Susan Wu

ERC, Inc., Chairman Dr. Susan Wu of Huntsville. Wu
was named one of Caltech’s alumni of the year for
Thank you to mathemagician Art Benjamin, who submitted this GGSTEM post:
Born in Beijing, China in 1932, Dr.  Ying-chu Lin (Susan) Wu went to Taiwan with her family in 1947 starting 8th grade then moved to the USA in 1957 on a scholarship to study aerospace engineering at Ohio State University, earning her Masters Degree in 1959. This was followed by an Amelia Earhart Scholarship at Caltech, where she became the first woman at Caltech to earn a PhD in Aeronautics, in 1963. Dr. Wu did research in magnetohydrodynamics propulsion, combining Maxwell’s equations with fluid dynamics. She taught at the University of Tennessee Spacie Institute in Tullahoma, Tennessee until 1988. In 1987, she started her own company, ERC, which now has over 800 employees, focusing on does engineering research and development, consulting,  and testing in aerospace technology.
Dr. Wu adds:
Starting a company was not my original wish or desire but became my last resort to work in aerospace after finishing my degree in Aerospace in 1963. In 1962, one year before I finished my Ph. D. from Caltech I received devastating news – I had a hole between my atria which had to be repaired. When I was looking for job before graduation, the only requirement which I had was providing my open heart surgery. Unfortunately that was almost impossible because my heart was a “pre-existing condition” which was excluded from insurance! Finally I found a job in Pasadena at Electro – Optical Systems, Inc. to work on “magnetohydrodynamics” which would pay for my surgery. I knew nothing about this subject matter, but to save my life I’d work on anything!
Talking about desperation, I knew what it was like! I was a mother of two young boys and one year before finished my degree then came the bomb! At that time I was not worried about my degree but my two toddler sons, Ernie (born in 1960) and Albert (born in 1961). I was very scared if I did not make the operation. Open heart surgery was quite new in the early 1960’s. I had surgery in 1964 at Los Angeles. Thank God I survived!
When I turned 55, I took early retirement from the University of Tennessee Space Institute located in Tullahoma, Tennessee and started my own aerospace company. That was the only way I could return back to aerospace because I had never touched aerospace since graduation till then. No one would hire an entry level aerospace engineer who had never worked in aerospace other than a degree over 20 years earlier. Finally I decided to start my company and hire myself. This would not solve my problem of getting back to aerospace. After some soul searching I decided start from artificial intelligence  to analyze data for NASA Space Shuttle. We could do it much faster, consequently cheaper. From there I could gradually get back into aerospace.
As I aged my broken heart did not forget me. I started having difficulties. In 1988 I had a minor stroke. Now I wear a pacemaker (my third one) to keep my heart pumping. My eldest son, Ernie is running my company and I enjoy retirement life and grand kids.
Wu_ERC voyager
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Fe del Mundo


Thank you to Penney Kome, who pointed out this Facebook post about Fe del Mundo from the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS).

The society also recommends this article.

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Rose Greer

Rose_Greer_2Rose’s college graduation photo

Thanks to Meredith Greer, who submitted this post about her mother, Rose Greer.

My mom’s career was as a middle school science teacher. She studied biology in college and went on to teach it to hundreds of children in Cecil County, Maryland, public schools. She has also always taught, and marveled at the world with, her children, her nephews, and her granddaughters.

Teaching middle school requires a delicate balance of keeping discipline and good humor in a classroom, getting students interested in science, finding activities to help students learn, and in my mother’s case, providing children a safe person to talk to about their everyday lives. There were many students, across the years, for whom she was the primary confidant and only source of hugs. While science was my mom’s official area of expertise, it was even more important to her to help students grow up safely and to listen to their needs.

My mother’s science teaching regularly went beyond the classroom. As a notable example: she and a colleague noticed that parts of their school’s property were often waterlogged, did the research to discover the school had been built on a former wetland, received a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to restore a part of the grounds to wetland status, and created Wetland Day, an annual activity in which students learned the science of wetlands, gathered data and samples from the wetland right outside the school doors, and celebrated the importance of wetlands to the local ecosystem. Wetland Day continues still, twenty years later, though both its originators moved on from that school several years ago.

In 1996 my mother won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, complete with an award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Though now retired, she continues to share a love of science with her family and friends, and she continues to enjoy learning new things about the world.

Rose_greer_1 Rose at the Berlin Zoo with her granddaughter Ellie

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Jacqueline Brannon Giles


Our Groans, Glory and Great Achievements
By Professor Jacqueline Brannon Giles, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics;
Region C Representative/National Association of Mathematicians Board of Directors.


I am a grandma who loves STEM. The love for mathematics was instilled in me by my mother who is still active and competent at 92 years old. She shared with me that she graduated high school at 14 years old, and she was a member of the first Calculus class at the historical Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas. Mother Brannon would squat on the floor and play games with me, defeating me most of the time when I was a young child, yet encouraging me to continue to think and work. She set an expectation for me, and now I am setting high expectations for my six grandchildren.


My grandson, Spencer Jr. has always tinkered with our cellphones and computers. He seemed to understand how to do things on the computer with little or no help from his father, Spencer Sr., who is a mathematics instructor in the Cleveland School District in Ohio. Since Spencer Jr. was born on a Super Bowl Sunday, I dedicated myself to Sports and Mathematics so that I could nurture him in both areas. I wanted to be a good grandma with inspiring, and exciting content for my first grandson who was born during a Super Bowl.

Since 2008, I started researching the history of the university that awarded me my first degree in mathematics and English. Since I still teach mathematics at both a two-year college and at a diverse historical university in a minority community, I was honored when one of the Directors of Communications asked that I write an article for Homecoming 2015. The article below is my contribution as a Grandma in STEM, and as a serious fan of college and professional football. I dedicate this article to Spencer Jr, Alyssa, Analicia, Aubriella, Halle, and Adeja, the eldest grandchild.


Giving birth to greatness in a university often is accompanied by groans of challenge, struggle and what may appear to be insurmountable tasks. The birth of Texas Southern University (TSU) started with a groan from a man who was denied entrance in another major Texas institution.  The groans of segregation gave rise to the birth of a powerful historical university that served the needs of the disenfranchised in 1947. Those groans were a blessing in disguise for they were the sound of birth pains, giving rise to an institution that has produced leaders who are prepared to lead in a culturally diverse United States of America as well as internationally. Many of those leaders have been outstanding on the gridiron in college and professional football.

R. C. Thomas remembers the groans of a TSU player who loved to practice on the playing field under the leadership of Head Coach Alexander Durley who was also a mathematics professor. R. C. was a young man who served as the water boy for the TSU team. He is the brother of W. K. Hicks, an outstanding former NFL player with the New York Jets. R. C. remembers Hicks’ friend and colleague Warren Wells, who was so passionate about football practice that R.C. sometimes heard him groan when he did his drills and other schemes in practice. Wells is among nearly 65 other Texas Southern University football stars that made memorable contributions to the American Football League and the National Football League.

Coach Alexander Durley would send his football players to the Mathematics Lab, in Samuel Nabrit Hall, for mathematics tutoring to help them maintain good averages in their mathematics classes. I met one of the players who became a great “deep threat.”  In 1962, he claimed that he did mathematics on the football field while I do it on the blackboard. It took a lot of years for me to see the wisdom in his comment.

The preparation and expended intellectual, physical and spiritual energy imparted by the mathematics professor, Alexander Durley, who was also the head coach in the Sixties yielded a cadre of physical warriors. These high achievers made phenomenal gains in professional football.  Many, however, have not been heralded in the national media, but now their university has dropped the gauntlet to wage war against oversights and selective exposure. Now is the time for the former TSU stars to shine in glory as we reflect on their great achievements at Homecoming in 2015.

The legacies of achievement in sports are founded on the passions and pathos of the academic leaders, both past and present. Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” So, the giants in athletic achievement of the past at Texas Southern have established a robust foundation for the future. Some of the great achievers in professional football who I have researched are:

Douglas, John (1967 – 1969)
Frazier, Charlie (1962 – 1970)
Hicks, W.K. (1964 – 1972)
Hill, Winston (1963 – 1977)
Holmes, Ernie (1972 – 1978)
Jones, Homer (1964 – 1970)
Rice, Andy (1966 – 1973)
Wells, Warren (1964 – 1970)
White, John (1960 – 1961)

One of the powerful professional football players who attended Texas Southern University and who brought honor and glory to us all was Ernie Holmes. He was a part of the strong defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The other strong men of the “Steel Curtain” were “Mean” Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, and Dwight White.

Ernie Holmes inspired me because he is the father of a young mathematician who made history by becoming the second African American male to complete a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Houston. The fact that the senior Holmes fathered the historical mathematician is evidence, in my opinion, that the men on the playing field are often men of high intellect, and those genes are passed down to the next generation of achievers in football, mathematics and other disciplines.

Another reason I developed a passion for researching and writing about the men who attended Texas Southern and who played professional football is because in 1974 I hired a relative of one of the Steel Curtain group. Bob White, a former probation officer, would brag about the feats of the Steel Curtain during breaks at an Urban League Emergency School Aid Act (ESAA) project located at Blodgett and Dowling at the former Urban League location.  Bob White was the uncle of Dwight White of the Steel Curtain.

John White, another TSU alumnus, also inspired a passion in me for research and writing about football. He headed Project P.U.L.L.  after his career ended, and he hired other former NFL players from Texas Southern as a part of his community service effort to touch and direct the lives of those who had unusual challenges when they transitioned from the glory of professional football back to mundane lifestyles in Third Ward. John White’s project was located on McGowan and Hwy 288. The purpose of the project was youth development, and leadership development. Deloyd Parker, the Executive Director and Founder of S.H.A.P. E. Community Center reminded me that Project P.U.L.L. was funded by professional athletes and community persons.

Winston Hill inspired me, too. Hill protected the blind-side of Joe Namath. Over the years I have questioned the selection process of the committee responsible for voting players into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Two visits to the Hall of Fame shifted my interest to examine the selection process. One research question that I have posed to hundreds of students requires us to look at the interaction analysis on the football playing field.  The argument I present is that a quarterback cannot be successful if the wide receiver or others do not make successful receptions. The quarterback cannot be successful if he is sacked. Therefore, the players who successfully protect the quarterback are as valuable as the quarterback. The logic directs our thinking to conjecture that if the quarterback is in the Hall of Fame, then the key players who protected him should be enshrined.

The other arguments that have been presented in more than 1400 articles on Bleacher Report and Raider Nation Times include a characterization of intensity, integrity, and consistency in performance on the playing field. Several TSU alumni demonstrated those characteristics on the playing field. Many of the more than 65 TSU alumni who became AFL or NFL players have not been recognized for their illustrious achievements. Some argue that players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, in the past, did not have the support system to protect and promote their achievements in professional football. Also, there are those who agree with the premises of life after football challenges depicted in the documentary entitled, “Broke,” distributed by ESPN.

Texas Southern University is leading the movement to recognize its own graduates and former students by featuring their achievements in both their profession and in their communities. The celebratory events of this year’s Homecoming will resound through this nation, signaling a new era of recognition and honor for those who have inspired millions by their outstanding performance on the gridiron.

We salute our professional football stars. We are grateful for the joy and inspiration they are giving us and have given us through the years.

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Katherine Johnson


Thanks to Andrew Ross, who wrote to say:  “I just came across this notice from Upworthy via Facebook:”

Happy birthday, Katherine Johnson! You may know her as the incredible NASA scientist and physicist who guided the trajectory of Project Mercury *and* the 1969 Apollo moon landing. She turns 97 today.

UPDATE 11/20/15:  Katherine Johnson will be one of 17 to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom when the awards are presented by President Barack Obama on Nov. 24, according to a White House news release.
Video of Johnson discussing her work.


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Margaret Hamilton


Thanks to Richard Ziglar, who pointed out this Wikipedia post about Margaret Hamilton and the code she wrote for the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), pictured below.


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Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether 1932

Emmy Noether (1882-1935)

By Else Hoyrup


This is a non-technical introduction to Emmy Noether, a German mathematician and physicist; one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of the 20th Century. I first heard her name while an undergraduate studying modern abstract algebra. She was one of the principal founders of this discipline.

She was the only woman I heard of when I studied mathematics in the mid 1960’s. As a young person, my specialty besides algebra was algebraic topology, a field where Noether also exerted great influence. This has also contributed to my interest in her. (Now my field is history of science).

But during the last years, I have learned that today Noether is also considered one of the most central theoretical physicists for her discovery of the link between symmetries and conservation laws, called the Noether theorem. I find this fascinating: She was a theoretical mathematician, who has become extremely famous today for her physics, many years after her death.


When Emmy Noether was young, the German universities were closed to women, but they gradually opened up during Noether’s time.

But she never got a regular job, probably because she was a woman and a Jew. Since other Jews did become professors, for instance Noether’s own father and brother, it was probably her being a woman which barred her from a regular job. For many years she even earned no money at all, lecturing under the great mathematician David Hilbert’s name in Göttingen.


Hilbert did the best he could to get her a regular and paid job at the University of Göttingen. The first time was in 1915, where he met with fierce opposition from the humanists at the university, who – in contrast to the mathematicians – were fiercely against women at the university. Hilbert argued:

“Aber die Fakultät ist doch keine Badeanstalt!” (“After all, this is a university, not a public baths”).

But the humanists would not give in. – Remember, in 1915 the First World War had just started. – The humanists argued that if women were allowed to teach at the university, they would become competitors to the male soldiers, when they returned from the war.

As we shall see in the passage about Emmy Noether’s physics, her results in two papers from 1918 helped David Hilbert, the great mathematician Felix Klein, who was also in Göttingen, and Einstein, who was not, in their work with mathematical problems in the general theory of relativity. Therefore all three of them wanted to help Noether to get a paid job at the University of Göttingen. Einstein was especially impressed by Noether’s results.

In 1919, after the war, Klein finally succeeded in getting Emmy Noether, not a job, but the permission to teach at the University of Göttingen (see below). Time had changed after the war in the young Weimar Republic and given women more opportunities.

In order to get the right to teach at a university in Germany, the candidate must have a degree higher than the equivalent of the PhD, called in German “Habilitation”. But it was not enough to write a good thesis, you must also give an oral test lecture.

She wrote her habilitation thesis in 1918 on some important questions in mathematical physics, relating to the general theory of relativity. It was called:

Invariante Variationsprobleme. (“Invariant Variation Problems”).

In my passage “Physics”, I write more about this important article, which has become a hot theme among modern physicists. Her results are called the Noether theorem.

So in 1919, she was finally given her Habilitation and with it the right to teach at the University of Göttingen. She was now a “Privatdozent”, which was not a job, and which was without any payment! In 1922, she was given the title “Ausserordentlicher Professor”, which still did not give her any salary.

In 1923, she at last got a little money for her work. She got what was called a “Lehrauftrag”, that is a remuneration for her teaching hours. But this Lehrauftrag should be renewed each semester.


But against all odds, she managed to live a life which was satisfying to her. She did not worry about worldly wealth. She got accustomed to poverty, which she managed by having a frugal lifestyle and living in an inexpensive boarding house. She never married and never had children.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Noether and other Jews were fired from their university jobs. She was totally obnoxious to the Nazis: She was a Jew, she was an academic woman, she was a social democrat and she was a pacifist.

So she was forced to emigrate to America in 1933. Unfortunately, she died in 1935, aged 53.

In a eulogy after her death, her fellow mathematician from Germany and US, Hermann Weyl, remarked on Noether’s extremely fine, generous and unselfish personality: “During the Nazi terror against German Jews, she was never concerned about her own fate, but the more concerned about her fellow mathematicians and her students”.


Noether was the creator of a whole new scientific school, which became one of the most brilliant schools of mathematics: The school of abstract algebra. In her hands algebra was directed away from cumbersome calculations to operating of abstract, general concepts like (mathematical) groups, (mathematical) rings and (mathematical) ideals. She proved some beautiful theorems, for instance in 1921 in her article in Mathematische Annalen: Idealtheorie in Ringbereichen (“The Theory of Ideals in Ring Domains”).

But you cannot measure her influence only by her own publications: She was most generous in giving away her ideas to her students and colleagues, and she was extremely inspiring. She also inspired work in other mathematical fields, like algebraic topology and algebraic geometry. Her way of working consisted among other things in working in a close knit network of followers, the so called “Noether boys”. Mathematics was her only passion, she worked with it all the time, and she was happy with it. On Sundays, she went for long walks in the countryside with her Noether boys. She was a great and pleasant personality.

Her colleague and friend, the Russian algebraic topologist Alexandrov gave a fine eulogy about her after her premature death in 1935:

The fundamental characteristic of her mathematical talent was the striving for general formulations of mathematical problems and the ability to find the formulation which reveals the essential logical nature of the question, stripped of any incidental peculiarities which complicate matters and obscure the fundamental point.

And further:

It was she who taught us to think in terms of simple and general algebraic concepts – homeomorphic mappings, groups and rings with operators, ideals – and not in terms of cumbersome algebraic computations; and thereby opened up the path to finding algebraic principles in places where such principles had been obscured by some complicated special situation which was not at all suited for the accustomed approach of the classical algebraists.

Although Noether preferred to think in abstract terms, she did not make abstractions for the sake of abstractions themselves, but because abstractions in her hand became more fruitful.

As already mentioned, an era in her life ended, when the Nazis came to power in 1933 and she was dismissed from her small university job. She emigrated to US and landed at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, a women’s college, which had a fine reputation. Here she created a new school of women mathematicians. She also traveled by train to nearby Princeton University to lecture once a week at the Institute for Advanced Study. Among her listeners was Albert Einstein, who was a great admirer of Noether.

You can read more about Noether at the website Mac Tutor History of Mathematics Archive:


In 1915 the mathematicians David Hilbert and Felix Klein invited Noether to the famous University of Göttingen in Germany. Hilbert and Klein were working with Einstein’s general theorem of relativity, but they had all three encountered a seeming paradox: Under the general relativity there seemed to be no local energy conservation. Under the special relativity there was both local and global energy conservation. Emmy Noether was invited to help the three involved solve their problem, because she was already famous for her work on invariants.

She solved the problem quickly and elegantly and on top of that, she made further generalizations. Her paper on the matter has the title Invariante Variationsprobleme (“Invariant Variation Problems”). It was written and published in 1918. Just before this paper, also in 1918, she had published a related paper: Invarianten beliebiger Differentialausdrücke (“Invariants of Arbitrary Differential Expressions”). This paper was more mathematical, whereas the other paper was more physical.

Einstein was very impressed by her results and in May 1918 he wrote to Hilbert after reading the paper “Invarianten beliebiger Differentialausdrücke”:

Yesterday I received from Miss Noether a very interesting paper on invariants. I’m impressed that such things can be understood in such a general way. It would have done no harm to the soldiers returning to Göttingen from the trenches to be sent to school under Miss Noether! She seems to know her stuff.

Note: The quotation in the original German version uses Einstein’s own word Feldgrauen. In most English translations, this is rendered as the Old Guard (of Göttingen). The Old Guard means the professors in Göttingen, among them Hilbert and Klein themselves. But this is a linguistic misunderstanding of some consequence. The word Feldgrauen means the returning soldiers from the battlefields in The First World War. Literary, the word means soldiers with their gray uniforms. But even among younger people in Germany, many are not familiar with this expression. My thanks to Cordula Tollmien for pointing out this misunderstanding and for sending me an extremely interesting article in German about the matter. The author, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, furthermore writes that it is difficult to translate Einstein’s irony in his letters. Einstein was a pacifist, contrary to most Germans, including Klein himself. So he did not want men to go to war. Instead, he writes that he wanted them to go to the university and listen to Emmy Noether, who was also a pacifist. – The above English translation of Einstein’s praise is Reinhard Siegmund-Schultzes’ wording.

But she did not herself attach much importance to her work on physics. Her now famous paper, Invariante Variationsprobleme, deals with theoretical physics and especially mathematical physics and both she herself and her contemporary mathematics circle saw her first and foremost as a mathematician. For many years, not many mathematicians or physicists did study her article carefully, maybe because it was rather technical and on the border between physics and mathematics, maybe because of gender discrimination. Therefore it was not cited very often for many years. But today, many years after her death, her results are on every physicist’s lips! This fascinates me!

A bit technically speaking, the article is about problems in the calculus of variations with differential invariants. She proves two theorems and their converses and together the four theorems are called collectively the Noether theorem. (Sometimes they are called the Noether theorems).

Physically speaking, they deal with the fundamental connection between symmetry, invariance and conservation laws:

Time translational invariance gives conservation of energy.

Space translational invariance gives conservation of momentum.

Isotropy (invariance to different directions) gives conservation of angular momentum.

Time invariance and spatial invariance are absolutely fundamental to scientific thinking, in that they guarantee that an experiment done at another time or at another place gives the same results. Without it one could not have science and scientific theory!

Today Noether’s results are the cornerstone in the basis of modern theoretical physics. On top of that they have proved to be central to areas of physics, which were new, for instance elementary particle physics.

According to physics professor Jeppe Dyre: The Noether theorem is the most beautiful and most central result in physics!

For further reading, see the website Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics:,_Amalie_Emmy@861234567.html


Emmy Noether and her work are exceptions in the history of science and most interesting to me too. I hope that some other people will also find her interesting. Today she is remembered in several ways by things bearing her name: Noetherian rings in mathematics. The Noether theorem in physics described above. And also a crater on the Moon.

In her own lifetime, the high point of recognition was in 1932, at the International Mathematical Congress in Zürich, where she gave a plenary lecture. But although she was much esteemed in mathematical circles, her work as an unofficial editor of the important journal Mathematische Annalen was never credited officially on paper. Why I don’t know. This may have caused her some grief. But she was never bitter about the obstructions she met. She just concentrated on her mathematics and her mathematician friends.

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