Dorothy Lewis Bernstein

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Dorothy Lewis Bernstein
Dorothy Lewis Bernstein.jpg
Dorothy Lewis Bernstein
Born (1914-04-11)April 11, 1914
Chicago, Illinois, US
Died February 5, 1988(1988-02-05) (aged 73)
Providence, Rhode Island, US
Nationality American
Fields Applied mathematics
Institutions Mount Holyoke College
University of Wisconsin at Madison
University of Rochester
Goucher College
Alma mater University of Wisconsin at Madison
Brown University
Doctoral advisor Jacob Tamarkin

Dorothy Lewis Bernstein (April 11, 1914 – February 5, 1988) was an American mathematician known for her work in applied mathematics, statistics, computer programming, and her research on the Laplace transform.[1] She was the first woman to be elected president of the Mathematics Association of America.[2]

Early life[edit]

Dorothy Bernstein was born in Chicago, the daughter of Jewish Russian immigrants Jacob and Tille Lewis Bernstein. While her parents had no formal education, they encouraged all of their children to seek education; all five earned either a PhD or MD.[1]


Bernstein attended North Division High School (Milwaukee) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1930 she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and where she held a University Scholarship (1933–1934) and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1934 she graduated with both a B.A degree, summa cum laude, and a M.A. Degree in Mathematics. She did her master's thesis research on finding complex roots of polynomials by an extension of Newton's method. In 1935 she attended Brown University, where she became a member of the scientific society Sigma Xi. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics from Brown in 1939, while simultaneously holding a teaching position at Mount Holyoke College. Her dissertation was entitled "The Double Laplace Integral" and was published in the Duke Mathematical Journal.[1]


From 1943–1959 Bernstein taught at the University of Rochester, where she worked on existence theorems for partial differential equations. Her work was motivated by non-linear problems that were just being tackled by high-speed digital computers.[3] In 1950, Princeton University Press published her book, Existence Theorems in Partial Differential Equations.

She spent 1959–1979 as a professor of mathematics at Goucher College, where she was chairman of the mathematics department for most of that time (1960–70, 1974–79).[2]

She professed that she was particularly interested combining pure and applied mathematics in the undergraduate curriculum.[3] Due in great part to Bernstein's ability to get grants from the National Science Foundation, Goucher College was the first women's university to use computers in mathematics instruction, beginning in 1961.[1] She also developed an internship program for Goucher mathematics students to obtain meaningful employment experience.[1] In 1972 Bernstein cofounded the Maryland Association for Educational Uses of Computers, and was interested in incorporating computers into secondary school mathematics.[2]

Bernstein was very active in the Mathematical Association of America, where she was on the board of governors from 1965 to 1968. She served as the vice president in 1972–73, and later became the first female president of the MAA in 1979–80.[1]

Women in mathematics[edit]

She noted that attitudes and opportunities for women changed drastically after World War II, which she attributed to two causes. First, that women demonstrated they could handle the jobs formerly held by men, and second that the rise of computer technology opened up many new areas of mathematical applications resulting in new jobs.[3]



  • Fasanelli, F. D. (1987), "Dorothy Lewis Bernstein", in Grinstein, Louise S.; Campbell, Paul J., Women of Mathematics: A Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook, New York: Greenwood Press, pp. 17–20, ISBN 978-0-313-24849-8 .


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Biographies of Women Mathematicians -- Dorothy Lewis Bernstein". Agnes Scott College. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c MAA presidents: Dorothy Lewis Bernstein
  3. ^ a b c Dorothy Bernstein (1979). "Women Mathematicians before 1950" (PDF). AWM Newsletter. 9 (4): 9–11. 

External links[edit]

This article incorporates material from Dorothy Bernstein on PlanetMath, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.