Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Joan Birman, mathematics, and genders

Paul Krapivsky has sent me a very interesting
a group theorist and knot theorist at Columbia University, published in the Notices of the AMS. A special comment for William Connolley: AMS doesn't stand for any climate crackpots; the acronym is nothing else than the American Mathematical Society.

She has a lot to say about her Russian, English, and Jewish roots; her sisters who were interested in math as well as hair; her job in the aircraft industry; her dislike for mathematical inequalities (I used to despise them, too); the interaction of her family and work; knots, braids, surfaces, modular groups, knot polynomials, invariants; collaboration in mathematics; NP completeness.

Officially, this interview is on-topic on this blog because its last pages are dedicated to women in science. She claims that the attitude towards women has changed enormously during her lifetime and mathematics is welcoming these days. Prof Birman rates Larry Summers' 1/14/2005 questions as very good ones and she is concerned that the political correctness has stopped many people from trying to understand these issues more completely.

The moment she really likes in mathematics is when she sees that someone has read and understood her work and if he or she could build on it.

Via Not Even Wrong.

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