Former NBS Mathematical Pioneer Honored at Berkeley
Math Institute Symposium
November 1999

A symposium honoring Olga Taussky Todd, a mathematical pioneer and a former
staff member of NBS, was held July 1618 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 (19061995),
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, TausskyTodd 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 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. 

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 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 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.
