Time line Photos Money Stamps Sketch Search

Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler

Birth date:

Birth place:

Date of death:

Place of death:

5 May 1883

Calliope (now Hawarden), Iowa, USA

26 March 1966

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA

Anna Johnson was the daughter of Swedish immigrants who came to the United States about 10 years before Anna was born. When she was nine years old the family moved to Akron, Iowa where Anna attended private school. In 1899 she entered the University of South Dakota where she showed great promise in mathematics. The professor of mathematics, Alexander Pell , recognised her talents and helped persuade Anna Johnson that she should follow a career in mathematics. She received an A.B. degree in 1903.

After winning a scholarship to study for her master's degrees at the University of Iowa, she was awarded the degree for a thesis The extension of Galois theory to linear differential equations in 1904. A second master's degree from Radcliffe was awarded in 1905 and she remained there to study under Bôcher and Osgood .

Anna Johnson was awarded the Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship from Wellesley College to study for a year at Göttingen University. There she attended lectures by Hilbert , Klein , Minkowski , Herglotz and Schwarzschild . She worked for her doctorate at Göttingen. While there Alexander Pell , her former mathematics professor came to Göttingen so that they could marry.

After returning to the United States, where her husband was by now Dean of Engineering, she taught courses in the theory of functions and differential equations. In 1908 Anna Pell returned to Göttingen where she completed the work for her doctorate but, after a disagreement with Hilbert , she returned to Chicago, where her husband was now on the university staff, without the degree being awarded.

At Chicago she became a student of Eliakim Moore and received her Ph.D. in 1909, her thesis Biorthogonal Systems of Functions with Applications to the Theory of Integral Equations being the one written originally at Göttingen. From 1911 Anna Pell taught at Mount Holyoke College and then at Bryn Mawr from 1918. Anna Pell's husband Alexander , who was 25 years older than she was, died in 1920. In 1924 Anna Pell became head of mathematics when Scott retired, becoming a full professor in 1925.

After a short second marriage to Arthur Wheeler, during which time they lived at Princeton and she taught only part-time, her second husband died in 1932. After this Anna Wheeler returned to full time work at Bryn Mawr where Emmy Noether joined her in 1933. However Emmy Noether died in 1935. The period from 1920 until 1935 certainly must have been one with much unhappiness for Anna Wheeler since during those years her father, mother, two husbands and close friend and colleague Emmy Noether died. Anna Wheeler remained at Bryn Mawr until her retirement in 1948.

The direction of Anna Wheeler's work was much influenced by Hilbert . Under his guidance she worked on integral equations studying infinite dimensional linear spaces. This work was done in the days when functional analysis was in its infancy and much of her work has lessened in importance as it became part of the more general theory.

Perhaps the most important honour she received was becoming the first woman to give the Colloquium Lectures at the American Mathematical Society meetings in 1927.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland