Gordon Delivers Noether Lecture

Carolyn Gordon, the Benjamin Cheney Professor of Mathematics, was chosen by the Association for Women in Mathematics to deliver the 2010 Noether Lecture. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

Carolyn Gordon, the Benjamin Cheney Professor of Mathematics, delivered the Noether Lecture at the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings, held in January in San Francisco, Calif. The lectureship, awarded by the Association for Women in Mathematics, honors women who have made fundamental and sustained contributions to the mathematical sciences. Gordon was chosen because of her work with inverse spectral problems, which ask how much information about an object is encoded in spectral data. For example, the question “Can one hear the shape of a drum?” asks whether the characteristic frequencies of vibration of a membrane—like an unusually shaped drumhead—determine the shape of the membrane. Gordon has served as the president of AWM, and she is currently a member of the AWM Policy and Advocacy Committee. The lecture is a tribute to Emmy Noether (1882–1935), one of the great mathematicians of her time.