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Reid, Constance 1918–

Reid, Constance 1918–

(Constance Bowman Reid)

PERSONAL: Born January 3, 1918, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Ralph Bowers (a broker of machinery for machine shops) and Helen (a secretary; maiden name, Hall) Bowman; married Neil D. Reid (an attorney), June 23, 1950; children: Julia, Stewart. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: San Diego State College (now University), A.B., 1938; University of California, Berkeley, M.Ed., 1949. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—70 Piedmont St., San Francisco, CA 94117. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Teacher of English and journalism at schools in San Diego, CA, 1939–50; freelance writer, 1950–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Mathematical Association of America, George Polya Prize, 1987, for article "The Autobiography of Julia Robinson," and Beckenbach Book Prize, 1995, for The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine; Communications Award, joint policy board of American Mathematical Society and Mathematical Association of America, 1998.

WRITINGS:

Slacks and Callouses, Longmans, Green and Co. (New York, NY), 1944, reprinted as Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory, illustrated by Clara Marie Allen, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1999.

From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, Thomas Y. Crowell and Co. (New York, NY), 1955, 5th edition, A.K. Peters (Wellesley, MA), 2006.

Introduction to Higher Mathematics: For the General Reader, Thomas Y. Crowell and Co. (New York, NY), 1959.

A Long Way from Euclid, Thomas Y. Crowell and Co. (New York, NY), 1963, reprinted, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 2004.

Hilbert (published with An Appreciation of Hilbert's Mathematical Work by Hermann Weyl), Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1970, published singly, Copernicus (New York, NY), 1996.

Courant in Göttingen and New York: The Story of an Improbable Mathematician, Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1976, reprinted with new foreword as Courant, Copernicus (New York, NY), 1996.

Neyman—From Life, Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1982, reprinted as Neyman, 1998.

Hilbert-Courant (contains original publication of Hilbert, with work by Hermann Weyl, and Courant in Göttingen and New York: The Story of an Improbable Mathematician), Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Donald J. Albers and G.L. Alexanderson) International Mathematical Congresses: An Illustrated History, 1893–1986, Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1986, revised edition, 1987.

(With Donald J. Albers and G.L. Alexanderson) More Mathematical People: Contemporary Conversations, Academic Press (San Diego, CA), 1990.

The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, Mathematical Association of America (Washington, DC), 1993.

Julia, a Life in Mathematics, Mathematical Association of America (Washington, DC), 1996.

Contributor to reference books. Contributor to periodicals, including Scientific American and Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

SIDELIGHTS: Constance Reid once told CA: "I always wanted to be a writer, but it took me a while to find my subject. My first book, Slacks and Callouses, was published during World War II after I, a high school teacher, had spent the summer vacation of 1943 working on a bomber production line at Consolidated Vultee. Attempts at freelance writing followed, with a short story successfully published. Then in 1952, although I am not a mathematician, I wrote a freelance article about the first successful application of the newly invented computer to a problem in pure number theory. The article, which appeared in Scientific American, was read by the publisher Robert L. Crowell, who asked me to write a little book on numbers. The result was From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, which has been in print now for more than forty years. From its initial publication it has been almost always described as a classic. Incidentally a few lines, slightly modified, were used by Kenneth Rexroth as the epigraph for his collected poems, Natural Numbers.

"From Zero to Infinity and other mathematical popularizations I wrote for Crowell introduced me to the captivating figure of the German mathematician David Hilbert. Writing his life and trying to convey the legendary charm he exercised over young mathematicians and physicists in the little German university town of Göttingen, I found my subject and my audience. Hilbert, although of necessity nontechnical, delighted mathematical readers all over the world, and I was suddenly on my way as a writer of mathematical lives.

"After Hilbert, I was urged by various mathematicians to write about their own mathematical heroes. At that time there were no full-length biographies of modern mathematicians in print, a situation that has changed exponentially in the intervening years. My interest was always basically in mathematicians who had contributed something important to mathematics in addition to their own very important mathematical work, also mathematicians with 'a story.' Books about Richard Courant, Jerzy Neyman, E.T. Bell, and Julia Robertson followed. For these books I always had the voluntary assistance of some mathematician who had known my subject well and knew his mathematics equally well. These mathematicians naturally became characters in my books—as I did myself.

"Most autobiographical of my books was The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, for which I, assisted by my husband, who had just retired from his law practice, unearthed and solved the mystery of twelve years Bell spent in the United States that he had never revealed either to his wife or to his only son. This result and others necessitated changes in all biographical material on Bell then in print.

"Closest to my heart of all my books was the 'autobiography' I wrote of my sister Julia Robinson, the first woman mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the first woman president of the American Mathematical Society.

In 1976, six years after Hilbert was first published, Reid's Courant in Goettingen and New York: The Story of an Improbable Mathematician was presented. The two biographies were combined in 1986 as Hilbert-Courant; however, in this edition Hilbert was without its original "Appreciation of Hilbert's Mathematical Work by Hermann Weyl." In addition to her books on Hilbert and Courant, Reid has written about various other mathematicians. Among her publications are Neyman—From Life, Julia, a Life in Mathematics, and The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine.

Reviewing her work on the Scottish mathematician E.T. Bell, a Booknews contributor noted that because of the facts Reid unearthed, previously published information on "Bell's family background and early life will have to be revised."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Albers, Donald J., and G.L. Alexanderson, editors, Mathematical People: Profiles and Interviews, Bikrhauser Boston (Boston, MA), 1985, pp. 269-280.

Reid, Constance, Slacks and Callouses, Longmans, Green and Co. (New York, NY), 1944, reprinted as Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1999.

PERIODICALS

American Studies International, October, 2001, Lauren Borchard, review of Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory, p. 94.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June, 1994, Tom Easton, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 161.

Booknews, June 1, 1992; February 1, 1994; December 1, 1994.

Choice, May, 1994, W. Roberts, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 1470; May, 1997, review of Julia, a Life in Mathematics, p. 1537.

College Mathematics Journal, May, 1994, Underwood Dudley, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 253.

Extrapolation, summer, 1994, Douglas Robillard, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 166.

Journal of Recreational Mathematics, winter, 1993, Charles Ashbacher, reviews of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 291, and From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, p. 293.

Mathematical Intelligencer, summer, 1994, David M. Bressoud, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 72.

Mathematics Teacher, March, 1993, John Leamy, review of From Zero to Infinity, p. 265.

Notices of the American Mathematical Society, December, 1996, Constance Reid, "Being Julia Robinson's Sister," pp. 1486-1492.

Reference and Research Book News, February, 1994, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 54.

Science Books and Films, August, 1992, review of From Zero to Infinity, p. 165; January, 1994, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 11.

Science Fiction Studies, March, 1994, R.D. Mullen, review of The Search for E.T. Bell, Also Known as John Taine, p. 103.

Scientific American, December, 1992, Philip Morrison and Phylis Morrison, review of From Zero to Infinity, p. 151.

SciTech Book News, June, 1992, review of From Zero to Infinity, p. 4.

ONLINE

MAA Online: Mathematical Association of America, http://www.maa.org/ (November 22, 2005), Fernando Q. Gouvêa, review of Julia, a Life in Mathematics.

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