A Guide to the Marian Pour-El Papers, 1940-2004
Marian Pour-El (1928-2009) was born in New York City, New York. She completed her bachelor’s degree in physics at Hunter College (1945), her A.M. in mathematics at Harvard College (1951), and continued her studies in mathematical logic at Harvard to earn her Ph.D. in 1958. She was one of the first and only female students in the Harvard mathematics department, a trend that she encountered throughout her career.
During her Ph.D. studies, Pour-El left Harvard to study under logicians in Berkeley, where she met her future husband, Akiva Pour-El, who was pursuing his doctorate in biochemistry. After receiving her Ph.D., she moved to University Park, Pennsylvania, to begin a post as a professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania State University. Pour-El taught there for the next seven years, except for a one-year sabbatical visiting position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, from 1962-1964, where she met mathematician Kurt Gödel. She left Pennsylvania State University in 1968 to accept a professorship at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, remaining where she remained until her retirement in 2000. From 1969 to 1970, Pour-El was a visiting professor at the University of Bristol in England.
Her research produced over 30 published works,including one book, Computability in Analysis and Physics, co-authored with Ian Richards. Along with teaching duties and research, Pour-El served on a number of university committees that included university procedural matters, computer science department planning, search committees, and women graduate students.
Pour-El actively participated in mathematics organizations, including the American Mathematical Society (AMS), Mathematical Association of America (MAA), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), Association for Symbolic Logic (ASL), and the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). She sat on various committees, particularly with AMS, including the Committee for Committees, Committee on Translations from Russians, Committee to Monitor Problems in Communication, and the Committee on Professional Ethics, among others.
A significant portion of Pour-El’s involvement in the mathematical community and scholarship came from the many presentations she made at conferences, lectures, and symposiums both in the United States but internationally. In addition, she was invited to speak at events in Hungary, England, the Czech Republic, China, Japan, Germany, and Russia.
Pour-El received several honors, including a symposium held in her honor in Japan (1993), election as an AAAS fellow (1983), and election to the Hunter Hall of Fame (1975). She belonged to Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Sigma Pi Sigma. In addition to her fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, she was awarded fellowships from the National Academy of Science and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Due to the commitments to their respective careers, Pour-El and her husband lived apart for a large portion of their marriage in varying amounts of time and distance. Because of this, Pour-El and her husband often raised their daughter, Ina, in a single-parent household. She wrote several articles about her nontraditional marriage, including, “Spatial Separation in Family Life: A Mathematician’s Choice,” published in Mathematics Tomorrow. She was especially interested in the advancement of women in society and in the workplace, particularly in mathematics and sciences.
The Pour-El papers, 1940-2004, consist of Pour-El’s research papers, research papers of other mathematicians, handwritten notes, professional correspondence, and printed materials related to university activities, professional organizations, conferences, fellowships and grants, honors and awards, and women’s issues. Also included are biographical materials, school records, personal correspondence, and printed materials regarding women’s issues. The collection is divided into four series: Professional, Personal, Photographs, and Audio-Visual.
The bulk of the collection is in the Professional series, which documents Pour-El’s and others’ published works as well as correspondence with other mathematicians around the world, among them Kurt Godel, Lenore Blum, Erwin Engeler, John Myhill, Ian Richards, and Anthony Dunlop. Other contents include handwritten notes detailing Pour-El’s work, university activities, salary reports, committee work, activity reports, and Vitae drafts. Pour-El’s many honors and awards are documented, along with her numerous travel and research grant awards.
The Personal series documents Pour-El’s interest in women’s issues, school records, correspondence with classmates and friends, and journals, primarily of her travels abroad. A scrapbook documents her education, from middle school through graduate school.
The Photographs series documents Pour-El’s international travels to Europe, Israel, and Asia, including her fellowship with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Also included are several photographs of Pour-El herself at various times in her life.
Finally, the Audio-Visual series contains 8 mm film and audiocassette recordings taken by Pour-El, documenting her travels, attendance at mathematical meetings, conference presentations, and oral history.
Forms part of the Archives of American Mathematics.
Note: The scrapbook in the Personal series was partially disassembled for preservation purposes. However, photocopies were taken of the pages in their original configuration, which are included with the collection.
Some files are restricted.
The bulk of these papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
Marian Pour-El Papers, 1940-2004, Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Helen Kim, November 2011.
Revised by Elliot Williams, January 2013.
Detailed Description of the Papers