Helen Abbot Merrill (1864 - 1949)

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About Helen Abbot Merrill

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Abbot_Merrill

Helen Abbot Merrill (1864 – 1949) was an American mathematician, educator and textbook author.


Biography


Born in New Jersey the daughter of an insurance claims adjuster and a housewife, and raised in Massachusetts, her family tree included colonial settlers. Young Helen's formal education started at a high school in Massachusetts, and after graduating went to Wellesley College, where she intended to major in Greek and Latin. Unusually, the mathematics faculty at the college consisted mostly of women, including Ellen Hayes, and before completing her first years, Helen Merrill had decided to major in mathematics instead of languages. In 1893 she began teaching at Wellesley while also studying and guest lecturing abroad. In 1920 she was appointed vice-president of the Mathematical Association of America. Upon her retirement from Wellesley, she was given the title Professor Emerita. In addition to textbooks for use at Wellesley, Merrill also wrote as a popularizer a book titled Mathematical Excursions in 1933.

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Helen Merrill was born in Llewellyn Park, Orange, New Jersey. She entered Wellesley College in 1882, only seven years after the first students arrived on campus. Her original intent was to study Latin and Greek, but she changed to mathematics after her first year. She graduated from Wellesley with a B.A. degree in 1886. For the next three years she taught history, Latin, and mathematics at the Classical School for Girls in New York City, followed by two years of teaching mill girls for the Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey, and two years of teaching mathematics and Latin at the Walnut Lane School in Philadelphia. In 1893 she returned to Wellesley as an instructor in mathematics, remaining there for the rest of her professional career.

During her first years at Wellesley, Merrill began graduate studies in mathematics. She spent 1896-97 at the University of Chicago, 1901-02 at the University of Göttingen, and 1902-03 at Yale. She earned her Ph.D. from Yale in 1903 with a thesis "On Solutions of Differential Equations which possess an Oscillation Theorem." This was published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society in 1903. Meanwhile, she was promoted to associate professor at Wellesley in 1901. After returning to teaching at Wellesley in 1903, Merrill introduced an introductory course in the theory of functions, and a bit later a course in Descriptive Geometry inspired by her work with Professor G. F. Schilling in Göttingen. Neither of these subjects were typically found in an undergraudate mathematics curriculum. In 1915 Merrill was promoted to full professor and was named chair of the department. She remained the chairman until her retirement in 1932.

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Helen Abbot Merrill's Timeline

1864
1864
1949
1949
Age 85