Joan Birman

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Joan Sylvia Little Birman
Born (1927-05-30) May 30, 1927 (age 90)
New York City, New York
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Barnard College, Columbia University
Alma mater

B.A., Barnard College, 1948

Ph.D., Courant Institute (NYU), 1968
Doctoral advisor Wilhelm Magnus
Doctoral students Józef Przytycki and 20 others
Known for Braid theory, knot theory
Notable awards Chauvenet Prize

Joan Sylvia Lyttle Birman (born May 30, 1927 in New York City[1]) 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) in physics from Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1968 from the Courant Institute (NYU) under the supervision of Wilhelm Magnus, when she was 41 years old. Her dissertation was titled Braid groups and their relationship to mapping class groups.[2]


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 by the Association for Women in Mathematics to be a Noether Lecturer; this lecture honors women who have made fundamental and sustained contributions to the mathematical sciences.[3] She was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in the summer of 1988.[4] She has also been a Sloan Foundation Fellow (1974–76) and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow (1994–95). In 1996 she won the Chauvenet Prize.[5]

In 2012 she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[6] Her doctoral students include Józef Przytycki.[2]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Larry Riddle. "Joan S. Birman", Biographies of Women Mathematicians, at Agnes Scott College
  2. ^ a b Joan Sylvia Lyttle Birman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ "Noether Lectures". Association for Women in Mathematics. Association for Women in Mathematics. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Institute for Advanced Study: A Community of Scholars
  5. ^ Birman, Joan (1993). "New Points of View in Knot Theory". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.). 28: 253–287. doi:10.1090/s0273-0979-1993-00389-6. 
  6. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2012-11-10.
  7. ^ Magnus, W. (1976). "Review: Braids, links and mapping class groups by Joan S. Birman" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 82: 42–45. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1976-13937-7. 

External links[edit]