Rozsa Peter (1905-1977)

Mathematician, Rocket Girl

Rozsa Peter was born on February 17, 1905 in Budapest, Hungary. Rozsa initially studied chemistry, but switched to mathematics. For 18 years after graduation, she had difficult securing a position, so she tutored and substitute taught at the high school level.  Peter earned her doctorate in 1935, and was known as one of the founders of recursive function theory.

Peter's achievements in computational theory were on the level of Gödel, Alan Turing, Alonzo Church and Stephen Kleene.  Perhaps because of her gender, and her Jewish ancestry during World War II, she never became as well known as the others.  After the war, Aunt Rozsa, as her students affectionately referred to her, got a full-time teacher position at Budapest Teachers Training College.  She went on to teach at Lorand Eotvos University and taught there until she retired in 1975.

She was always troubled with people's fear of mathematics and science, and felt that kids would get excited about these fields if only they were exposed between the ages of 8-11 to great scientists and mathematicians.

Rozsa Peter died in 1977, the day before her 72nd birthday.

“I love mathematics not only for its technical applications, but principally because it is beautiful; because man has breathed his spirit of play into it, and because it has given him his greatest game – the encompassing of the infinite.” – Rózsa Péter

Rocket Girls honors Rozsa Peter for her contribution, courage and persistence.

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