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Former NBS Mathematical Pioneer Honored at Berkeley Math Institute Symposium

November 1999

Olga Taussky Todd

A symposium honoring Olga Taussky Todd, a mathematical pioneer and a former staff member of NBS, was held July 16-18 at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California. The symposium, entitled "The Olga Taussky Todd Celebration of Careers in Mathematics for Women" was organized and sponsored by the Association Women in Mathematics (AWM). The purpose of the meeting was threefold: (1) to honor one of the century's most important American mathematicians, Olga Taussky Todd (1906-1995), for her past contributions and service in government and academia, (2) to showcase contemporary women mathematicians whose careers mirror aspects of Tauskky Todd's work, and (3) to foster the careers and showcase the research of new and upcoming female mathematicians. Reflecting these goals, the formal meeting consisted of expositions of Olga Taussky's life and achievements, and a series of talks by plenary speakers on mathematical topics related to her research. Many of these were in applied mathematics --- indeed during the 1950's, Taussky-Todd and her husband John Todd worked for the Institute for Numerical Analysis (INA), part of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory of the National Bureau of Standards housed on the campus of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). There she was the center of a group of researchers who played a pivotal role in inaugurating modern rigorous numerical methods in linear algebra algorithms. These methods greatly facilitated application of newly emerging computing machines to scientific and engineering problems. For example, these developments in mathematical research accompanied NBS's construction of one the earliest modern computing machines, the SWAC (the Standard's Western Automatic Computer).

Several staff member's of ITL's Mathematical and Computational Sciences Division (MCSD) played important roles in the symposium. Dr. Isabel Beichl, an MCSD mathematician, and Dr. Dianne O'Leary, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland and MCSD faculty appointee, were members of the organizing committee. Dr. Beichl gave a presentation about Taussky Todd's years at NBS. MCSD mathematician Dr. Fern Hunt was a plenary speaker. In a talk entitled, "A Mathematician At NIST Today" she spoke about current interdisclipinary research on the light scattering properties of coated surfaces. All three staff members participated in the mentoring activities that were a uniquely engaging and lively part of the conference.

Videos of the conference are available.

Plenary speakers at the conference.
Plenary speakers at the conference included (from left) Cathleen Morawetz (Courant Institute), Helene Shapiro (Swarthmore College), Linda Petzold (University of California at Santa Barbara), Christa Binder (Technical University of Vienna), Fern Hunt (NIST), Lani Wu, and Lisa Goldberg (BARRA, Inc.). Photo copyright R. Dimitric, AWM.
NIST mathematician Isabel Beichl serves as a mentor.
In the AWM tradition, NIST mathematician Isabel Beichl (middle) serves as a mentor for Ruth Pfeiffer of the National Cancer Institute (left) and Lesley Ward of Harvey Mudd College. Photo copyright R. Dimitric, AWM.
NIST mathematician Fern Hunt (left) serves as a mentor.
NIST mathematician Fern Hunt (left) serves as a mentor for Deborah Heicklen of UC Berkeley (middle) and Helen Moore of Stanford University/Bowdoin College (right). Photo copyright R. Dimitric, AWM.
Organizers of the Olga Taussky Todd Celebration.
Organizers of the Olga Taussky Todd Celebration included (from left) AWM President Jean Taylor (Rutgers University), Bettye Anne Case (Florida State University), former AWM President Sylvia Weigand and Gail Ratcliff (University of Missouri), and Dianne O'Leary (University of Maryland and NIST). Photo copyright R. Dimitric, AWM.

These photos originally appeared in the SIAM News.

(bullet) Isabel Beichl (NIST/MCSD/OCGG)
(bullet) Fern Hunt (NIST/MCSD/MMG)

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Last updated: 2011-01-12.