1917 - May 27, 1990
Florence Jessie Collinson MacWilliams was born in 1917 in Stoke-on-Trent in England. She received her B.A. in 1938 and her M.A. in 1939, both from Cambridge University. She received a PhD from Harvard in 1961 (at the age of 44, after many years of raising a family and working at Bell Labs) with a dissertation on "Combinatorial Problems of Elementary Group Theory" under the direction of Andrew Gleason. This thesis contains one of the most important combinatorial results in coding theory (now known as the MacWilliams Identity.) Worked in the area of coding theory for Bell Labs. Author of The Theory of Error-Correcting Codes (1977) with Neil Sloane. In 1980 she gave the first Emmy Noether Lecture of the Association for Women in Mathematics. Her daughter, Anne MacWilliams, also became a PhD mathematician, completing her graduate work in mathematics at the University of Chicago in 1969.
Read her profile from the AWM Emmy Noether Lectures.
You can read about MacWilliams's theorem on linear codes from her PhD thesis at Theorem of the Day by Robin Whitty.
Photo Credit: Photograph used with permission of the Association for Women in Mathematics and is taken from Profiles of Women in Mathematics-The Emmy Noether Lectures, published by the AWM.