# Julia Robinson

**Julia Hall Bowman Robinson** , born Julia Bowman, (born December 8, 1919 , in St. Louis , Missouri , † July 30, 1985 in Oakland , California ) was an American mathematician who studied mathematical logic.

## life and work

Her father Ralph Bowers Bowman had a small machine factory, but after the death of his wife in 1921 he and the children settled in a small settlement in the middle of the Arizona desert. Robinson finished school, interrupted by long periods of illness (scarlet fever, rheumatic fever), in San Diego in 1936 with excellent grades in mathematics and physics. In the same year, her father, who had been deprived of all savings by the Great Depression, committed suicide. She studied mathematics with the aim of becoming a teacher in San Diego and Berkeley with the number theorist Raphael Robinson (1911-1995), whom she married in 1941. After graduating in 1941, she worked at Berkeley as an assistant to the stochastic Jerzy Neyman , and her first publication was on statistics. During the Second World War she was employed by Neyman in secret government work. In 1946 she went to Princeton , where she received her doctorate under Alfred Tarski in 1948. In her dissertation *Definability and decision problems in arithmetic* , she proved the undecidability of the arithmetic of rational numbers. In the same year she started working on Hilbert's tenth problem , which asks for an algorithm that decides whether a Diophantine equation (i.e. an equation with solutions in the range of integers) is solvable or not. She delivered fundamental results in this area (especially in a work with Martin Davis and Hilary Putnam *The decision problem for exponential diophantine equations* , Annals of Mathematics 1961), which paved the way for the final (negative) solution by Yuri Matiyasevich in 1970, one at the time 22 year old mathematician from Leningrad. During her time at Rand Corporation in 1949/1950, she also dealt with game theory and proved a convergence theorem for an iterative approximation of the optimal strategy of the players in a 2-person zero-sum game (Annals of Mathematics 1951). In mathematical logic, she also wrote important papers on decidability issues in algebra and on the theory of recursive functions.

In 1976 she became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley , but could only teach to a limited extent due to health problems.

Robinson was also politically active in the 1950s. In 1952 and 1956 she worked for Adlai Stevenson's presidential candidacy and was involved in the Democratic Party until the 1960s. In the 1960s she developed heart problems that made surgery necessary. As early as the 1940s, after a miscarriage, it was predicted that she would not be able to have a child due to heart problems (scarred tissue as a result of her childhood rheumatic fever). She died of leukemia at the age of 65 .

In 1976 she was the first woman elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and in 1982 she was the first woman president of the American Mathematical Society . In 1985 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1983 she was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship . In 1982 she gave the Noether Lecture .

Her older sister Constance Reid (1918-2010) is known for her mathematician biographies of David Hilbert , Richard Courant , Eric Temple Bell and Jerzy Neyman .

## literature

- Derrick Henry Lehmer et al. a., Obituary in Notices of the American Mathematical Society 1985
- Craig Smorynski
*Julia Robinson - in memoriam*Mathematical Intelligencer Vol. 8, 1986 - Constance Reid, Martin Davis et al. a.
*Julia - a life in Mathematics*, Washington DC 1997, ISBN 0-88385-520-8 . - Constance Reid, Raphael Robinson
*Julia Robinson*, in Paul Campbell, Louise Grinstein (Eds.)*Woman in mathematics*, Westport 1987 - Julia Robinson, Martin Davis, Yuri Matiyasevich
*Hilbert's tenth problem. Diophantine equations: positive aspects of a negative solution*, in Browder (Ed.) Mathematical Developments Arising from Hilbert Problems, Proc. Sympos. Pure Math. 28: 323-378 (1976) - Julia Robinson
*Collected Works*, American Mathematical Society 1996 (Solomon Feferman Ed., With an introduction by Constance Reid) - Donald J. Albers, GL Alexanderson, Constance Reid
*More Mathematical People - Contemporary Conversations*, Academic Press 1994 - Juri Wladimirowitsch Matijassewitsch : My collaboration with Julia Robinson, Mathematical Intelligencer, Volume 14, 1992, No. 4, online

## Web links

- John J. O'Connor, Edmund F. Robertson :
*Julia Robinson.*In:*MacTutor History of Mathematics archive .* - Constance Reid
*Being Julia Robinsons Sister*, Notices American Mathematical Society, December 1996 - English website with links
- List of publications
- Solomon Feferman in Biographical Memoirs National Academy of Science, English, PDF file (205 kB)

personal data | |
---|---|

SURNAME | Robinson, Julia |

ALTERNATIVE NAMES | Robinson, Julia Hall Bowman |

BRIEF DESCRIPTION | American mathematician |

DATE OF BIRTH | December 8, 1919 |

PLACE OF BIRTH | St. Louis , Missouri |

DATE OF DEATH | July 30, 1985 |

Place of death | Oakland , California |