Evelyn Nelson (mathematician)

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Evelyn Merle Nelson (November 25, 1943 – August 1, 1987),[1] born Evelyn Merle Roden, was a Canadian mathematician. Nelson made contributions to the area of universal algebra with applications to theoretical computer science. She, along with Cecilia Krieger, is the namesake of the Krieger–Nelson Prize, awarded by the Canadian Mathematical Society for outstanding research by a female mathematician.[2]

Early life[edit]

Nelson was born on November 25, 1943 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were immigrants from Russia in the 1920s.[3] Nelson went to high school at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton.[3]


After spending two years at the University of Toronto, Nelson returned to Hamilton to study at McMaster University. She received her B.Sc in mathematics from McMaster in 1965, followed by an M.Sc in mathematics from McMaster in 1967. She succeeded in having her thesis work published in the Canadian Journal of Mathematics, also in 1967; the article was entitled "Finiteness of semigroups of operators in universal algebra".[1]

Nelson completed her Ph.D in 1970. Her thesis was entitled "The lattice of equational classes of commutative semigroups", and the ideas also formed a journal paper published in the Canadian Journal of Mathematics.[3][4]


From the completion of her Ph.D in 1970 until 1978, Nelson continued at McMaster, first as a post-doctoral researcher, and later, under the title of "research associate".[3] In 1978, Nelson was appointed as an Associate Professor.[3] Nelson served as the chair of the Unit of Computer Science at McMaster from 1982 until 1984. She was appointed as a full Professor in 1983. [5]

Nelson's teaching record was, according to one colleague, "invariably of the highest order".[3] However, before earning a faculty position at McMaster, prejudice against her lead to doubts about her teaching ability.[3]

Nelson published over 40 papers during her 20-year career.[3] She died from cancer in 1987.[3]


Nelson is the namesake, along with Cecilia Krieger, of the Krieger–Nelson Prize, which is awarded to a female mathematician in recognition of outstanding achievement.[2] The Department of Mathematics at McMaster University has a lecture series, "The Evelyn Nelson Lectures", held since 1991.[6]


  1. ^ a b O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F. (April 2002), "Evelyn Nelson", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  2. ^ a b Krieger-Nelson Prize, Canadian Mathematical Society.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Banaschewski, B. (1989), "Evelyn M. Nelson: An Appreciation", Algebra Universalis, 26 (3): 259–266, doi:10.1007/BF01211834 .
  4. ^ Evelyn M. Nelson at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ "Obituary: Evelyn M. Nelson", Order, 5 (3): 221–223, 1988, doi:10.1007/BF00354888 .
  6. ^ The Evelyn Nelson Lectures.

External links[edit]