Lillian R.Lieber

Frustrated with the way math is taught in schools, Lillian R. Lieber created unconventional, popular books to excite young readers and incite their curiosity. Lieber studied at Barnard and Columbia before earning her PhD from Clark University in 1914. From 1917–1918 she led the physics department at Wells College in Aurora, New York and taught at various schools before joining the math department at Long Island University in 1934. Her husband, Hugh Gray Lieber, was chair of the math department, but when he moved to chair the art department, Lillian R. Lieber succeeded him as math department chair from 1945–1954, when she retired. Lieber often pointed out that although most developments in math happened after 1800, students didn’t learn about those exciting, newer aspects until college. Beginning in 1931, she began creating books written in free verse, illustrated by her husband, that explained concepts like non-Euclidean geometry, lattice theory, and Einstein’s theory of relativity in an approachable but mathematically rigorous way, a precursor to Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time. Lieber’s books engaged readers and encouraged them to question long-held assumptions as a path to discovery and innovation.

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Mathematician Lillian Lieber.
Courtesy of Robert Jantzen.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian R. Lieber." (Viewed on March 5, 2021) <>.


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