Agnes Scott College

Margaret Wright

Margaret Wright Photo

February 18, 1944 -

Margaret Wright enjoyed math from an early age in her home town of Hanford, California, and later in Tucson, Arizona where she attended high school. She received her B.S. in mathematics and M.S. in computer science from Stanford University. After several years in industry at GTE Sylvania during scientific programming, she returned to Stanford to complete her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1976. Her thesis was on "Numerical Methods For Nonlinearly Constrained Optimization." She remained at Stanford as a Research Associate in the operations research department until joining Bell Laboratories in 1988 where she was named a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff and later a Bell Labs Fellow. She served as head of the Scientific Computing Research Department from 1997-2000. In 2001 Wright became a professor of computer science and mathematics and chair of the Computer Science Department in the Courant Institute at New York University.

Wright is a well known mathematician in the fields of optimization, linear algebra, numerical and scientific computing, and scientific and engineering applications. She has written two books on optimization with P.E. Gill and W. Murray, over 40 publications, and almost 50 technical reports for Stanford and Bell Laboratories. She has also served as associate editor for five journals.

In 1995-1996, Wright served as President of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. In 2000 she presented the AWM Noether Lecture. She received both the 2001 Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession from SIAM and the 2002 Award for Distinguished Public Service from the American Mathematical Society. The citation for the latter award noted that "Professor Wright has been active for many years in encouraging women and minority students, for example, by means of programs that brought them together with leaders and researchers from industry to discuss opportunities outside academia."

Read her profile from the 2000 AWM Emmy Noether Lecture.

Read the tribute by Michael Overton, Courant Institute, upon the election of Margaret Wright to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005.

You can listen to audio excerpts from her MAA Distinguished Lecture on "What Can We Say After We Say We're Sorry? or, Adventures in Optimization," presented on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at the MAA's Carriage House, available online at MAA Online. In addition, you can watch her November 2, 2006, Math Matters Public Lecture at the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications on "How Hard Can it Be?" at


  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. January 2002 Prizes and Awards Pamphlet, AMS/MAA San Diego Meeting
  3. Article by Margaret Wright in the AWM Newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 6 (1999), 20-21 about her career as an applied mathematician, part of the Olga Taussky Todd Celebration of Careers in Mathematics for Women. [Reprinted in Complexities: Women in Mathematics, Bettye Anne Case and Anne Leggett, Editors, Princeton University Press (2005), 240-242.]
  4. Peterson, Ivars. " 'I can wear a math hat and a computer science hat', An Interview with Margaret Wright," MAA Focus, October 2008, 4-5.
  5. Miller, Ryan. Margaret Wright and Real World Mathematics, MAA Online, March 17, 2008.
  6. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  7. Author Profile at zbMath
  8. Mathematics Genealogy Project