In her own words: The personal perspectives of Mina Rees

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Book Chapter

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Women in mathematics: Celebrating the centennial of the Mathematical Association of America


Mathematician Mina S. Rees (1902–1997) broke many barriers during her long and varied career. Known for being a strong and dedicated leader, she was also an insightful and compassionate educator. She wore many hats over the years, all of them traditionally male: mathematics professor, college dean, college president, second in command of a war-time research panel, deputy science director of the Office of Naval Research, pioneer in early computing. Significantly, she was the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She accomplished all this with personal strength and integrity. Though she was outspoken when it came to research and education, she rarely spoke of her personal life. In this chapter, we will explore her amazing career, laying special focus on her personal journey. Rees wrote a “Biographical Letter” in the AWM Newsletter in 1970 and gave several interviews in which she did share several personal stories. These stories, along with other personal comments she made over the years, will guide our look at the groundbreaking career of a remarkable woman. Many of her sentiments are still relevant today as education strives to service an ever-diversifying student body.

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