Verena Huber-Dyson

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Verena Huber-Dyson
Verena Huber-Dyson (cropped).jpg
Born Verena Esther Huber
(1923-05-06)May 6, 1923
Naples, Italy
Died March 12, 2016(2016-03-12) (aged 92)[1]
Bellingham, Washington
Other names Verena Huber, Verena Haefeli
Residence Switzerland, United States, Canada
Citizenship Swiss, United States, Canada
Fields Logic, algebra
Alma mater University of Zurich
Thesis Ein Dualismus als Klassifikationsprinzip in der abstrakten Gruppentheorie (1947)
Doctoral advisor Andreas Speiser

Verena Esther Huber-Dyson (May 6, 1923 – March 12, 2016) was a Swiss-American mathematician, known for work in group theory and formal logic.[1][2] She has been described as a "brilliant mathematician",[2] and has done research on the interface between algebra and logic, focusing on undecidability in group theory. At the time of her death she was emeritus faculty in the philosophy department of the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Life and career[edit]

Family and early life[edit]

Huber-Dyson was born Verena Esther Huber in Naples, Italy, on May 6, 1923. Her parents, Karl (Charles) Huber (1893-1946) and Berthy Ryffel (1899-1945), were Swiss nationals[3] who raised Verena and her sister Adelheid ("Heidi", 1925-1987) in Athens, Greece, where the girls attended the German-speaking Deutsche Schule, or German School of Athens, until forced to return to Switzerland in 1940 by the war.

Charles Huber, who had managed the Middle Eastern operations of Bühler AG, a Swiss food-process engineering firm, began working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), monitoring the treatment of prisoners of war in internment camps. As the ICRC delegate to India and Ceylon, he was responsible for Italian prisoners held in British camps, but also visited German and Allied camps in Europe, and in 1945-46 served as an ICRC delegate to the United States, which he described to Verena as a place she "definitely ought to experience at length and in depth but just as definitely ought not to settle in."[1]

She studied mathematics, with minors in physics and philosophy, at the University of Zurich, where she obtained her Ph.D in mathematics there in 1947 with a thesis in finite group theory.[4][5][6] under the supervision of Andreas Speiser.


Verena married Hans-Georg Haefeli, a fellow mathematician, in 1942, and was divorced in 1948. Her first daughter, Katarina Haefeli (now Halm), was born in 1945.[7] [8]

She subsequently married Freeman Dyson in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 11, 1950.[5] They had two children together, Esther Dyson (born July 14, 1951, in Zurich) and George Dyson (born 1953, Ithaca, New York)[2] [5] and divorced in 1958.[9]


Huber-Dyson accepted a postdoctoral fellow appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1948,[10] where she worked on group theory and formal logic.[11][12] She also began teaching at Goucher College near Baltimore during this time.[11]

She moved to California with her daughter Katarina, began teaching at San Jose State University in 1959, and then joined Alfred Tarski's Group in Logic and the Methodology of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. [12] [13]

Huber-Dyson taught at San Jose State University, the University of Zürich, University of Monash, as well as at UC Berkeley, Adelphi University, UCLA, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, in mathematics and in philosophy departments. She accepted a position in the philosophy department of the University of Calgary in 1973, becoming emerita in 1988.[7]

Academic affiliations prior to June 1968[edit]

Academic Affiliations after September 1968[edit]

  • Department of Mathematics, University of Illinois at Chicago (September 1968--June 1971) tenure-track Assistant Professor
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary (September 1971–-June 1972) nontenure-track
  • Department of Mathematics, University of Illinois at Chicago (September 1972--June 1973) tenured Associate Professor
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary (September 1973–-June 1975) tenure-track Assistant Professor
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary (September 1977–-June 1981) tenured Associate Professor.
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary (September 1981–-June 1988) Full Professor
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary (September 1988–-) Emerita Professor

Activities while at Calgary[edit]

  • Taught graduate courses on foundations of mathematics and the philosophy and methodology of the sciences
  • Began work on the monograph, Gödel's theorems: a workbook on formalization[14] (published by Teubner in 1991)

Non-academic Employment[edit]

Later life[edit]

After retiring from Calgary, Verena Huber-Dyson moved to South Pender Island in British Columbia, where she lived for 14 years. She died on March 12, 2016 in Bellingham, Washington, at the age of 92.[1][15]

Selected publications[edit]



  • Huber-Dyson, Verena; Kreisel, Georg (1961). "Analysis of Beth’s Semantic Construction of Intuitionistic Logic". Stanford Research Report. 3. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1964). "On the Decision Problem for Theories of Finite Models". Israel Journal of Mathematics. 2 (1). 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1965). "Strong representability of Number-Theoretic Functions,". Hughes Aircraft Report. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1969). "On the Decision Problem for Extensions of a Decidable Theory". Fundamenta Mathematica. 64. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1974). "A Family of Groups with Nice Word Problems". Journal of the Australian Mathematical Society. 17. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1977). "Talking about Free Groups in Naturally Enriched Languages". Communications in Algebra. 5 (11). 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1979). "An Inductive Theory for Free Products of Groups". Algebra Universalis. 9. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1981). "A Reduction of the Open Sentence Problem for Finite Groups". Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society. 13. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1982). "Symmetric Groups and the Open Sentence Problem". Patras Logic Symposium. North-Holland. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1982). "Finiteness Conditions and the Word Problem". Groups St. Andrews 1981. LMS Lecture Notes. 71. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena; Jones, J; Shepherdson, J (1982). "Some Diophantine Forms of Gödel’s Theorem". Archiv für Mathematische Logik. 22. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1982). "Decision Problems in Group Theory". Recent Trends in Mathematics, Reinhardsbrunn 1982. Teubner Texte zur Mathematik. 50. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1984). "HNN-constructing Finite Groups". Groups Korea 1983. Springer Lecture Notes in Mathematics. 1098. 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1981). "Critical Notice on Gödel, Escher, Bach by D.R. Hofstadter". Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 11 (4). 
  • Huber-Dyson, Verena (1996). "Thoughts on the Occasion of Kreisel’s 70th Birthday". In Odifreddi. Kreiseliana, about and around George Kreisel. AK Peters. 


  1. ^ a b c d "Obituary of Verena Huber-Dyson". Moles Farewell Tributes. 12 March 2016. Archived from the original on 12 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Nicholas Dawidoff, "The Civil Heretic", New York Times, March 29, 2009.
  3. ^ Schewe, Phillip (2013). Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson. 
  4. ^ Ein Dualismus als Klassifikationsprinzip in der abstrakten Gruppentheorie (dissertation).
  5. ^ a b c John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson, Freeman Dyson, The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, University of St. Andrews Scotland (last visited March 14, 2014).
  6. ^ Verena Huber-Dyson at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. ^ a b Schewe 2013.
  8. ^ Feferman, Soloman; Feferman, Anita (2004). Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic. pp. 272–276. 
  9. ^ Feferman & Feferman 2004, pp. 272–276.
  10. ^ Directory, A Community of Scholars: Institute for Advanced Study, Institute for Advanced Study (last visited March 14, 2014)
  11. ^ a b Schewe 2013, pp. 72.
  12. ^ a b Feferman & Feferman 2004, pp. 272-276.
  13. ^ Verena Huber-Dyson, "Gödel in a Nutshell", Edge, May 13, 2006.
  14. ^ Huber-Dyson, Verena. Gödel's Theorems: A Workbook on Formalization. Teubner. ISBN 9783815420232. 
  15. ^ John Brockman (March 13, 2016). "Verena Huber-Dyson". Edge. Retrieved March 15, 2016. 


  • Feferman, Soloman; Feferman, Anita (2004). Alfred Tarski:Life and Logic. pp. 272–276. 
  • Schewe, Phillip (2013). Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson.