Marian Boykan Pour-El was a distinguished member of the School of Mathematics, and an internationally renowned researcher in logic and its applications. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1958, was Assistant and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Penn State. She was a visitor for two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she worked with Kurt Gödel. She came to the University of Minnesota in 1964, and was promoted to full Professor in 1968. She was very active in departmental affairs, teaching, mentoring and research throughout her long career until her retirement in 2000.
Marian was an active and innovative researcher in the field of logic, specializing in computability. Her most famous and surprising result, written with J. Ian Richards, a fellow Minnesota professor, showed that there exists computable initial data for the wave equation so that the corresponding unique solution is not computable. Their work on computability of differential equations, eigenvalue problems and physics led to a jointly authored book, "Computability in analysis and physics", which had a major impact on the field and throughout mathematics. She delivered invited addresses at high level mathematical meetings throughout the world, including Europe, the former Soviet Union, China and Japan.
Marian was the subject of an in depth profile in the 1997 book "Women in Mathematics", by Claudia Henrion, which detailed the lives and challenges faced by the pioneering women in the field. The stories of her isolation and determination in the face of being the only female in an all male department, her choice of logic as a field of research despite there being no logicians at Harvard, which required her to go to Berkeley to finish her thesis, and her balancing of marriage, children and research career, makes for fascinating reading and gives remarkable personal insight into the barriers that pioneering women mathematicians and scientists had to overcome in the not so distant past. In those days, while there were precious few women mathematician role models for her to emulate, there were literally none that were also married and raising a family. So Marian was a one-of-a-kind, and a true inspiration to all those who came after.
She will be sorely missed by her colleagues here in Minnesota and her many friends and collaborators worldwide.
A Tribute to Marian Boykan Pour-El (1928–2009) ↗
by Ning Zhong, Journal of Logic and Computation, February 6, 2013