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Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Voices of Black Mathematicians | Roots of Unity - Scientific American

Black History Month in the U.S. is a good time to celebrate these important people, observes Evelyn Lamb, Freelance math and science writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Six of the mathematicians featured on the Mathematically Gifted and Black website: Raymond Johnson, Suzanne L. Weekes, Mohamed Omar, Talithia Williams, Scott Williams, and Kimberley Sellers
Photo: Raymond Johnson, Suzanne L. Weekes, Mohamed Omar, Talithia Williams, Scott Williams, and Kimberley Sellers

February is Black History Month in the United States, and as such it is an excellent time to learn about black history, yes, but also to listen to black people when they talk about their lives today. As this is a math blog, I am going to focus on black mathematicians, but I hope you’re taking advantage of other black history month observances, including this literary series from Very Smart Brothas and Chelsea Green’s Instagram series of black women composers and musicians.

Mathematically Gifted and Black is a good place to start learning about living black mathematicians. (To save you time, here’s a link to Nina Simone singing “Young, Gifted and Black,” which I get stuck in my head every time I see the name of that website.) Mathematically Gifted and Black was founded in 2017 and features a short Q&A with a black mathematician every day in February. For information on both historical and modern black mathematicians, see Scott Williams’ website Mathematicians of the African Diaspora. The American Mathematical Society blog inclusion/exclusion recently published a post about the impact that site has had on African American math students and mathematicians...

In that spirit (and with only a sliver of shameless self-promotion), I want to point to the My Favorite Theorem podcast episodes Kevin Knudson and I have recorded with black mathematicians. Click through for audio, show notes, and links to transcripts. Emille Davie Lawrence told us why she loves the surface classification theorem. Mohamed Omar told us how to count symmetries using a clever lemma. Candice Price told us about DNA topology and mathematical “tangles.” John Urschel told us about graph sparsifiers.  Chawne Kimber told us about the Hahn embedding theorem. Nira Chamberlain told us about the Lorenz system of equations. This year and last year, the Notices of the American Mathematical Society has devoted its February issue to Black History Month and the work of black mathematicians. Find this year's articles here through the end of February 2019 and last year's here (pdf).

Source: Scientific American