# Mathematician of the Month

## Vi Hart

Born:

1988

What do they do? What do they work on?

Vi Hart is an American mathematician and you tuber, their father was a mathematical sculptor. Vi Hart has their own you tube channel and creates lots of videos that combine mathematics and music.

From Vi…
“Math was, as usual, boring me today, so I jumped right into doodling. I began to draw elephants, and started to play around with the idea of just how many elephants would fit on my notebook page. As I kept drawing, I concluded that if I kept drawing the elephants smaller and smaller across the page, the number of elephants would be infinite. I repeated a similar process with camels, and then eventually moved to figures that didn’t assume the shape of mammals, like squares and triangles.  I discovered that, with any given shape, an infinitely smaller number of circles will fit inside.  This is a fractal process, because no matter where you zoom in on the shape, it will always look the same and will always be infinitely growing smaller.  The irony of the matter was that today’s math subject was the sums of infinite numbers, which was exactly what I had been doodling.  Just how much does the infinite number of elephants stomping across my page equal? I realized that they are continually growing closer and closer to one.  This can be applied using camels, or less interestingly, triangles, squares, and other various shapes that circles can fill.”

## Sofya Kovalevskaya

When:

15 Jan 1850 – 10 Feb 1891

What did they do? What did they work on?

• First woman to get a doctorate in mathematics
• First woman to get a full professorship in northern Europe
• First woman to be editor of a scientific journal

Not only a great mathematician but also a strong advocate of women’s rights. Her struggle to get access and obtain the best possible education led to doors being opened to women at universities. Furthermore, her work helped toward the reconsidering of the notion of women’s inferiority to men in scientific study.

• In order to attend university in Switzerland, (the closest university that would accept women) Sofya had to be married.
• In 1874 Sofya was granted a Ph.D from the University of Gottingen
• Further down the line Sofya began to lecture at the University of Stockholm.
• In 1888 she published the paper “On the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point” – this paper was so highly regarded the prize money was increased from 3000 to 5000 francs.

## Katherine Johnson

When:

August 26th 1918 – February 24th 2020

What did they do? What did they work on?

• 1953- 1958: Katherine worked for NACA (which later was superseded by NASA), her job title was computer, and she worked as part of a pool of women performing maths calculations.
• Being a computer, involved performing precise mathematical tasks.
• One day Katherine was assigned to support an all-male flight research team – it was Katherine’s knowledge of analytic geometry that proved invaluable to them.
• Katherine’s assertiveness helped ensure she was included in meetings where previously racial and gender barriers would have prevented her attending. Katherine had done the work and she knew that was where she belonged.
• Until 1958: Katherine was part of the coloured computing pool, where in accordance with state laws, African-American women had to work, eat and use separate toilets from their white peers.
• Katherine calculated the trajectory for the flight of the first American in space in 1961.
• 1969: Katherine helped to calculate the trajectory for the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.