Quotation for the week: Robinson

An anecdote about the American number theorist Julia Robinson, which illustrates something about the nature of mathematical research and also something about the relationship between mathematicians and management.

Elizabeth Scott, who knew Robinson from their days in graduate school together, described some of Robinson’s difficulties in securing a position at Berkeley. At one point, writes Scott, Robinson was required to submit a description of what she did each day to Berkeley’s personnel office. So she did: “Monday — tried to prove theorem; Tuesday — tried to prove theorem; Wednesday — tried to prove theorem; Thursday — tried to prove theorem; Friday — theorem false.” The personnel office then let the graduate division handle Robinson’s appointment.

(Quoted from the tribute to Robinson on the AWM website.)


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