Who Am I?
Tracing Math's Evolution
Print this page, and use it to help you complete the lesson.
Below are the descriptions of famous and important mathematicians and inventors. Surf the Internet to find out who they are. The following Web sites will serve as starting points. Good luck!
The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences
1. I have worked for NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio since 1955. I developed and implemented computer code used in determining solar, wind, and energy projects for NASA. My energy assignments have included studies to determine the life of storage batteries, such as those used in electric utility vehicles. Who am I?
2. I am an Aerospace Technologist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. Trained as a mathematician and physicist, I have worked on challenging problems of interplanetary trajectories, space navigation, and the orbits of spacecraft. I analyzed data gathered by tracking stations around the world during the Apollo moon missions. Later, I studied new navigation procedures to determine more practical ways to track manned and unmanned space missions. Who am I?
3. Fortunately for me, as I was growing up I never heard the theory that females aren't equipped mentally to succeed in mathematics. My parents and teachers preached over and over again that education is the vehicle to a productive life, and through diligent study and application we could succeed at whatever we attempted to do. My favorite subject was mathematics, and as far back as I can recall, I set my sights on becoming a mathematics teacher. I was also fascinated by the study of astronomy. If I had known then that, in the not too distant future, the United States would launch its space program, and astronomers would be in great demand in the planning of space missions, I might have become an astronomer instead of a mathematician. Who am I?
4. I was born in 1731. My grandmother was an indentured servant from England. When my grandmother finished her years of bondage, she bought a farm and two slaves to help her take care of it. She freed both slaves and married one -- my grandfather. One of my grandmother's daughters bought a slave named Robert, married him, and had several children, including me. When I was twenty-one, I saw a patent watch. I was amazed! After taking it apart to see how it worked, I carved similar pieces out of wood and made my own watch. It was the first striking clock to be made completely in America, and it was so accurate it struck precisely every hour on the hour for forty years. Who am I?
5. I was born on a Missouri farm. I received a bachelors and masters college degree from the Iowa Agricultural College. I worked with agricultural products to develop industrial applications. My research helped develop 325 products from peanuts, 108 applications for sweet potatoes, and 75 products from pecans. I moved to Tuskegee, Alabama and remained on the faculty at the Tuskegee Institute of Technology until my death. Who am I?
6. My work gave the world the word "algebra." My papers discuss the solutions of quadratic equations and give geometric methods for completing the square. I was also the first person to use zero as a place holder. Who am I?
7. I was born in Madras. At the age of 18, I had already earned my college degree and published my first paper. Because I had no opportunity to further my education or to obtain a research career, I joined the coveted Indian Civil Services. I made many contributions to the field of vibration and sound, musical instruments, ultrasonics, diffraction, magnetism, and other fields. I was the first Asian to receive the Nobel Prize in science. Who am I?
8. I wrote two important texts. One book was for beginners and was called Introduction to Mathematical Studies. The other book marks the peak of mathematical discovery in my country, and it was a long time before further progress was made. This book contains a method for solving equations, formulas for infinite series, and Pascal's triangle. Who am I?
9. I was born in Cyrene, which is now Libya. After studying in Alexandria and Athens, I became the Director of the library in Alexandria. I worked on geometry and prime numbers, including the prime number sieve. I was able to accurately measure the circumference of the earth. Who am I?
10. I was the first woman to make a substantial contribution to the development of mathematics. I became head of the Platonist School in Alexandria. Because early Christians identified learning and science with paganism, I became a focal point of riots between Christians and non-Christians. I was murdered by either the Nitrian monks or an Alexandrian mob, depending on which source you believe. Who am I?
11. I was a medical student and a teacher. I accepted the post of Chair of Mathematics at the University of Coimbra. This was a new position set up to provide instruction in the technical requirements for navigation, clearly a topic of great importance to Portugal since the control of sea trade was the chief source of Portuguese wealth. I developed a system which allowed fractional parts of a degree to be measured, which greatly improved the accuracy of navigation. Who am I?
12. I was a great electrician and an inventive genius, and invented fifteen appliances for electric railways. I received my first patent on an improved steam boiler furnace, and sold many of my inventions to some of the country's largest corporations. Train traffic was increasing rapidly, and train accidents and collisions were a large problem. My invention made it possible for trains to communicate with the station and with other trains so they knew exactly where they were at all times. This invention made train travel flow more quickly and prevented countless accidents and collisions. Who am I?