Joan Birman

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Joan Sylvia Lyttle Birman (May 30, 1927) is an American mathematician, specializing in braid theory and knot theory. Her book Braids, Links, and Mapping Class Groups has become a standard introduction, with many of today's researchers having learned the subject through it. Birman is currently Research Professor Emerita at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she has been since 1973.


Birman received her B.A. (1948) in mathematics from Barnard College and an M.A. (1950) from Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. in 1968 from the Courant Institute (NYU) under the supervision of Wilhelm Magnus. Her dissertation was titled Braid groups and their relationship to mapping class groups.[1]


Birman's first position was at the Stevens Institute of Technology (1968-1973). She also was a visiting professor at Princeton University during part of this period. In 1973, she joined the faculty at Barnard College. In 1987 she was selected to be a Noether Lecturer. She was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in the summer of 1988.[2] She has also been a Sloan Foundation Fellow (1974–76) and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow (1994–95).

In 2012 she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[3]


  1. ^ Joan Birman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Institute for Advanced Study: A Community of Scholars
  3. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2012-11-10.

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