Isabel Maddison

Known for her work in differential equations

Isabel Maddision mathematician

Who was Isabel Maddison?

Ada Isabel Maddison was born on 13 April 1869 in Cumberland, England. She is best known for her work in differential equations which she was inspired to study, while at Cambridge. 

Breaking Barriers in Education

Isabel Maddison passed the Mathematical Tripos Exam at Cambridge which normally would have earned her a First Class degree (or BA Degree), however, because she was a woman she couldn’t formally receive her degree. Only men were allowed to receive a degree from Cambridge. Another woman, Grace Chisholm, also achieved the same accomplishment that year and was also denied her degree.  Since she had put in the work but was denied her actual degree she sat for her exams in the mathematics department at the University of London and earned her BSc degree with Honors. 

Her Contributions to Mathematics

Isabel received her PhD in Mathematics from Bryn Mawr for her thesis On Singular Solutions of Differential Equations of the First Order in Two Variables and the Geometrical Properties of Certain Invariants and Covariants of Their Complete Primitives in 1898. That year ended up being a remarkable year for her. She was not only appointed as Reader in Mathematics at Bryn Mawr, but she also won the Gambel Prize in Mathematics for her paper, “On certain factors of c- and p-discriminants and their relations to fixed points in the family of curves which was published in the Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics.

Her Legacy

In addition to her contributions in the area of differential equations and breaking barriers in math education, Isabel assembled an extensive list of university courses that were open to women in both British and Canadian universities to assist other women of the time. She also endowed a pension fund at Bryn Mawr with $10,000 upon her death in 1950, specifically established for the administrative staff, in memory of President M. Carey Thomas, the female President of the college. 

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