Julia Robinson

First Female President of the American Mathematical Society

  Who is Julia Robinson?

Julia Robinson was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1919 and died in Oakland, California in 1985. Her area of exploration in mathematics was decision problems. 

According to WIkipedia,

In computability theory and computational complexity theory, a decision problem is a computational problem that can be posed as a yes–no question of the input values. An example of a decision problem is deciding by means of an algorithm whether a given natural number is prime. Another is the problem “given two numbers x and y, does x evenly divide y? “. The answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending upon the values of x and y. 

There were only two times that Julia explored areas other than decision problems. The first was a paper exploring sequential analysis in statistics and the second was an exploration of game theory.

Her Early Life, Education, and Awards

Although Julia was born in Missouri and spent a brief time in Arizona, she spent most of her life in California. She attended San Diego High School and San Diego College, and then transferred to The University of California at Berkeley. After completing her base degrees, Julia received her Ph.D. at Berkeley under Alfred Tarski with a dissertation on “Definability and Decision Problems in Arithmetic” in 1948.

Her Contributions to Science

Julia is best known for finding a negative solution to Hilbert’s 10th problem. She and her team determined that no algorithm exists that can determine whether a Diophantine equation has any solutions that are integers.  Julia was also the first woman mathematician elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences and the first woman president of the American Mathematical Society.

Her Legacy

Ms. Robinson’s legacy still lives on today through the celebration of mathematics during the annual Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, which is sponsored by the American Institute of Mathematics and named in her honor.

Learn more about Julia Robinson from ScienceNews

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