: Women at least as violent as men

May 24, 2006

Women are at least as violent as men, concludes a controversial University of New Hampshire survey of 13,600 college students in 32 nations.

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

18 hours ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

18 hours ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

19 hours ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.