Who is Julia Robinson?

Julia Robinson was one of the first women to earn a Ph.D in mathematics from Berkeley in 1948. She is most famous for her work on Hilbert’s 10th problem, one of 23 mathematics problems that David Hilbert posed in 1900 that shaped mathematics research for over 100 years and continues to inspire the mathematical world. Because of Julia’s contributions, Hilbert’s 10th problem was finally answered in 1970. Julia Robinson’s creativity and mathematical prowess was recognized around the country: she was the first female mathematician elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first female president of the American Mathematics Society, and the first female mathematician to receive a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Why was Julia Robinson chosen to be the namesake of the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival?

Nancy Blachman, the founder of the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, wanted to name the Festival for someone inspirational, and she chose Julia Robinson. Nancy had learned about Julia after watching a pre-release version of George Csicsery’s documentary Julia Robinson and Hilbert’s Tenth Problem. When the first Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival was being planned, Nancy was able to contact Julia’s sister, Constance Reid, who gave her permission to use Julia’s name. The Festival was intended to honor Julia Robinson’s legacy and to encourage students of all backgrounds to pursue mathematics.

In “The autobiography of Julia Robinson,” Julia emphasizes “What I really am is a mathematician. Rather than being remembered as the first woman this or that, I would prefer to be remembered, as a mathematician should, simply for the theorems I have proved and the problems I have solved.” For Julia, being a mathematician was more important to her than being a woman mathematician, and at a Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, we show every child, regardless of background, age, or gender, that they can be a mathematician.

Where can I learn more?

  1. Read a beautifully-written summary of Julia Robinson’s mathematical accomplishments.
  2. Check out “The autobiography of Julia Robinson” written by her sister, Constance Reid.
  3. Watch the documentary by George Csicsery where it all started.