Emma Lehmer

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Emma Lehmer
Born (1906-11-06)November 6, 1906
Samara, Russian Empire
Died May 7, 2007(2007-05-07) (aged 100)
Berkeley, California, United States
Education UC Berkeley
Brown University
Occupation Mathematician
Spouse(s) Derrick Henry Lehmer
Children Laura and Donald

Emma Markovna Lehmer (née Trotskaia) (November 6, 1906 – May 7, 2007)[1] was a mathematician known for her work on reciprocity laws in algebraic number theory. She preferred to deal with complex number fields and integers, rather than the more abstract aspects of the theory.


She was born in Samara, Russian Empire, but her father's job as a representative with a Russian sugar company moved the family to Harbin, China in 1910. Emma was tutored at home until the age of 14, when a school was opened locally. She managed to make her way to the USA for her higher education.

At UC Berkeley, she started out in engineering in 1924, but found her niche in mathematics. One of her professors was Derrick N. Lehmer, the number theorist well known for his work on prime number tables and factorizations. While working for him at Berkeley finding pseudosquares, she met his son, her future husband Derrick H. Lehmer. Upon her graduation summa cum laude with a B.A. in Mathematics (1928), Emma married the younger Lehmer. They moved to Brown University, where Emma received her M.Sc., and Derrick his Ph.D., both in 1930. Emma did not obtain a Ph.D. herself. Most universities had nepotism rules which prevented husband and wife from both holding teaching positions, although Emma claimed there were many advantages to not holding a Ph.D.

The Lehmers had two children, Laura (1932) and Donald (1934). Emma did independent mathematical work, including a translation from Russian to English of Pontryagin's book Topological Groups. She worked closely with her husband on many projects; 21 of her 56 publications were joint work with him. Her publications were mainly in number theory and computation, with emphasis on reciprocity laws, special primes, and congruences.


  1. ^ Brillhart, John (December 2007). "Emma Lehmer 1906-2007" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. American Mathematical Society. 54 (11): 1500–1501. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  • Notable Women in Mathematics, a Biographical Dictionary, edited by Charlene Morrow and Teri Perl, Greenwood Press, 1998. pp 123–128

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