Quotable Women in Mathematics

Earlier this year, one of our colleagues made an interesting observation about the Wikiquote page for Mathematics. Wikiquote collects interesting and pithy statements, with references, and categorises them by subject. What our friend Colin had noticed was that almost all of the quotes on the page about mathematics were from men.

This reflects an existing gender imbalance in mathematics, which will hopefully improve as more women choose it for a career. But mathematics is done by all kinds of people all over the world, and many of them have occasion to say interesting and/or profound things about their subject – even the ones who aren’t men. Since Wikiquote is part of the Wikimedia network and can be edited and contributed to, we held a small editing day back in May where we added a number of quotes from female mathematicians to the page, to try to balance out the score.

Walking around the Women in Mathematics exhibit here at the HLF this week, I was struck by the amazing quotes taken from the interviews with each of the mathematicians featured. I’ve picked out some of my favourites – and yes, I’ve added them to the Wikiquote page. Enjoy!

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

 

“In doing mathematics, I express something personal. It is a source of joy to know that, despite this personal aspect, the fruit of my work can be of interest to other mathematicians.” – Nalini Anantharaman

 

“Mathematics offers a common language across borders. It is a real joy.” – Alice Fialowski

 

“My earliest mathematical memory is my father explaining to me the theorem that three angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees. The idea that something could be proved to be always true was very appealing to me.” – Frances Kirwan

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

“I used to fear I was not made for mathematics and would look for people to tell me I was on the right track. You need to develop a personal conviction that you are a mathematician, and that what you are doing makes sense.” – Katarzyna Rejzner

 

“I enjoy being surprised by mathematics and its intrinsic difficulty. The moment I enjoy best is when the pieces of the puzzle fall into one coherent whole.” – Katrin Wendland

 

“You should not choose to do mathematics if you want to make money; your salary as a mathematician will never correspond to the amount of time and energy invested in your work.” – Margarida Mendes Lopes

 

“I like to find out as much about a mathematical object as possible, just as you might want to understand a person as well as possible.” – Oksana Yakimova

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

Photo from opening of Women in Mathematics exhibition, © Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation / Mück

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is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, on BBC radio, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. Katie writes blog posts and editorials for The Aperiodical, a semi-regular maths news site.

4 comments Write a comment

  1. Mathematik ist, auch etymologisch herleitbar, Fähigkeitslehre, und eine ständige Aufgabe.

    Es liegt insofern, auf die grundsätzliche Kunst des Lernens bezogen, eine sozusagen besondere Aufgabe vor, bei der jeder mitmachen darf, eine Exoterik und Formalwissenschaft, auch und gerade das Weib.

    MFG + schönes Wochenende schon,
    Dr. Webbaer

  2. *
    So schaut’s womöglich [besser] aus.


    Wobei Opa Web nicht genau versteht, warum Nicht-D-Sprachiges zunehmend belästigen tun bis tut.

    Opa Web abär auch “old-school”, lol.

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