The Innovation Showcase – 18th March
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Olga Taussky-Todd

Olga Taussky-Todd was a "torchbearer for matrix theory".

Olga Taussky-Todd

1906 – 1995

Olga Taussky-Todd was a "torchbearer for matrix theory"


Olga Taussky-Todd was born in Austro-Hungary (later Czechoslovakia) in 1906 to a Jewish family. She joined the University of Vienna in 1925 to study mathematics and chemistry, but gave up the latter to study the philosophy of mathematics. After finishing her dissertation on algebraic number theory in 1930, she worked at the Gottingen Mathematics Institute for a year, editing Hilbert's manuscript on number theory.

Taussky-Todd spent at year at Bryn Mawr and two years at Girton College, Cambridge. In 1937 she worked at the University of London, where she met and married the mathematical analyst John Todd. At the beginning of the Second World War, they moved to Belfast where she lectured at Queen's University and began focusing on matrix theory, which was to occupy much of her later career.

She was given leave of absence to undertake war work, which she carried out at NPL from 1943 to 1946 in the aerodynamics division. The problems included analysis of aircraft designs for their stability properties. Here she expanded her knowledge of matrix theory, in particular studying the computational stability of complex matrices. A good account of her theoretical interests and contribution to matrix theory can be found in the text below [1]. During this period she wrote several articles that were published by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in London.

In 1947, Taussky-Todd moved to the USA, where she worked at the National Bureau of Standards and later the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Here she continued to pursue matrix theory, for which she is best known.

Her work was extremely highly regarded; her many honours and awards included the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year (1963) and the Mathematical Association of America's Ford Prize (1970).