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Julia Robinson

Julia Robinson


Julia Robinson was a prominent American mathematician, who was born on December 8th, 1919 and died on July 30th, 1985. Her professional popularity lies in her affiliation with the decision problem and Hilbert’s Tenth Problem.

Early Life

She was the daughter of Ralph Bowers Bowman and Helen (Hall) Bowman, her birthplace was St. Louis, Missouri.

Educational endeavor

Robinson attended San Diego High and in 1936 she went to San Diego University, by 1939 she had transferred to University of California, Berkeley. After being awarded her BA in 1940, she pursued her graduate studies which resulted in her receiving her PhD in 1948. Her dissertation was based on “Definability and Decision Problems in Arithmetic”. Alfred Tarski was her doctoral advisor for the thesis.

Participation in the world of Mathematics

Robinson became a professor in 1975 at Berkeley, however she taught only quarter-time since she didn’t feel she could adhere to the strength requirement of a full time job.

Robinson’s PhD thesis exhibited that the theory of rational numbers was indecisive; this was achieved by portraying that the elementary number theory could be explained through ‘rationals’.

The very well-known Hilbert’s tenth problem inquired for an algorithm to figure out whether a Diophantine equation could have any integer solutions. Robinson was one of those brilliant minds that managed to come up with numerous results in the 1940s till 1970s, her along with other fellows outlined that an algorithm of such a nature cannot exist. This pronounced her academic fame on the mathematical platform.

Other highlights and achievements of her mathematical journey

Robinson managed to sway away from decision problems two times, the first time she published a paper in 1948 which was based on sequential analysis in statistics. Then in 1951 a paper focused on the game theory where she showed the fictitious play dynamics intersects to the mixed strategy Nash equilibrium in the (two player) zero-sum game theory.

Julia Robinson was also the first woman mathematician to be honored with election to the National Academy of Sciences. She received innumerable amount of awards which also included a Mac Arthur Foundation Prize and honorary doctorates. Moreover, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; she was also given the presidency of the American Mathematical Society. This made her the first woman to hold this position of mathematical stature.

Personal details

Robinson suffered from fragile health because she had rheumatic fever when she was a child. She was married to Raphael Robinson in 1941, he was a Berkeley professor. She got operated on in 1961 which improved her health and permitted her to be more physically active; she was diagnosed with leukemia in 1984. Even though she was treated for it, the disease relapsed and she passed away in Oakland, California.

In conclusion, Robinson was a mathematician who proved to be a prominent academic figure despite health issues at certain times.

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