Fern Hunt

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Fern Hunt
Photo of Thyrsa Frazier Svager
Fern Hunt
Alma mater
Scientific career
  • Mathematics

Fern Yvette Hunt (born 1948) is an American mathematician known for her work in applied mathematics and mathematical biology.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Fern Hunt was born in New York City in 1948 to Daphne Lindsay and Thomas Edward Hunt. Her grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Jamaica before World War I, hoping to find greater opportunities in New York. The family lived in a primarily black housing project in Hampton. Hunt is the sister of poet and writer, Thomas Hunt. Though her mother had attended Hunter College for two years, no one in the family had earned a college degree. As a young girl Hunt showed an interest in science, experimenting with chemistry sets and mail-order electrical kits. A high school teacher, Charles Wilson, encouraged Hunt to pursue science and mathematics.[2] She attended Bryn Mawr College, earning her A.B. degree in 1969. She went on to earn a masters and Ph.D. in mathematics from the Courant Institute of Mathematics at New York University.[1]


After briefly teaching at the University of Utah, Hunt became an assistant professor of mathematics at Howard University. While teaching at Howard, she also conducted research, working for the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Mathematical Biology from 1981 to 1982, and the National Bureau of Standards from 1986 to 1991. In 1993, she began working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology where she worked on mathematical problems from physics and chemistry research. While working at NIST she continued her own research on the ergodic theory of dynamical systems.[1]

Fern also lectures at colleges and universities in order to encourage students in mathematics. She uses her experiences of the set backs she experienced as a black woman in mathematics to mentor minority students interested in mathematics. In 1998 she was an instructor at a summer workshop for women entering PhD programs in mathematics run by the Edge Foundation (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education).[1]

Awards and Achievements[edit]

In 2000, Hunt received the Arthur S. Flemming Award for her contributions to probability and stochastic modeling, mathematical biology, computational geometry, nonlinear dynamics, computer graphics, and parallel computing.[3] From 1988 to 1991, she was a member of the Graduate Record Examination Mathematics Advisory Board. She has been a member of the Bryn Mawr College board of trustees since 1992 and the Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee for the Department of Energy since 1994.[1]

Hunt was included in the 2019 class of fellows of the American Mathematical Society "for outstanding applications of mathematics to science and technology, exceptional service to the US government, and for outreach and mentoring".[4] The Association for Women in Mathematics has included her in the 2020 class of AWM Fellows for "her exceptional commitment to outreach and mentoring; for her sustained efforts to make the AWM organization more inclusive; for her service to higher education and government; and for inspiring those underrepresented in mathematics with her work in ergodic theory, probability, and computation".[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Spangenburg, Ray; Moser, Kit (2003). African Americans in science, math, and invention. New York, NY: Facts on File. ISBN 0816048061.
  2. ^ "Science Makers: Fern Hunt". TheHistoryMakers.com. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Fern Hunt Receives Arthur S. Flemming Award". NIST. June 2000. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  4. ^ 2019 Class of the Fellows of the AMS, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2018-11-08
  5. ^ 2020 Class of AWM Fellows, Association for Women in Mathematics, retrieved 2019-11-08