SIAM News Blog

Obituary: Cathleen Morawetz

Cathleen S. Morawetz
Cathleen S. Morawetz died on August 8 at her home in New York at the age of 94. A mathematician renowned for theorems that were utilized in solving real-world engineering problems, Morawetz was the first female mathematician to receive the National Medal of Science. She helped assure women into a field which presented few opportunities to female mathematicians at the time.

Morawetz spent most of her career at New York University, where she was a former director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Her work on partial differential equations helped describe fluid and wave motion in water, sound, light, and vibrating solids. Her research on the flow of air around airplanes flying close to the speed of sound has helped engineers minimize shocks by improving wing design.

Morawetz received the 2006 George David Birkhoff Prize in Applied Mathematics, awarded jointly by SIAM and the American Mathematical Society. The award recognized her deep and influential work in partial differential equations, most notably in the study of shock waves, transonic flow, scattering theory, and conformally invariant estimates for the wave equation. The Birkhoff Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to applied mathematics in the highest and broadest sense.

Read a detailed obituary from the New York Times.

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