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Math Biographer Constance Reid Has Died

Constance Reid, the highly respected author and biographer of mathematicians, died at her home in San Francisco on October 14, 2010, after a long illness. She was 92.

Reid was especially well-known for her biography of David Hilbert, the German mathematician who proposed his famous list of problems at the 1900 International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris. She wrote biographies of Richard Courant, for whom the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University is named; Jerzy Neyman, the famed UC Berkeley statistician; and E.T. Bell, author of Men of Mathematics.

Although not a mathematician herself, Reid had a deep understanding of mathematicians. Her sister Julia Robinson was a distinguished mathematician at UC Berkeley, the first woman president of the American Mathematical Society, the first woman mathematician elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and a winner of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1983. Reid's Julia: A Life in Mathematics memorialized her younger sister's life. Her brother-in-law was Raphael Robinson, a prominent number theorist also at UC Berkeley.

Reid's first book, From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, appeared in 1955 and has been continuously in print since then, including a 1992 edition published by MAA. Reid won many awards for her writing, including the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award in 1998, the George Pólya Award for the article "The Autobiography of Julia Robinson," published in the College Mathematics Journal, and the Beckenbach Book Prize in 1996 for The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine.


News Date: 
Tuesday, October 19, 2010