Agnes Scott College

Elizabeth Street Dickerman

November 13, 1872 - April 24, 1965


Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1872, the daughter of the Reverand G.S. Dickerman and Elizabeth (Street) Dickerman. Elizabeth grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, where her father was the pastor of the First Congregational Church. Her mother was a friend of Emily Dickinson, the American poet, and Emily and her sister Lavinia would often visit the Dickerman home.

Elizabeth Dickerman received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in 1894, then in 1896 became the second woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. At Yale she studied under Professors Herbert Newton, J. Williard Gibbs, and others. Her dissertation was on "Curves of the First and Second Degree in X,Y,Z, where X,Y,Z are Conics Having Two Points in Common".

After graduating from Yale, Dickerman traveled extensively throughout England, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. During the 1904-05 school year she taught at the Greenwich Academy in Connecticut. The following year she taught in the department of mathematics at the College for Women of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. In the fall of 1907 she returned to Connecticut to take a position at the Ingleside School in New Milford. In 1910 she asked to be considered for an appointment in college teaching or administration at Smith College, but apparently nothing came of this since she was still teaching mathematics and psychology at the Ingleside School when she was elected an alumna member of the Smith Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1915. In a 1937 response to a questionnaire from Professor Helen Owens, Dickerman wrote that at Ingleside she taught the "advanced branches of mathematics, thinking that a thorough study of these was very important for young girls many of whose studies were more cultural than disciplinary."

In addition to her interests in mathematics and psychology, Dickerman was a poet and writer. In 1915 she published Songs of Brittany, which she translated into English verse from the original French of Theodore Botrel. She also published several translations and other articles in Poet Lore between 1917 and 1922. In 1923 she published A Spanish Journey (in verse).

References

  1. Phillip Jones. "American doctoral dissertations on mathematics and astronomy written by women in the nineteenth century," Mathematics Teacher, May 1957, p.374
  2. Woman's Who's Who of America: A biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. John William Leonard, Editor, American Commonwealth Co., 1914.
  3. Helen Brewster Owens Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  4. Mary Elizabeth Williams Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  5. Mathematics Genealogy Project