Famous American Mathematicians

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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.
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 1 
John Forbes Nash Jr.
(Mathematician)
John Forbes Nash Jr.
41
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
(Great Mathematician Who Were Equally at Home in Pure and Applied Mathematics)
John von Neumann
16
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 
Katherine Johnson
(Mathematician and One of the First African-American Women to Work as a NASA Scientist)
Katherine Johnson
49
Birthdate: August 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: 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.
 4 
Kurt Gödel
(Mathematician, Philosopher and One of the Most Significant Logicians in History)
Kurt Gödel
12
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.

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 5 
Benoit Mandelbrot
(American Mathematician and Polymath Best Known for Popularizing the Concept of Fractal Geometry)
Benoit Mandelbrot
20
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".

 6 
Mary Jackson
(Mathematician)
Mary Jackson
19
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.

 7 
Tom Lehrer
(American musician)
Tom Lehrer
20
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.

 8 
Claude Shannon
(Mathematician, Engineer & Cryptographer Known as a 'Father of Information Theory')
Claude Shannon
6
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.

 9 
Terence Tao
(One of the Greatest Living Mathematicians Who is Referred to as the 'Mozart of Mathematics')
Terence Tao
22
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.

 10 
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
(Astrophysicist Known for his 'Theoritical Studies of the Physical processes of importance to the Structure and Evolution of the Stars')
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
7
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.

 11 
Edwin Powell Hubble
(American Astronomer Who is Regarded as the Leading Observational Cosmologist of the 20th Century)
Edwin Powell Hubble
6
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, United States
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 
James Harris Simons
(Mathematicians & Hedge Fund Manager)
James Harris Simons
9
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.

 13 
Andrew Wiles
(Mathematician, University teacher)
Andrew Wiles
27
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.

 14 
Freeman Dyson
(Mathematician)
Freeman Dyson
8
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
(Mathematician)
Eric Weinstein
13
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 
George Dantzig
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, Statistician)
George Dantzig
6
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.

 17 
Marvin Minsky
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, University teacher)
Marvin Minsky
10
Birthdate: August 9, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 24, 2016
 18 
Sal Khan
(Teacher)
Sal Khan
22
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.

 19 
Manjul Bhargava
(Mathematician)
Manjul Bhargava
10
Birthdate: August 8, 1974
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hamilton, Canada
 20 
John McCarthy
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, Engineer, University teacher)
John McCarthy
4
Birthdate: September 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston
Died: October 24, 2011
 21 
Norbert Wiener
(Father of Cybernetics)
Norbert Wiener
4
Birthdate: November 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Columbia, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 1964
 22 
Hilary Putnam
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Hilary Putnam
7
Birthdate: July 31, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: March 13, 2016
 23 
Alfred North Whitehead
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Alfred North Whitehead
10
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.

 24 
Willard Van Orman Quine
(Mathematician, Analytic philosopher, Philosopher of language, Epistemologist, Philosopher of science, University teacher, Professor, Philosopher)
Willard Van Orman Quine
4
Birthdate: June 25, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Akron
Died: December 25, 2000
 25 
Dorothy Vaughan
(American Mathematician, Human Computer and the First African-American to Receive Promotion as Supervisor in NASA)
Dorothy Vaughan
38
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.

 26 
Donald Knuth
(Mathematician and Computer Scientist Known for His Multivolume Series of Books “The Art of Computer Programming”)
Donald Knuth
12
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.

 27 
Lotfi A. Zadeh
(Mathematician)
Lotfi A. Zadeh
5
Birthdate: February 4, 1921
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baku, Azerbaijan
Died: September 6, 2017
 28 
Eugene Wigner
(Physicist & Mathematician)
Eugene Wigner
3
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.

 29 
Josiah Willard Gibbs
3
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.

 30 
Leslie Lamport
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, Programmer, Engineer, Writer)
Leslie Lamport
5
Birthdate: February 7, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
 31 
Kenneth Arrow
(Eonomist)
Kenneth Arrow
5
Birthdate: August 23, 1921
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 2017
 32 
David Rittenhouse
(American Astronomer, Inventor, Clockmaker and Mathematician)
David Rittenhouse
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, 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.

 33 
Martin Gardner
(Mathematician, Writer, Journalist, Literary critic, Science fiction writer, Stage magician)
Martin Gardner
7
Birthdate: October 21, 1914
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tulsa
Died: May 22, 2010
 34 
Percival Lowell
(Astronomer, Mathematician)
Percival Lowell
4
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.

 35 
William J. Perry
(Mathematician)
William J. Perry
5
Birthdate: October 11, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, United States U.S.
 36 
Shing-Tung Yau
(Mathematician, University teacher)
Shing-Tung Yau
6
Birthdate: April 4, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shantou
 37 
Edward O. Thorp
(Mathematician, Writer, University teacher)
Edward O. Thorp
7
Birthdate: August 14, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago
 38 
William James Sidis
(Notable for his 1920 book The Animate and the Inanimate)
William James Sidis
1
Birthdate: April 1, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: July 17, 1944
 39 
Alonzo Church
(Mathematician, Philosopher, University teacher, Computer scientist)
Alonzo Church
4
Birthdate: June 14, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Died: August 11, 1995
 40 
Richard Hamilton (Mathematician)
(Known for Contributions to Geometric Analysis & Partial Differential Equations.)
Richard Hamilton (Mathematician)
6
Birthdate: January 10, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
 41 
David Gale
(Mathematician, Economist)
David Gale
3
Birthdate: December 13, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 7, 2008
 42 
Whitfield Diffie
(Cryptographer and one of the pioneers of public-key cryptography along with Martin Hellman and Ralph Merkle)
Whitfield Diffie
8
Birthdate: June 5, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
 43 
Alan Sokal
(Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher)
Alan Sokal
6
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.

 44 
Alfred Tarski
(Polish-American Logician and Mathematician Best Known for His Work on Model Theory, Metamathematics, and Algebraic Logic)
Alfred Tarski
5
Birthdate: January 14, 1901
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: October 26, 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.

 45 
Daniel M. Lewin
(Mathematician and entrepreneur who co-founded internet company Akamai Technologies)
Daniel M. Lewin
3
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.

 46 
John Wilder Tukey
(Mathematician)
John Wilder Tukey
8
Birthdate: June 16, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Bedford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 26, 2000
 47 
Charles Proteus Steinmetz
(German Mathematician and Engineer Whose Research on AC Systems Revolutionized the US Electric Industry)
Charles Proteus Steinmetz
3
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wrocław
Died: October 26, 1923

Though German-born American mathematician and engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz suffered from a deformed back since childhood, he excelled in math, physics, and classical literature. His ideas on alternating current (AC) systems initiated the electrical era in the US. By the time he died, he had over 200 patents under his name.

 48 
David Berlinski
(philosopher, mathematician, university teacher)
David Berlinski
6
Birthdate: 1942 AD
Birthplace: New York City
 49 
Edward Witten
(Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher, Theoretical physicist)
Edward Witten
17
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.  

 50 
Richard Hamming
(Contributions Include the Hamming Code, The Hamming Window & Hamming Numbers)
Richard Hamming
3
Birthdate: February 11, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 7, 1998