◀ ▲ ▶History / 19th-century / Person: Stephansen, Mary Ann Elizabeth
Person: Stephansen, Mary Ann Elizabeth
Elizabeth Stephansen was a Norwegian mathematician and educator who was the first Norwegian woman to be awarded a doctoral degree in science.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Stephansen studied science at the Bergen Katedralskole graduating with her diploma in 1891.
- Women could study at universities in Norway at this time; in fact the first women were admitted in 1887 four years before Stephansen graduated from high school.
- Stephansen wanted to become a secondary school teacher of mathematics but although women had earned the right to become secondary school teachers in Norway in precisely the year that Stephansen was awarded her degree, they were not allowed to receive permanent contracts.
- Stephansen was employed from 1896 as a part-time teacher at her old school, Bergen Katedralskole, for two years and then she taught at Bergen Tekniske Skole for a year, teaching four hours a week.
- During the time that she was teaching Stephansen was working on her doctoral dissertation on partial differential equations.
- In her thesis, Stephansen generalised Guldberg's work and succeeded in describing all those fourth order partial differential equations which could be reduced to equations of the third order.
- Stephansen's thesis Über Partielle Differentialgleichungen vierter Ordung die ein intermediäres Integral besitzen Ⓣ(On partial differential equations of the fourth order possess an intermediate integral) was published in 1902 and in that year she was awarded her doctorate by the University of Zürich.
- With the award of the doctorate in mathematics Stephansen became the first Norwegian woman to be awarded a doctorate in a science subject.
- Stephansen published another paper in 1903 on differential equations, the idea for which came out of Hilbert's course of lectures that she attended.
- Back in Norway, Stephansen worked as a teacher at Olaf Berg's Girls School in Oslo.
- It did not turn out to be quite the peaceful retirement that Stephansen would have expected for on 9 April 1940 Hitler disregarded Norway's neutrality and ordered an invasion.
- By the following day German troops were in Bergen and Stephansen found herself in an occupied land.
- Stephansen, of course, could speak fluent German and she ignored the personal risks involved to give what help she could to the prisoners in the camp.
Born 10 March 1872, Bergen, Norway. Died 23 February 1961, Espeland, Norway.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Norway, Women
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive