Earlier this year, one of our colleagues made an interesting observation about the Wikiquote page for Mathematics. Wikiquote collects interesting and pithy statements, with references, and categorises them by subject. What our friend Colin had noticed was that almost all of the quotes on the page about mathematics were from men.
This reflects an existing gender imbalance in mathematics, which will hopefully improve as more women choose it for a career. But mathematics is done by all kinds of people all over the world, and many of them have occasion to say interesting and/or profound things about their subject – even the ones who aren’t men. Since Wikiquote is part of the Wikimedia network and can be edited and contributed to, we held a small editing day back in May where we added a number of quotes from female mathematicians to the page, to try to balance out the score.
Walking around the Women in Mathematics exhibit here at the HLF this week, I was struck by the amazing quotes taken from the interviews with each of the mathematicians featured. I’ve picked out some of my favourites – and yes, I’ve added them to the Wikiquote page. Enjoy!
“In doing mathematics, I express something personal. It is a source of joy to know that, despite this personal aspect, the fruit of my work can be of interest to other mathematicians.” – Nalini Anantharaman
“Mathematics offers a common language across borders. It is a real joy.” – Alice Fialowski
“My earliest mathematical memory is my father explaining to me the theorem that three angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees. The idea that something could be proved to be always true was very appealing to me.” – Frances Kirwan
“I used to fear I was not made for mathematics and would look for people to tell me I was on the right track. You need to develop a personal conviction that you are a mathematician, and that what you are doing makes sense.” – Katarzyna Rejzner
“I enjoy being surprised by mathematics and its intrinsic difficulty. The moment I enjoy best is when the pieces of the puzzle fall into one coherent whole.” – Katrin Wendland
“You should not choose to do mathematics if you want to make money; your salary as a mathematician will never correspond to the amount of time and energy invested in your work.” – Margarida Mendes Lopes
“I like to find out as much about a mathematical object as possible, just as you might want to understand a person as well as possible.” – Oksana Yakimova