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Hanna Neumann

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12 Feb 1914

Berlin, Germany

14 Nov 1971

Ottawa, Canada

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Hanna Neumann's maiden name was von Caemmerer. She attended Berlin University and there she was taught analytic and projective geometry by Bieberbach , differential and integral calculus by Schmidt and number theory by Schur .

Bieberbach was an inspiring, if unorganised, lecturer and Hanna almost became a geometer. However after the Nazis came to power in 1933 Hanna became unhappy. She studied in Berlin until 1937, when she left for Göttingen, and thence to England in 1938 to marry Bernhard Neumann . As Bernhard was a Jew, he had been forced to leave Germany for England in 1933. (They had been secretly engaged since 1934.) Hanna studied at Oxford under Olgar Taussky-Todd and completed her doctorate in 1944.

Hanna taught at Hull, then UMIST in Manchester until 1963. The year 1961-62 she spent with Bernhard at the Courant Institute in New York. While they were in New York the invitation arrived for both of them to set up mathematics at the Australian National University. In 1963 Hanna and Bernhard went to Australia where she was to spend the rest of her career.

In 1971 she undertook a lecture tour of Canada. After lecturing in a number of universities Hanna reached Carleton University, Ottawa. There she became ill and died two days later.

Like her husband, Hanna worked in group theory . Her thesis examined free products with amalgamation. Later she worked on varieties of groups and her book Varieties of Groups (1967) is a classic.

A letter from two of her students, published after her death, shows her character:

We will remember her not only as a mathematician, she was a friend who always had a sympathetic ear for any student, and was never too busy. We will always miss her tremendous dedication and sincerity, and the friendliness of her presence.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland