Hertha Ayrton was a distinguished British scientist who was the first woman to receive the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society for a scientific work that was exclusively her own. She was committed to suffrage activism and ensuring proper recognition of women’s scientific work.
Cora Berliner was an economist and social scientist who held leadership positions in several major Jewish organizations in Germany between 1910 and 1942. These organizations included the Association of Jewish Youth Organizations in Germany, the Reich Representation of German Jews, and the League of Jewish Women.
Hilda Geiringer’s life epitomizes both the successes and frustrations of women in academia in the early twentieth century. A pioneering applied mathematician, she was the first woman to receive an academic appointment in mathematics at the University of Berlin. Despite her distinguished publications, after immigrating to the United States, she could find jobs only at women’s colleges.
Born in Hamburg on September 21, 1896, Käte Hamburger grew up in a middle-class home which enabled her, even as an adult, to obtain a relatively orderly academic education, even throughout World War I. She studied philosophy and graduated in Munich in 1922. The topics with which she dealt throughout her “writing life” became truly her own. Thus reading Jean Paul’s Titan during an illness shortly after her graduation resulted in her essay “The Problem of Death in Jean Paul.” Here we already see an inclination towards literature, even though her approach always remained philosophical.
Margarete Kahn was a student of the great mathematician David Hilbert (1862–1943), who decisively influenced the development of mathematics around the turn of the century. Of his sixty-nine doctoral students, six were women—four foreigners and two German-born Jewish women. Both the latter wrote their doctoral theses on topology and worked on Problem sixteen of the famous Twenty-three Mathematical Problems presented by Hilbert in a lecture he delivered in 1900 at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris.
Lillian R. Lieber devoted her professional life to introducing modern mathematics to young people and to making them aware of the political and ethical implications of science and mathematics. In her books and lectures, she noted that although as much mathematics was created since 1800 as in the period from the origin of mathematics until 1800, students were not taught any of the modern mathematics until they reached college. She believed that in order to get students excited about mathematics, it was essential to teach the revolutionary aspects of such fields as Galois theory of groups, non-Euclidean geometry, and modern logic. In a series of books, each devoted to a single branch of mathematics or physics, she treated these subjects as well as lattice theory, the theory of infinities, and Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Nelly Neumann completed her doctorate in synthetic geometry in 1909 at Breslau University, making her one of the first women in Germany to obtain such a degree. In her lifetime she provided career guidance to female university students and worked as a secondary school teacher, tackling the intersection of philosophy and mathematics.
Emmy Noether, a German mathematician, was the world leader in the twentieth-century development of modern “abstract” algebra. Her writing, the students she inspired, and their books wholly changed the form and content of higher algebra throughout the world.
Journalist, educator, homemaker, and community stalwart with a Ph.D. in physics, Mattie (née Levi) Rotenberg was born in Toronto to parents who had immigrated as teenagers when Jewish Toronto was a village with a population of barely 2000.
In October 2003 the European Commission published She Figures, a survey on women in science and technology in member countries and associates (including Israel), which cited statistics and other data that provide a basis for measuring the degree of progress towards equality of the sexes in these spheres.
As a physician, biostatistician, and demographer, Mindel Cherniack Sheps was acutely aware of the role science could play as a powerful social force. She taught that peace, social justice, and science were inextricably bound; humanism in any field must be based on social equity and knowledge.
A self-proclaimed “torchbearer for matrix theory,” Olga Taussky-Todd made the previously little-known field essential for scientists and mathematicians.