Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Women in late 19th/early 20th C Foundations of Mathematics

This post is essentially a scaffolding post for me to collect names and primary and secondary literature relating to women who worked in foundations of mathematics in the late 19th/early 20th C. The topic of today's post is actually something that came up in my 3rd year seminar last spring; I asked for input on the Foundations of Math mailing list, got a bunch of excellent replies, and never did anything with the material. I finally am now because I have the opportunity of soliciting some advanced undergraduate for short-term research projects, and would like to create at least one such project involving these women. Who are they, what did they do, what can we do to get their names better known?

  1. Alice Ambrose Lazerowitz wrote on logic and mathematical philosophy, and was a student of Wittgenstein.
  2. Marjorie Lee Browne wrote on set theory and logic.
  3. Izydora Dąmbska studied logic under Kazimierz Twardowski.
  4. Hilda Geiringer von Mises wrote on the geometrical foundations of mechanics.
  5. Olga Hahn-Neurath was a member of the Vienna Circle who worked in boolean algebras.
  6. Ellen Amanda Hayes taught logic.
  7. Grace Brewster Murray Hopper worked in the foundations of computation.
  8. Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum wrote on inductive logic and was the first person to publish on the ravens paradox.
  9. Sof'ja Aleksandrovna Janovskaja was Director of the Mathematical Logic Seminar at Moscow State University. She worked in the history and philosophy of mathematics, and was a host to Ludwig Wittgenstein when he visited Russia in the 1930. (Her wikipedia page.)
  10. Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones defended Frege against Russell's criticisms in a reply to "On Denoting".
  11. Lyudmila Keldysh was a set theorist and topologist.
  12. Maria Kokoszynska was a member of the Lvov-Warsaw school.
  13. Dina Stejnbarg Kotarbinska was a member of the Lvov-Warsaw school.
  14. Christine Ladd-Franklin was a student of Peirce's, and was originally denied a PhD by Johns Hopkins because she was a woman.
    • Russinoff, I.S., 1999, "The Syllogism's Final Solution", Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 5 (4): 451-469.
  15. Susanne Langer wrote a dissertation on Whitehead and published on type theory in the 1920s.
  16. Ruth Moufang wrote on foundations of geometry.
  17. Emmy Noether is responsible for a generalisation of mathematical induction known as Noetherian induction or well-founded induction.
  18. Eleanor Pairman worked in foundations of calculus, and also in early computing theory.
  19. Rózsa Péter wrote the first book in recursion theory and contributed to the field.
  20. Rose Rand was a member of the Vienna Circle.
  21. Susan Stebbing was one of the first people to write a logical textbook incorporating the new material of Russell and Whitehead.
    • Beaney, Michael & Siobhan Chapman, 2017. "Susan Stebbing", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2017 edition.
  22. Wanda Szmielew worked on the Axiom of Choice and proved the decidability of the first-order theory of abelian groups.
  23. Victoria Welby's significs, an analysis of communicative acts, was foundational to Brouwer's development of intuitionism.
    • Welby, V., 1896, "Sense, Meaning and Interpretation", Mind, N.S. 5(17): 24-37; (18): 186-202.
  24. Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler was an American mathematician who worked in linear algebra and functional analysis who studied under David Hilbert, Felix Klein, Hermann Minkowski, and Karl Schwarzschild at University of Göttingen.
  25. Dorothy Maud Wrinch was a mathematician influenced by Russell's mathematical logic.
  26. Grace Chisholm Young did research in set theory.

Not everyone on this list can be described as working in foundations, strictly speaking, but all of them were working logic and mathematics with a philosophical bent between roughly 1870 and 1940, and thus I'm happy to include them in the list.

Many thanks to Liam Kofi Bright, Gabriel Citron, Patrik Eklund, Richard Heck, Frederique Janssen-Lauret, Tatiana Levina, Alice ter Meulen, Aleksandra Samonek, Jeff Sarnat, Mate Szabo, and Rineke Verbrugge, who all contributed information in the list above. This page was last updated 17 January 2019.


  1. Great work Sara! Did you cross check with the list at http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women ?

    1. Partly! I've gotten about half-way through that list.