Mary Ellen Rudin

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Mary Ellen Rudin
Mary Ellen Estill

(1924-12-07)December 7, 1924
Hillsboro, Texas
DiedMarch 18, 2013(2013-03-18) (aged 88)
SpouseWalter Rudin
AwardsNoether Lecturer
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin,
ThesisConcerning Abstract Spaces (1949)
Doctoral advisorRobert Lee Moore
Academic work
Sub-disciplineSet-theoretic topology
InstitutionsDuke University,
University of Rochester,
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Mary Ellen Rudin (December 7, 1924 – March 18, 2013)[1] was an American mathematician known for her work in set-theoretic topology.[2] In 2013, Elsevier established the Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award, which is awarded annually to a young researcher, mainly in fields adjacent to general topology.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Ellen (Estill) Rudin was born in Hillsboro, Texas to Joe Jefferson Estill and Irene (Shook) Estill. Her mother Irene was an English teacher before marriage, and her father Joe was a civil engineer. The family moved with her father's work, but spent a great deal of Mary Ellen's childhood around Leakey, Texas.[4] She had one sibling, a younger brother. Both of Rudin's maternal grandmothers had attended Mary Sharp College near their hometown of Winchester, Tennessee. Rudin remarks on this legacy and how much her family valued education in an interview.[4]

She attended the University of Texas, completing her B.A. in 1944 after just three years before moving into the graduate program in mathematics under Robert Lee Moore.[5] Her graduate thesis presented a counterexample to one of "Moore's axioms". She completed her Ph.D. in 1949.

During her time as an undergraduate, she was a member of the Phi Mu Women's Fraternity,[6] and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society.[7]

In 1953, she married mathematician Walter Rudin, whom she met while teaching at Duke University. They had four children.


At the beginning of her career, Rudin taught at Duke University and the University of Rochester.[8] She took a position as Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin in 1959, and was appointed Professor of Mathematics in 1971. After her retirement in 1991, she continued to serve as a Professor Emerita. She was the first Grace Chisholm Young Professor of Mathematics and also held the Hilidale Professorship,.[4][8]

She was an Invited Speaker of the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1974 in Vancouver.[9] She served as vice-president of the American Mathematical Society, 1980–1981. In 1984 she was selected to be a Noether Lecturer. She was an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1995). In 2012 she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[10]

Rudin is best known in topology for her constructions of counterexamples to well-known conjectures. In 1958, she found an unshellable triangulation of the tetrahedron.[11] Most famously, Rudin was the first to construct a Dowker space,[12] which she did in 1971, thus disproving a conjecture of Clifford Hugh Dowker that had stood, and helped drive topological research, for more than twenty years. Her example fueled the search for "small" ZFC Dowker spaces. She also proved the first Morita conjecture and a restricted version of the second.[13] Her last major result was a proof of Nikiel's conjecture.[14] Early proofs that every metric space is paracompact were somewhat involved, but Rudin provided an elementary one.[15]

"Reading the articles of Mary Ellen Rudin, studying them until there is no mystery takes hours and hours; but those hours are rewarded, the student obtains power to which few have access. They are not hard to read, they are just hard mathematics, that's all." (Steve Watson[16])

Later life[edit]

Rudin resided in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Rudin House, a home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. She died aged 88 on March 18, 2013.

See also[edit]


  • Rudin, Mary Ellen (1975). Lectures on set theoretic topology (Rep. with corr. ed.). Providence: Published for the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences by the American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-0821816738.
  • Rudin, Mary Ellen (1984). Dowker spaces (in the Handbook of set-theoretic topology). Amsterdam u.a.: North-Holland. pp. 761–780. ISBN 978-0444865809.

Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award[edit]

The Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award is an annual award given to young researchers in general topology and its related fields.[17] It was established in 2013 by Elsevier on behalf of the journal Topology and its Applications and consists of $15,000 USD that must be used by the awardee in the following way: $5,000 USD for three major conferences in topology, $5,000 USD for visiting a research center, and $5,000 USD, which can be used freely and is regarded as a cash prize.

The prize was named after Mary Ellen Rudin, one of the most prominent topologists in the 20th century. Mary Ellen gave her permission to use her name for the award but unfortunately passed away before the first prize was awarded.[18][19]

List of awardees[edit]

Year Name Institution Awarded at Area of contribution
2019[20][21] James Hyde H.C. Wang Assistant Professor, Cornell University. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not formally awarded yet. Homeomorphism groups
2018[22][23] Osvaldo Guzmán Postdoc, University of Toronto. 53st Spring Topology and Dynamical Systems Conference. The University of Alabama at Birmingham. March 14–16, 2019. Almost disjoint families, set theory
2017[24] Balázs Strenner Hale Visiting Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech. 52nd Spring Topology and Dynamical Systems Conference. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA. March 15, 2018. Pseudo-Anosov homeomorphisms
2016[25][26] Kathryn Mann Morrey Visiting Assistant Professor at University of California at Berkeley. 51st Spring Topology and Dynamical Systems Conference. New Jersey City University. March 8–11, 2017. Homeomorphism groups of manifolds
2015[27][28] Yinhe Peng Postdoc, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 1st Pan Pacific International Conference on Topology and Applications. Zhangzhou, China. November 25–30, 2015. Base problem for topological spaces
2014[29] Yash Lodha Ph.D. candidate, Cornell University. 60 years of Dow conference. Cornell University. December 6–9, 2014. Groups of homeomorphisms of low dimensional manifolds
2013[30][31][32] Logan C. Hoehn Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science & Mathematics, Nipissing University. International Conference on Topology and Geometry. Shimane University, Matsue City, Japan. September 2013. Solution of Lelek's problem


She is included in a deck of playing cards featuring notable women mathematicians published by the Association of Women in Mathematics.[33]


  1. ^ "In the Matter of the Estate of Mary Ellen Rudin". Wisconsin State Journal. May 11, 2013. p. 20. Retrieved May 2, 2020 – via open access
  2. ^ "Mary Ellen Rudin (December 7, 1924 – March 18, 2013)". webpage of Topology and its Applications published by Elsevier. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award Fund". Elsevier. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Albers, D.J. and Reid, C. (1988) "An Interview with Mary Ellen Rudin". The College of Mathematics Journal 19(2) pp.114-137
  5. ^ Mary Ellen Rudin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  6. ^ Cactus Yearbook. Austin, TX: University of Texas. 1944. p. 394.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Cactus Yearbook. Austin, TX: University of Texas. 1945. p. 141.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b "Mary Ellen Rudin", Profiles of Women in Mathematics. Association of Women in Mathematics [1]. Accessed March 13, 2015.
  9. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen. "The Normality of Products." Archived 2017-12-07 at the Wayback Machine In Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, Vancouver, 1974, vol. 1, pp. 81–86.
  10. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-07-07.
  11. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1958-02-14). "An unshellable triangulation of a tetrahedron". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 64 (3): 90–91. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1958-10168-8. MR 0097055.
  12. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1971). "A normal space X for which X × I is not normal". Fundam. Math. 73 (2): 179–186. doi:10.4064/fm-73-2-179-186. Zbl 0224.54019.
  13. ^ Chiba, Keiko; Przymusiński, Teodor C.; Rudin, Mary Ellen (1986). "Normality of products and Morita's conjectures". Topology and Its Applications. 22: 19–32. doi:10.1016/0166-8641(86)90074-X.
  14. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (2001). "Nikiel's conjecture". Topology and Its Applications. 116 (3): 305–331. doi:10.1016/S0166-8641(01)00218-8. MR 1857669.
  15. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1969). "A new proof that metric spaces are paracompact" (PDF). Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. 20 (2): 603. doi:10.2307/2035708. JSTOR 2035708. MR 0236876.
  16. ^ W. S. Watson: Mary Ellen Rudin's early work on Suslin spaces, in: The work of Mary Ellen Rudin, (Madison, WI, 1991), 168–182, Ann. New York Acad. Sci., 705, New York Acad. Sci., New York, 1993;
  17. ^ "Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award Fund". Elsevier. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Memories of Mary Ellen Rudin" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society. 62 (6): 619. June–July 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  19. ^ Benkart, Georgia. "A Tribute to Mary Ellen Rudin". Celebratio Mathematica. Mathematical Science Publishers. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  20. ^ @@ElsevierMath (March 18, 2020). "Winner of 2019 Mary Ellen Rudin Award announced" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  21. ^ "53rd Spring Topology and Dynamical Systems Conference". eScience Diversity Network. November 9, 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  22. ^ @@ElsevierMath (March 19, 2019). "We are delighted to announce that Dr. Osvaldo Guzman is the recipient of the 2018 Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award Fund. We would like to congratulate Dr. Guzman on winning this prize" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "Spring Topology and Dynamical Systems Conference". The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  24. ^ "Balazs Strenner wins the Mary Ellen Rudin Award in Topology". Georgia Tech. March 7, 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Kra and Mann to be Honored at the 2019 JMM". Institute for Pure & Applied Mathematics, UCLA. July 10, 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  26. ^ "Kathryn Mann won 2016 Mary Ellen Rudin Award. Congratulations!". University of California at Berkeley. March 13, 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  27. ^ "News archive". National University of Singapore. December 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Congratulations Yinhe Peng, 2015 winner of MER Award". Topology and its Applications. Elsevier. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  29. ^ "2014 winner of the Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award". Topology and its Applications. Elsevier. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  30. ^ "Introducing NU's Research Achievement Award winners". No. January 19, 2016. Nipissing University. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  31. ^ "Past Graduate Student Wins International Award". University of Toronto. February 27, 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  32. ^ Q&A with inaugural winner of MER Award on YouTube
  33. ^ "Mathematicians of EvenQuads Deck 1". Retrieved 2022-06-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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