Famous American Mathematicians

Remember Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 movie on mathematics titled “Pi”? Yes, the same edge-of-seat flick about a mentally unstable mathematician who believes that mathematics is the language of the universe, that nature can be expressed in numbers and there are patterns everywhere around us. Well, now if you thought he was the only man to ever deem so, know that the world is filled with mathematicians who saw mathematics as an answer to all questions — existential and hypothetical. And no matter how much you deny this truth or loathe math, you cannot overlook its importance and impact in every aspect of our lives. From you kitchen faucet to the satellite that beams your TV, math is just everywhere. The world owes much of its breakthrough advancements to the computation geniuses of great mathematicians like Pythagoras, Descartes, Euclid and Euler. America, like everything else, too prides itself on its home-bred mathematicians who have made the world a better place with their outstanding mental ability. Read on to know their biography, timeline and also some trivia and facts.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 John Forbes Nash Jr.

John Forbes Nash Jr.
30
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 13, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bluefield, West Virginia, United States
Died: May 23, 2015
The inspiration behind the movie A Beautiful Mind, John F. Nash was a legendary mathematician whose work in the area of game theory earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In his later years, he was riddled with mental illness. He later died in a car crash.

 2 John von Neumann

John von Neumann
12
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer Scientist, Physicist
Birthdate: December 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: February 8, 1957
Hungarian-American scientist John von Neumann contributed to the development of game theory and the concept of self-replication. His work covered vast areas including math, economics, physics, and computer science. His research on nuclear physics led him to be part of the advisory committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

 3 Terence Tao

Terence Tao
21
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: July 17, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Adelaide, Australia

Terence Tao is an Australian-American mathematician who works at the University of California, Los Angeles as a professor of mathematics. Widely considered one of the most prominent living mathematicians, Tao was honored with the prestigious Fields Medal in 2006. In 2014, he was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.

 4 Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson
41
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States
Died: February 24, 2020
Katherine Johnson was a physicist and mathematician, remembered as the first African-American female NASA scientist. Her calculations helped launch the space missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. She was crucial to the Apollo program and won a Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her achievements.
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 5 Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel
10
Famous As: Logician, Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 28, 1906
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brno, Czech Republic
Died: January 14, 1978

Hailed as one of the greatest logicians since Aristotle, Kurt Gödel was Austrian-born American mathematician, logician, and philosopher, who earned international stardom for his incompleteness theorem. Also credited with developing a technique called Gödel numbering, he later started working on Mathematical Platonism, a philosophical theory that failed to attract wide acceptance.

 6 Benoit Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot
18
Famous As: Mathematician and polymath
Birthdate: November 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: October 14, 2010

Noted mathematician and polymath, Benoit B. Mandelbrot is perhaps best known for his work on fractal. He not only coined the term, but also used computer-constructed images to illustrate the mathematical definition. Also credited with the discovery of Mandelbrot set and Mandelbrot law, he established that even those things which were apparently chaotic or rough had a "degree of order".

 7 Andrew Wiles

Andrew Wiles
24
Famous As: Mathematician, University teacher
Birthdate: April 11, 1953
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cambridge

English mathematician Sir Andrew John Wiles, a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford, is best known for proving the modularity theorem for semistable elliptic curves, thereby proving Fermat's Last Theorem for which he was awarded the Abel Prize and the Copley Medal by the Royal Society. He also proved the main conjecture of Iwasawa theory.

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 8 Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson
14
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 9, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hampton, Virginia, United States
Died: February 11, 2005

American mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson went down in history as the first African-American woman to work as a NASA engineer. Initially a math teacher, she later joined NACA under Dorothy Vaughan and contributed to countless American space programs at a time when racial segregation was the norm.

 9 Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer
16
Famous As: American musician
Birthdate: April 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, Manhattan

While he grew up to be a Harvard math professor, that didn’t stop Tom Lehrer from pursuing his childhood love for music. He gained fame as a satirical composer, with songs such as So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb and That Was The Year That Was.

 10 Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon
5
Famous As: Mathematician, Cryptographer
Birthdate: April 30, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Petoskey, Michigan, United States
Died: February 24, 2001

Claude Shannon was an electrical engineer, mathematician, and cryptographer. He is credited with publishing the article A Mathematical Theory of Communication which gave rise to the field of information theory. Hence, Shannon is considered the father of information theory. He is also credited with founding digital circuit design theory. During World War II, he contributed to the field of cryptanalysis.

 11 Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble
6
Famous As: Astronomer & Mathematician
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, USA
Died: September 28, 1953

While the Hubble Telescope, named after Edwin Powell Hubble, reminds one of his contribution to astronomy, he failed to get a Nobel Prize, as back in his time, the Nobel Committee didn’t recognize astrophysics as a valid science. He is best remembered for his work on galaxies and extragalactic astronomy.

 12 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
6
Famous As: Mathematician, Astrophysicist
Birthdate: October 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lahore, Pakistan
Died: August 21, 1995

Remembered for his varied contribution to astrophysics, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is perhaps best known for his work on the evolution of massive stars. Today known as Chandrasekhar limit, it contributed to final understanding of supernovas, neutron stars, and black holes. A prolific writer, he also did significant work on energy transfer by radiation in stellar atmospheres and convection on solar surface.

 13 James Harris Simons

James Harris Simons
7
Famous As: Mathematicians & Hedge Fund Manager
Birthdate: 1938 AD
Birthplace: Newton

The son of a shoe factory owner, mathematician-turned-hedge-fund-manager James Harris Simons studied math at MIT and helped the U.S. break codes during the Vietnam War. He later founded his own hedge fund firm, Renaissance Technologies. He supports autism research and funds Math for America. In 2021, he was America’s 23rd-richest person.

 14 Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson
7
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: December 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Crowthorne, England
Died: February 28, 2020

Freeman Dyson was a British-American theoretical and mathematical physicist, mathematician, and statistician. He made major contributions in the fields of quantum field theory, astrophysics, random matrices, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics. He originated the concept that went on to be known as Dyson's transform. He received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1986. 

 15 Eric Weinstein

Eric Weinstein
10
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: October 26, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Apart from being the MD of Thiel Capital, mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein is also a researcher at Oxford. The Harvard alumnus had quit academia for 20 years before he returned again. He coined the term “intellectual dark web” and works on topics such as gauge theory, risk management, and immigration.

 16 Sal Khan

Sal Khan
18
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: October 11, 1976
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.

What began as amateur math tutorials for his cousin later became Sal Khan’s dream project, the online education platform Khan Academy, which now has over 42 million users worldwide. Named to Time 100 in 2012, the American-born Bengali former hedge fund analyst is an MIT and Harvard alumnus.

 17 George Dantzig

George Dantzig
6
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, Statistician
Birthdate: November 8, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: May 13, 2005

Mathematician George Dantzig, known for his research on linear programming, was the first to develop the simplex method. The National Medal of Science winner was the son of mathematician and linguist Tobias Dantzig. He was associated with RAND Corporation and also taught computer science and operations research at Stanford.

 18 Manjul Bhargava

Manjul Bhargava
5
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 8, 1974
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hamilton, Canada

 19 Hilary Putnam

Hilary Putnam
5
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: July 31, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: March 13, 2016

 20 Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky
9
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, University teacher
Birthdate: August 9, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 24, 2016

 21 Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener
4
Famous As: Father of Cybernetics
Birthdate: November 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Columbia, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 1964

 22 John McCarthy

John McCarthy
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, Engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: September 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston
Died: October 24, 2011

 23 Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan
33
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 20, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died: November 10, 2008

American mathematician Dorothy Vaughan was also known as a "human computer." Initially a math teacher, she became the first African-American supervisor of NACA, later part of NASA, at a time when racial segregation was rampant in the U.S. Her contribution to the early American space programs is invaluable.

 24 Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead
9
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, Kent, England
Died: December 30, 1947

Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.

 25 Donald Knuth

Donald Knuth
10
Famous As: Computer Scientist
Birthdate: January 10, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Mathematician and computer scientist Donald Ervin Knuth is best known for his contribution to the development of the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms. Also the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system as well as the WEB and CWEB computer programming systems, he has published twenty books, most significant among them being The Art of Computer Programming.

 26 Willard Van Orman Quine

Willard Van Orman Quine
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Analytic philosopher, Philosopher of language, Epistemologist, Philosopher of science, University teacher, Professor, Philosopher
Birthdate: June 25, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Akron
Died: December 25, 2000

 27 Eugene Wigner

Eugene Wigner
3
Famous As: Physicist & Mathematician
Birthdate: November 17, 1902
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: January 1, 1995

One of the “Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S., Eugene Wigner won a Nobel Prize for his work on nuclear physics and the law of conservation of parity in particular. He taught at Princeton and Wisconsin and was also associated with the Manhattan Project.

 28 Kenneth Arrow

Kenneth Arrow
3
Famous As: Eonomist
Birthdate: August 23, 1921
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 2017

 29 Edward Witten

Edward Witten
16
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: August 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore

American mathematical and theoretical physicist Edward Witten is regarded as the practical founder of M-theory. His proof of positive energy theorem led him to become the first physicist who received the Fields Medal by International Mathematical Union. His research works mainly include the areas of string theory, supersymmetric quantum field theories and quantum gravity, besides other areas of mathematical physics.  

 30 David Rittenhouse

David Rittenhouse
3
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: April 8, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paper Mill Run, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 26, 1796

American astronomer, inventor, mathematician, clockmaker and surveyor David Rittenhouse, who served as first director of the United States Mint and remained a  member of the American Philosophical Society, made several significant breakthroughs for the US. His achievements include discovering the atmosphere of Venus and observing its transit, becoming the first American to sight Uranus, and completing an advanced orrery.

 31 William J. Perry

William J. Perry
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: October 11, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, United States U.S.

 32 Josiah Willard Gibbs

Josiah Willard Gibbs
3
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: February 11, 1839
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 28, 1903

Josiah Willard Gibbs was an American scientist best remembered for making major theoretical contributions to mathematics, physics, and chemistry. As a mathematician, Gibbs is credited with inventing modern vector calculus. In 1901, he was honored with the prestigious Copley Medal for his contributions. Josiah Willard Gibbs's work had a major influence on physicists like J. D. van der Waals.

 33 Shing-Tung Yau

Shing-Tung Yau
4
Famous As: Mathematician, University teacher
Birthdate: April 4, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shantou

 34 Edward O. Thorp

Edward O. Thorp
5
Famous As: Mathematician, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: August 14, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago

 35 Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner
7
Famous As: Mathematician, Writer, Journalist, Literary critic, Science fiction writer, Stage magician
Birthdate: October 21, 1914
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tulsa
Died: May 22, 2010

 36 Leslie Lamport

Leslie Lamport
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, Programmer, Engineer, Writer
Birthdate: February 7, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City

 37 Percival Lowell

Percival Lowell
4
Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician
Birthdate: March 13, 1855
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Boston
Died: November 12, 1916

Born into the famous Brahmin Lowell family of Massachusetts, Percival Lowell studied at Harvard, where he excelled in math. He managed a cotton mill and also spent time in Asia as a diplomat. He is best remembered for initiating the discovery of Pluto and for studying the canals on Mars.

 38 Alonzo Church

Alonzo Church
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, University teacher, Computer scientist
Birthdate: June 14, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Died: August 11, 1995

 39 William James Sidis

William James Sidis
1
Famous As: Notable for his 1920 book The Animate and the Inanimate
Birthdate: April 1, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: July 17, 1944

 40 Richard Hamming

Richard Hamming
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, Engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 11, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 7, 1998

 41 David Gale

David Gale
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Economist
Birthdate: December 13, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 7, 2008

 42 Richard Hamilton (Mathematician)

Richard Hamilton (Mathematician)
4
Birthdate: 1943 AD
Birthplace: Cincinnati

 43 David Berlinski

David Berlinski
4
Famous As: philosopher, mathematician, university teacher
Birthdate: 1942 AD
Birthplace: New York City

 44 Lotfi A. Zadeh

Lotfi A. Zadeh
4
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: February 4, 1921
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baku, Azerbaijan
Died: September 6, 2017

 45 Alfred Tarski

Alfred Tarski
5
Famous As: Logician
Birthdate: January 14, 1901
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: October 27, 1983

Polish mathematician Alfred Tarski initially taught at Warsaw and later moved to the US, where he joined the University of California, Berkeley. Known for his research on topics such as algebra, logic, and set theory, he has also been the doctoral supervisor of mathematicians such as Julia Robinson and Bjarni Jónsson.

 46 Daniel M. Lewin

Daniel M. Lewin
3
Famous As: Mathematician and entrepreneur who co-founded internet company Akamai Technologies
Birthdate: May 14, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
Died: September 11, 2001

Daniel M. Lewin was an American–Israeli entrepreneur and mathematician best remembered for co-founding the popular internet company Akamai Technologies. On September 11, 2001, Lewin became the first victim of the September 11 attacks when he was stabbed to death onboard American Airlines Flight 11 by one of the hijackers.

 47 Daniel J. Bernstein

Daniel J. Bernstein
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Cryptologist, Programmer, University teacher, Computer scientist
Birthdate: October 29, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: East Patchogue

 48 Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Charles Proteus Steinmetz
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Electrical engineer, Engineer, Scientist, Inventor
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wrocław
Died: October 26, 1923

 49 Alan Sokal

Alan Sokal
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher
Birthdate: January 24, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Boston

New York University physics professor Alan Sokal made headlines for creating what is now known as the Sokal Hoax. He wrote gibberish using flowery jargon and submitted it to the journal Social Text, which published it as postmodernist criticism, thus proving the lack of credibility of such journals.

 50 Whitfield Diffie

Whitfield Diffie
6
Famous As: Cryptographer and one of the pioneers of public-key cryptography along with Martin Hellman and Ralph Merkle
Birthdate: June 5, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States