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Adrain, Robert (30 September 1775–10 August 1843), mathematician, was born in Carrickfergus, Ireland. Neither parent’s name is known; his father was a schoolteacher and a maker of mathematical instruments. Adrain was fifteen when both of his parents died. His early education, though good, had not included any mathematics beyond arithmetic. After becoming curious about algebraic notation, he began to teach himself algebra. Thus Adrain, like many of the American mathematicians with whom he would soon interact, was largely self-taught....

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Albert, Abraham Adrian (09 November 1905–06 June 1972), mathematician, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Elias Albert, a retail merchant and manufacturer, and Fannie Fradkin. Elias, who had left Russia initially for England, took the last name Albert before his marriage, in deference to the British prince consort; his original family name is unknown. In 1922 Adrian, as he was called, entered the University of Chicago, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1926. He stayed on at Chicago for his graduate training, hardly a surprise in light of his already pronounced mathematical talents and the fact that the mathematics program there was among the best in the nation at the time. After only one year, he received an M.S. in mathematics under the guidance of America’s premier algebraist, ...

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Alexander, James Waddell (19 September 1888–23 September 1971), mathematician, was born in Sea Bright, New Jersey, the son of John White Alexander, a noted artist and mural painter, and Elizabeth Alexander, the daughter of John Waddell Alexander, a president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Alexander received his B.S. in mathematics and physics from Princeton University in 1910 and his A.M. in 1911. He then served as an instructor at Princeton from 1911 to 1912 before continuing his studies abroad at the universities of Paris and Bologna. Upon returning to Princeton he received his Ph.D. in 1915 with a dissertation titled “Functions Which Map the Interior of the Unit Circle upon Simple Regions” and written under the direction of Thomas H. Gronwall. He remained at Princeton as an instructor (1915–1916) and a lecturer (1916–1917) before serving as a lieutenant (later as a captain) in the U.S. Army Ordnance Office at Aberdeen Proving Ground from 1917 to 1918. On 15 January 1917 Alexander married Natalia Levitzkaja; they had one son and one daughter....

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Artin, Emil (03 March 1898–20 December 1962), mathematician, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Emil Artin, an art dealer, and Emma Laura (maiden name unknown), an opera singer. After his father died, his mother remarried and moved with her children to Reichenberg, Bohemia (now Liberec, Czech Republic), southeast of Dresden. Artin returned to Vienna for his university studies but was drafted into the Austrian army after only one semester. Following World War I he did not return to Vienna but went to the University of Leipzig, where he studied chemistry and mathematics, the latter primarily with Gustav Herglotz. There his thesis for the Ph.D., which he earned in 1921, was devoted to quadratic extensions of the field of rational functions (of one variable) over finite constant fields....

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Ayres, Leonard Porter (15 September 1879–29 October 1946), educator, statistician, and economist, was born in Niantic, Connecticut, the son of Milan Church Ayres and Georgiana Gall. His father, a clergyman, author, and journalist, was editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. The family moved to Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, where Leonard received his early education in public schools. An avid bicycle racer, he participated in national matches as a young man. After receiving his Ph.B. degree from Boston University in 1902, he taught school in Puerto Rico, rising rapidly to become general superintendent of the island’s schools and chief of the Education Department’s Statistics Division in 1906. Returning to the states, he moved to New York City and joined the Russell Sage Foundation in 1908 to conduct investigations of the health and education of schoolchildren under the direction of ...

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Babson, Roger Ward (06 July 1875–05 March 1967), businessman, author, and philanthropist, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Babson, a dry-goods merchant and wholesaler, and Ellen Stearns. As a child, Babson spent his summers in Gloucester on his paternal grandfather’s farm, an experience that later prompted him to write that he “owed more to that farm than any educational institution.” Off the farm, the young Babson, who was a rowdy albeit “nervous” boy, worried his mother by associating not with other middle-class Yankee children but with the “Gould Courters,” an Irish street gang....

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Bartlett, William Holms Chambers (04 September 1804–11 February 1893), mathematician and astronomer, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of very poor parents whose names are unknown. The family moved when Bartlett was young to Missouri, where he obtained his early education. While this was apparently meager, his natural abilities were noted, and at the age of seventeen, through the good offices of Senator ...

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Bateman, Harry (29 May 1882–21 January 1946), mathematical physicist, was born in Manchester, England, the son of Samuel Bateman, a pharmaceutical chemist, and Marnie Elizabeth Bond. Bateman attended Trinity College of Cambridge University, from which he earned on the Mathematical Tripos examination his B.A. in 1903 as senior wrangler and an M.A. in 1906....

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Bell, Eric Temple (07 February 1883–21 December 1960), mathematician, was born in Peterhead, near Aberdeen, Scotland, the son of James Bell, a fish-curer and fruit grower, and Helen Jane Lindsay Lyall. When he was barely a year old, the family left England in 1884 for the United States. Following the death of his father in San José, California, Bell returned with his mother and older brother to England when he was thirteen. In 1898 he entered the Bedford Modern School, where Edward M. Langley inspired Bell’s lifelong interest in number theory and elliptical functions. In 1902, at age nineteen, he returned to the United States in order (as he later said) “to escape being shoved into Woolwich [home of the British Royal Arsenal] or the India Civil Service” (Bell, ...

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Bergmann, Gustav (04 May 1906–21 April 1987), philosopher and mathematician, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Fritz Bergmann, an import/export merchant, and Therese Pollack. Before Bergmann took a Ph.D. in mathematics with a minor in philosophy in 1928 at the University of Vienna, he had already been invited to join the famous Vienna Circle. This group of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians had adopted what they called logical positivism (or sometimes logical empiricism): advocating a scientific world view, they rejected traditional metaphysics and religion as meaningless and regarded ethical and aesthetic statements as only expressions of attitudes. As one of the youngest members of the Circle along with his Gymnasium classmate, the mathematical logician ...

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Bing, R. H. (20 October 1914–28 April 1986), mathematician, was born in Oakwood, Texas, the son of Rupert Henry Bing, a school district superintendent, and Lula May Thompson, a schoolteacher. Bing—who had no given names, only the initials R. H.—studied mathematics at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State University) in San Marcos; his interest in the subject arose from his mother’s influence. There he obtained the degrees of B.Ed. and B.S. in 1935. In order to receive an M.Ed., Bing took summer courses at the University of Texas in nearby Austin, where he came under the influence of the mathematician ...

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Birkhoff, George David (21 March 1884–12 November 1944), mathematician, was born in Overisel, Michigan, the son of David Birkhoff, a physician, and Jane Gertrude Droppers. During much of his youth, George lived with his family in Chicago, where he studied at the Lewis Institute from 1896 to 1902 and attended the University of Chicago for one year. He then went to Harvard University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1905 and a master’s degree in 1906. Birkhoff’s mathematical interest and skill were revealed at a young age when in 1901 he began a correspondence with mathematician Harry S. Vandiver on a problem in number theory that resulted in the publication in 1904 of a joint paper in the ...

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Blichfeldt, Hans Frederik (09 January 1873–16 November 1945), mathematician, was born in the village of Iller in Grønbaeck Sogn, Denmark, the son of Erhard Christoffer Laurentius Blichfeldt and Nielsine Maria Schøler, farmers. Although not poverty-stricken, the Blichfeldt family lived frugally, and the children worked in their earlier years to help make ends meet. After the family’s move to Copenhagen in 1881, Blichfeldt began to demonstrate his mathematical prowess. By the age of fifteen, he had discovered for himself the solutions of the general polynomial equations of the third and fourth degrees. At this same age, he earned the highest honors on a general preliminary state examination held at the University of Copenhagen. A lack of financial resources, however, prevented Blichfeldt from attending the university....

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Bliss, Gilbert Ames (09 May 1876–08 May 1951), mathematician, was born in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, the son of George Harrison Bliss and Mary Maria Gilbert. Although his father was president of the Chicago Edison Company, the panic of 1893 forced Bliss to pay his own way through college, which he did by earning a scholarship and by playing in a professional mandolin group. His degrees were all earned at the University of Chicago: B.S., 1897; M.S. in mathematical astronomy, 1898; Ph.D. in mathematics, 1900. He studied under ...

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Bôcher, Maxime (28 August 1867–12 September 1918), mathematician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Ferdinand Bôcher and Caroline Little. His father was the first professor of modern languages at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later was professor of French at Harvard. Young Bôcher received his early education at the Cambridge Latin School and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1888....

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Bochner, Salomon (20 August 1899–02 May 1982), mathematician, was born in Podgorze, Austria-Hungary, the son of Joseph Bochner, a businessman, and Rude Haber. In 1914 the family moved to Berlin, where Bochner obtained his Gymnasium education. In 1918 he entered the University of Berlin, from which he received a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1921, with the dissertation “Orthogonale Systeme analytischer und harmonischer Funktionen,” directed by E. Schmidt. In order to help his family survive the postwar economic difficulties, he worked for several years in the import-export business. He successfully pursued this occupation until being awarded an International Education Board Fellowship, then spent 1924 to 1926 studying successively in Copenhagen (with H. Bohr), Oxford (with G. H. Hardy), and Cambridge (with J. E. Littlewood). From 1927 to 1933 he was a docent at the University of Munich....

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Karen Hunger Parshall

Bolza, Oskar (12 May 1857–05 July 1942), mathematician, was born in Bergzabern in the Rhenish Palatinate, the son of Moritz Bolza, a civil servant in the judicial branch, and Luise Koenig. Bolza’s father’s position took the family to various towns in the south of Germany early in Bolza’s life, but in 1873 the family settled permanently in Freiburg, the city to which Bolza would feel great attachment for the rest of his life. After pursuing his secondary studies in Neuchâtel and Freiburg, Bolza passed his university qualifying examination in the summer of 1875. That fall he enrolled in both the University of Berlin (for a liberal education) and the Berlin Gewerbeakademie or trade school (for his technical training). When this proved too ambitious a program, Bolza concentrated on physics at the university, where from 1876 to 1878 he studied principally under Gustav Kirchhoff and Hermann von Helmholtz. In the summer semester of 1878 he worked in the laboratory of August Kundt in Strasbourg with an eye toward writing a doctoral dissertation under Kundt’s guidance. Bolza quickly realized that his strength did not lie in laboratory work. He abandoned physics for pure mathematics and studied through the summer of 1880 under Elwin Bruno Cristoffel and Theodore Reye in Strassburg, Karl Weierstrass in Berlin, and Hermann Amandus Schwarz in Göttingen. No closer to a dissertation topic after this period of concentrated study, Bolza decided to take the state teachers’ examination and prepare himself for a career in secondary education. In 1882 he successfully passed the test, and by 1883 he had completed the mandatory year of student teaching....

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Bowditch, Nathaniel (26 March 1773–16 March 1838), astronomer and mathematician, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Habakkuk Bowditch, a shipmaster and cooper, and Mary Ingersoll. His family moved to Danvers, Massachusetts, while he was still an infant but returned to Salem when Bowditch was seven. Business reverses forced his family into poverty, and Bowditch’s formal education ended at age ten, when he entered his father’s cooperage shop. In 1785 he became an apprentice clerk in the ship-chandlery shop of Hodges and Ropes in Salem; five years later he moved to the shop of Samuel C. Ward. Between January 1795 and December 1803, Bowditch made five voyages on merchant ships, including four to the East Indies and one to Europe, serving on the last voyage as master and part owner. In March 1798, between voyages, he married Elizabeth Boardman, who died seven months later. He married Mary Ingersoll, a cousin, in 1800; they had eight children....

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Brauer, Richard Dagobert (10 February 1901–17 April 1977), mathematician, was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany, the son of Max Brauer, a wealthy businessman in the wholesale leather trade, and Lilly Caroline (maiden name unknown). He entered the Technische Hochschule in Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1919 and received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Berlin in 1925 as a student of the noted mathematician Issai Schur. He then moved to Königsberg as an assistant to K. Knopp. He became a privatdozent in 1927 and remained in Königsberg until 1933, when he was dismissed by the Nazis. He spent one year teaching at the University of Kentucky, another at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, and in 1935 he moved to the University of Toronto. In 1948 he moved to the University of Michigan and then, in 1952, to Harvard University, where he remained until his retirement in 1971. Brauer was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1945, received the Cole Prize of the American Mathematical Society in 1949, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955, and received the National Medal for Scientific Merit in 1971. In 1925 he married Ilse Karger; they had two sons, who also became mathematicians....

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Bronowski, Jacob (18 January 1908–22 August 1974), mathematician and historian and philosopher of science, was born in Łódź (in what is now Poland), the son of Abram Bronowski and Celia Flatto, occupations unknown. During his childhood his family moved first to Germany (1912) and then to England (1920). In 1927 he entered the University of Cambridge to study mathematics, receiving his Ph.D. in 1933. He also helped found and edit a literary magazine, ...