We often tell our students that there are many things besides teaching and
actuarial work that they can do with a
mathematics, but they often don't believe us. Here is a list of well-known
people who were math majors (or some equivalent in other countries and
times), although not all of them completed their degrees.
THE PUBLIC REALM
- Ralph Abernathy, civil rights leader and
Martin Luther King's closest aide.
- Corazon Aquino, former President of the
Philippines. She was a math minor at the College of Mt. St. Vincent.
- Harry Blackmun, Associate Justice of the
US Supreme Court, AB summa cum laude in mathematics at Harvard.
- Simeon DeWitt, was the first math major
at Rutgers. He became General George Washington's Chief
Geographer in the Revolutionary War. His maps of Yorktown helped
win the final battle of that war. Afterwards (1784-1834) he was the
Surveyor General for New York State; he helped to plan
the Erie Canal, and to develop the grid system of streets and avenues in
New York City, among other things.
- David Dinkins, Mayor of New York, BA in
mathematics from Howard.
- Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru, MS
in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
- Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the
American Civil Liberties Union, both a BS and an MA.
- Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister
of Singapore, a Bachelor's from Cambridge.
- Florence Nightingale, pioneer in
professional nursing. She was the first person in the English-speaking
world to apply statistics to
public health. She was also a pioneer in the graphic representation of
statistics; the pie-chart was her invention, for example.
Not really a math major, she was privately educated, but pursued
mathematics far beyond contemporary standards for
- Paul Painleve, President of France in
the early 20th century, and one of the first passengers of the Wright
Brothers. A ringer:
he had a distinguished mathematical career.
- William J. Perry, Former Secretary of
Defense William J. Perry holds a bachelors and masters degree in
mathematics as well as a PhD from
Penn State. His thesis advisor at Stanford was the famous mathematician
- Carl T. Rowan, columnist for the
Washington Post received a mathematics degree from Oberlin College.
- Laurence H. Tribe, Professor at Harvard
Law School, often regarded as one of the great contemporary authorities on
Constitutional Law. An AB summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard.
- Leon Trotsky, revolutionary. He began to
study Pure mathematics at Odessa in 1897, but imprisonment and exile in
seem to have ended his mathematical efforts.
- George Saitoti , current
vice-president of Kenya
has a Ph.D. in Algebraic Topology from Warwick University.
- Eamon de Valera, long-time Prime
Minister and then President of the Republic of Ireland. A ringer: he was a
professor before Irish independence.
THE OTHER ARTS
- Ernst Ansermet, founder and conductor of
the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
- Pierre Boulez, Modernist composer and
- Clifford Brown, Fifties jazz trumpeter.
- Art Garfunkel, folk-rock singer. MA in
mathematics from Columbia in 1967. Worked on a PhD at Columbia, but chose
pursue his musical career instead.
- Phillip Glass, composer, a Bachelor's
from the University of Chicago.
- Carole King, Sixties songwriter, and
later a singer-songwriter. She dropped out after one year of college to
pursue her music
- Inaba Koshi, a famous Japanese singer.
He is the member of an rock'n roll band called "B'z" with Matsumoto
Takahiro, the guitarist.
Koshi was a student of Yokohama National University, and majored in
- Tom Lehrer, songwriter-parodist. PhD
student in mathematics at Harvard.
- Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor and
FINANCE AND ENTREPENUERS
- Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in
Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and other works. A ringer: he was a
his real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
- Helene Foellinger, majored in
mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champange. Foellinger
was also the first woman elected to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
- Teri Hatcher, Lois Lane on "Lois and
Clark", was a mathematics and engineering major at DeAnza
- Heloise (Ponce Cruse Evans), of Hints
from Heloise. She minored in math.
- Larry Niven, science fiction writer,
winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards.
- Omar Khayyam, author of The Rubaiyat.
Another ringer: he published works on algebra and Euclid.
- Danica McKellar, who played Winnie
Cooper on The Wonder Years (TV show). She graduated summa cum
laude from UCLA in 1998 with a departmental honors degree in mathematics.
research project was entitled "Percolation and Gibbs-states multiplicity
for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models in
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel
prize-winning novelist, a degree in mathematics and physics from the
University of Rostov.
- Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, took
honors at Trinity University, Dublin.
- Christopher Wren, the architect of St.
Paul's Cathedral in London.
- Paul Vanhoeven, director of many
hollywood movies (Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Robocop I, etc...)
received a PhD in math and physics from the University of Leiden in the
Netherlands. He never used his degree, opting instead to invest his
energies in a career in film.
- Larry Gonick, cartoonist, received an MA
in mathematics from Harvard in 1969.
- John Maynard Keynes, the great
economist. MA and 12th Wrangler, Cambridge University.
- J. Pierpont Morgan, the banking, steel,
and railroad magnate. Some of the Gottigen faculty tried to convince him
to become a
- Kai Krause, one of the geniuses of the
computer graphics world, helped launch the MetaCreations
company. The developer, designer, and digital artist has been selected by
Newsweek and Time as one of the most influential experts of
the digital era. In addition, Krause won
a Clio award for work on "Star Trek - The Movie."
- Ed Thorpe, one of the inventors of
program-trading on Wall Street.
ATHLETES AND OTHER
- Edmund Husserl, the "Father of
Phenomenology," PhD in1883 from Vienna.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the giants
of twentieth-century philosophy. Studied mathematical logic with Bertrand
- Michael Jordan, basketball superstar. He
changed to another major in his junior year.
- Davey Johnson, manager of the 1986 New
- Emanuel Lasker, world chess champion
from 1894-1921. Another ringer, he was a mathematics professor with
- Dan Monson, basketball coach at the
University of Minnesota.
- David Robinson, basketball star. BS in
mathematics from Annapolis.
- Frank Ryan, star quarterback from the
Cleveland Browns in the sixties. PhD from Rice.
- Virginia Wade, Wimbledon champion, BS in
mathematics and physics from Sussex.
- James Moriarty, former Professor of
Mathematics, author of The Dynamics of an Asteroid, whose essay on the
theorem is said to have had a continental vogue, became the leader of the
most sinister criminal conspiracy in Victorian
England. He has been called "the Napoleon of Crime." Sherlock Holmes's
- Ted Kaczinski, PhD in mathematics from
University of Michigan. Kaczinski worked at UC Berkeley for some time and
papers in complex variables before retreating to the woods and becoming
the infamous ünabomber."
- Margaret Ella Richter, majored in
math, computer science and German at the University of California at
Berkeley, graduating in three years. She is famous
for being a member of the Heaven's Gate cult which committed mass suicide
- Nearly all of this information comes from an article by Steven G.
Buyske in the American Mathematical Monthly, v. 100.