University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Dorothy L. Bernstein Papers, 1930-2008

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Bernstein, Dorothy Lewis, 1914-
Title: Dorothy L. Bernstein Papers
Dates: 1930-2008
Abstract: The Dorothy L. Bernstein Papers document Bernstein’s professional and personal life, including her roles as a mathematician, professor, and officer in mathematical organizations.
Accession No.: 2013-106
Extent: 1 ft., 5 in.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Dorothy Lewis Bernstein (1914-1988) was an American mathematician and president of the Mathematical Association of American (MAA). Her professional interests included analysis, probability and statistics, and the use of computers for mathematics education.

Bernstein was born in Chicago, and attended college at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, from which she graduated with simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics in 1934. She received her PhD from Brown University in 1939, with a dissertation entitled “The Double Laplace Transform.” Later in her life, Bernstein would describe facing prejudice at Brown, as a Jewish woman from the Midwest. Her first teaching job was at Mount Holyoke College (1937-1940). She next taught at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (1941-1942) and served as a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley (1942-1943), before becoming a professor at the University of Rochester (1943-1957). She also spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study while on sabbatical in 1950-1951. In 1959, she began teaching at Goucher College, a women’s college in Maryland, where she would remain until her retirement in 1979. While at Goucher, she served as chair of the Mathematics Department (1960-1970, 1974-1979) and directed the campus Computer Center (1961-1966). Through Bernstein’s efforts, Goucher received an NSF grant to purchase a computer in 1961, becoming the first women’s college in the country to own one. After her retirement from Goucher in 1979, Bernstein was appointed a visiting professor of applied mathematics at Brown University (1979-1985).

Bernstein was active in the MAA at many levels, serving as an officer in the Maryland-DC-Virginia Section and on the national Board of Governors. She was MAA's first vice-president in 1972-1973 and was elected as president for 1979-1980, becoming the first woman to hold that office. She was also involved with organizations dedicated to the use of computers in education, working with the Center for Research in College Instruction for Science and Mathematics, and helping found the Maryland Association for Educational Use of Computers.

After retiring from Goucher, Bernstein moved to Connecticut, where she lived with Geraldine Coon, her companion, long-time mathematical collaborator, and colleague at Goucher.


“Dorothy Lewis Bernstein, 1979-1980 MAA President,” Mathematical Association of America,

“Dorothy Lewis Bernstein,” Biographies of Women Mathematicians, Agnes Scott College,

Scope and Contents

The Dorothy L. Bernstein Papers document Bernstein’s professional and personal life, including her roles as a mathematician, professor, and officer in mathematical organizations. The collection is divided into two series: Professional and Personal.

The Professional series comprises five sub-series: Organizations, Publications and Lectures, Faculty Activities, Conferences, and Reviewer. The Organizations sub-series depicts Bernstein’s involvement in the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), Center for Research in College Instruction for Science and Mathematics (CRICISAM), and Maryland Association for Educational Use of Computers, Inc. (MAEUC). The MAA material is primarily drawn from her term as president and past-president of the organization. The CRICISAM material relates to her work on the advisory council for the Computer-Oriented Differential Equations Project. The Publications and Lectures sub-series consists of copies of Bernstein’s published work and talks given at mathematical conferences and MAA meetings, including both drafts and finished copies. The Faculty Activities sub-series depicts Bernstein’s life as professor and instructor at various institutions and contains correspondence, reports, and administrative material. The Conferences sub-series documents Bernstein’s attendance at mathematical meetings. Finally, the Reviewer sub-series includes material relating to Bernstein’s role as a reviewer of journal manuscripts, grant proposals, and university mathematics departments.

The Personal series contains six sub-series: Education, Vitae, Correspondence, Honors and Awards, Biographical, and Photos. The Education sub-series consists of records from Bernstein’s undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Brown University. It mostly contains correspondence, administrative material, and copies of her master’s and PhD theses. The Vitae sub-series comprises several folders of material Bernstein collected to aid her in composing her curricula vitae. In addition to drafts of her vitae, this sub-series contains other documentation of her activities, including correspondence, clippings, photos, faculty reports, and other material. The Correspondence sub-series primarily covers the later period of Bernstein’s life, although also included is a 1941 letter from John von Neumann. The Honors and Awards sub-series documents Bernstein’s awards from her graduate education and after her retirement. The Biographical sub-series contains articles about Bernstein’s life written by others, many of which focus on her career as an early female mathematician. Finally, the Photographs subseries includes one photo of Bernstein and MAA President Gail Young, taken at an MAA meeting in 1972.

In addition to the materials created and collected by Dorothy Bernstein, this collection also contains some records created by Geraldine Coon, who served as the executor of Bernstein’s estate following her death. These records are interfiled in the appropriate series.

Forms part of the Archives of American Mathematics.


Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

This collection is stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Bernstein, Dorothy Lewis, 1914-
Coon, Geraldine
Subjects (Organizations)
Brown University. Mathematics Department.
Center for Research in College Instruction of Science and Mathematics
Goucher College. Mathematics Department.
Maryland Association for Educational Use of Computers
Mathematical Association of America
University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mathematics Department
Integral transforms.
Mathematics--Computer-assisted instruction.
Mathematics--Study and teaching.
Women in mathematics
Baltimore County (Md.)
Rhode Island.

Related Material

Records from Bernstein's term as President of the MAA are housed in the Mathematical Association of America Records, Series II: Officers, held at this repository

See also the Coon (Geraldine) Papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Dorothy L. Bernstein Papers, 1930-2008, Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Elliot Williams, June 2013.

Detailed Description of the Papers



2013-106/1 Organizations:
Mathematical Association of America
Correspondence and talks given as president, 1979-1981
President's reports to the Board of Governors, 1979-1980
National Medal of Science presentation, 1979-1980
Retiring presidential address, 1982
Board of Governors lists, 1983-1987
Certificate of Meritorious Service, 1984-1985
Center for Research in College Instruction for Science and Mathematics
Consultants, 1970-1971
Correspondence and proposals, 1970-1971
Washington meeting, 1970
Correspondence and minutes, December 1970 - March 1971
Minutes, notes, and correspondence, December 1970 - June 1971
Correspondence with Peter Lax and Warren Stenberg, 1971
Maryland Association for the Educational Uses of the Computer, Inc., 1970-1980
Publications and Lectures:
"The Double Laplace Integral" reprint, 1941
Existence Theorems in Partial Differential Equations, 1950
Bernstein and Coon, "On the Zeros of a Class of Exponential Polynomials," 1953-1965
"Functions of Class A-sub-m" [unpublished?], 1960
Bernstein and Coon talks, abstracts, 1960
"How to Make and Break Codes" talk, 1970-1974
"The Role of Applications in Pure Mathematics"
Drafts, circa 1978
Correspondence with Monthly and manuscripts, 1978-1979
Criticism and reprint requests, 1979
Talks: "The Role of Applications..." and "Some Remarks on Boundary Value Problems..." 1978
"Women Mathematicians before 1950" panel, Association for Women in Mathematics, 1979
"A Small College's Experience with Applications" talk, 1980
"Biography of a Theorem" talk, 1980
"Mathematical Expectations," paper for Monthly, 1982
"The Real World of the 30s" [includes correspondence with Geraldine Coon], 2003
"The Cauchy Problem in Partial Differential Equations," undated
"The Differential Equations of Literary Criticism," undated
"Mathematical Models and Existence Theorems" talk, undated
Notes and drafts, undated
Faculty activities:
Mount Holyoke College, 1937-1939
University of Wisconsin, 1940-1942
University of California, Berkeley, 1941-1943
University of Rochester, graduate students, 1960-1961
Goucher College
Internships, 1973-1978
Administrative material, 1977, circa 1978
"Mathematics at Goucher College" report, 1977
Brown University, letters of appointment, 1979-1984
International Congress of Mathematicians, Stockholm, 1962
Other conferences, 1965-1970
Symposium on the Numerical Solution of Partial Differential Equations, 1965
Two-Year College Mathematics Journal [Bernstein and Coon], 1975-1976
National Science Foundation, 1977-1981
South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, 1980



2013-106/1 Education:
University of Wisconsin, 1930-1934
MA thesis, "Some Problems in Approximation of Roots of Polynomials," 1934
Brown University, 1935-1939
Correspondence with Mark Ingraham and R. G. D. Richardson, 1936-1941
PhD thesis, "The Double Laplace Integral," 1939
4RM55b PhD diploma, 1939
2013-106/2 Vitae:
Clippings, certificates, and other material, 1951, 1977-1985
Clippings and correspondence, 1952, 1960-1979, 1988, undated
Goucher annual activity reports and other material, 1961-1977, 1989
Notes, 1973-1974, undated
Drafts, clippings, and photos, 1979-1987
Letter from John von Neumann, 1941
Harvey Mudd College, 1959-1960, 1973
Former Goucher students, 1961, 1980-1981
Goucher, 1981
Geraldine Coon [correspondence with others about Bernstein], 1988-1993
Honors and awards:
Sigma Xi and Phi Beta Kappa, 1936-1938
American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow, 1981
Towson State University, honorary degree, 1981
Articles and obituaries [compiled by Geraldine Coon?], 1979, 1988, 2008, undated
"Women and Mathematics - A Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook," 1985
Gail Young and Dorothy Bernstein, 1972