Modern Mathematicians: Ruth Lawrence

Ruth Lawrence, a British-Israeli mathematician, is known for being the “brainiest child in Britain” and has been hailed by the media as a child prodigy. At the age of 10 she became the youngest person ever to be admitted into Oxford University in 1981, completing her degree in two years and was the only mathematics student in her year to receive a top grade. She finished her PhD at Oxford at age 18, and at age 19 took on her first academic position as a junior professor at Harvard University.

Lawrence’s father abandoned his work in computing to focus on his daughter’s education. As a former mathematics and science tutor, he educated Ruth at home using the “hothousing” method, in attempt to cultivate her into a ‘genius’ (something he had tried to do for his previous daughters). However, he received a great deal of criticism for his “constant presence and very hands-on method of nurturing his daughter’s rare level of aptitude.”

When Ruth is asked about her fathers teaching methods, she says that “she would never put her own children through the strict teaching methods… which included a ban on playing with friends their own age.”

So, where is she now?

Ruth Lawrence is currently an associate professor of mathematics at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She specialises in knot theory and algebraic topology. She moved to Israel after falling in love with Israeli mathematician Ariyeh Neimark.

Lawrence’s father commented how he was “immensely proud” of Ruth, explaining how the fact she had never become a world-renowned genius was not a “failure” in his mind.

“She’s influencing the lives of hundreds of people who will become mathematicians and physicists who will make a huge contribution to the world. Who’s to say that isn’t more worthwhile than a firework that produces something astounding?”

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3

 

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