February 1, 1881 - July 4, 1967
Mayme Farmer Irwin Logsdon was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the second of seven children of Judge James David Irwin and Nannie Bell Farmer. She married A. H. Logsdon in 1900, at the age of nineteen, but her husband died quite young. She entered the University of Chicago in 1911, receiving her B.S. degree one year later. In 1913 she began teaching mathematics at Hastings College, Nebraska, and also served as the Dean of Women. During this time she continued her studies at Chicago, receiving her master's degree in 1915. She continued to teach at Hastings until 1917, and then at Northwestern College as an instructor of mathematics, but returned to the University of Chicago in 1919 to resume graduate work. She completed her Ph.D. in 1921, at age forty, with a thesis on "Equivalence and Reduction of Pairs of Hermitian Forms," written under the guidance of L.E.Dickson. This paper was published in the American Journal of Mathematics, Vol. 44 (1922), 247-260 [Abstract]. Logsdon was Dickson's third female doctoral student.
Logsdon taught at the University of Chicago from 1921 until her retirement in 1946. She was the only woman to hold a regular faculty position at the University of Chicago above the rank of instructor before 1982 (she was promoted to assistant professor in 1925 and to associate professor in 1930; Karen Uhlenbeck was appointed professor of mathematics at Chicago in 1982). During 1924-25 she studied in Rome as an International Education Board fellow. Her mathematical interests were in algebraic geometry, an area in which she directed four Ph.D. dissertations at Chicago, and problems of teaching. In 1925 she published a paper on "Complete groups of points on a plane cubic curve of genus one" [Trans. Amer. Math. Soc., Vol 27, 474-490] in which "a study is made of the geometrical configurations of rational points obtained by the fundamental construction from one or more known rational points on cubics of genus one with rational anharmonic ratio, with a very brief summary of known results in the case of genus zero." Logsdon wrote two textbooks. Elementary Mathematical Analysis was a two-volume preparation for calculus published in 1932 and 1933; A Mathematician Explains, first published in October 1935 with a second edition appearing in March 1936, and later reprinted in 1961, provided a non-technical historical development of concepts from arithmetic, algebra, and geometry for a general education course in mathematics.
Logsdon retired from the University of Chicago in 1946. She continued to teach at the University of Miami in Florida, however, for another 15 years.