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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 63
JULIA BOWMAN ROBINSON
December 8, 1919–July 30, 1985
BY SOLOMON FEFERMAN
One of my earliest memories is of arranging pebbles in the shadow of a giant saguaro . . . I think I have always had a basic liking for the natural numbers. To me they are the one real thing. We can conceive of a chemistry which is different from ours, or a biology, but we cannot conceive of a different mathematics of numbers. What is proved about numbers will be a fact in any universe.
(From The Autobiography of Julia Robinson by Constance Reid)
AS A MATHEMATICIAN, Julia Bowman Robinson will long be remembered for her many important contributions to questions of algorithmic solvability and unsolvability of mathematical problems, in particular for her part in the negative solution of Hilbert's "Tenth Problem." And, despite her expressed wish, she will be remembered as the first woman to be elected to the mathematical section of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the first woman to be president of the American Mathematical Society. By those who knew her personally she will be remembered for her rare qualities of idealism, integrity, modesty, openness, and generosity, and for her appreciation and encouragement of the work of others.