Reprinted from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Campus News, December 2, 2002
Edith Luchins, professor emeritus of mathematics, died Nov. 18. She was 80.
Luchins, who served as professor of mathematical sciences at Rensselaer from 1962 until 2002, was the first woman to be appointed full professor at Rensselaer. She attained emeritus status in 1992, but continued to be involved in research in the math department.
"This is a loss to all of us," said Les Rubenfeld, a longtime colleague of Luchins. "Edith was a unique person, loved mathematics, and most important loved teaching and the students she taught. In so many ways she was very much ahead of her time. May she rest in peace knowing how many lives she has positively affected."
Luchins established the Max Hirsch Prize in mathematics in honor of her father. She spent countless hours advising pre- and post-doctoral students. Among her many honors were the Rensselaer Distinguished Teaching Award, the Darrin Counseling Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, and the Rensselaer Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Award. She was a distinguished visiting professor of mathematics at the United States Military Academy in West Point in 1991-1992. In July 1994 she was appointed adjunct professor of cognitive sciences at the institute.
She received a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1942, an M.S. from New York University in 1944, and a Ph.D. from University of Oregon in 1957. Luchins' research focused on mathematics and psychology. She had worked on mathematical models of order effects in information processing; on gender differences in cognitive processes and their implications for teaching and learning mathematics; and on the roles of heuristics and algorithms in mathematical problem solving, with and without the use of computers. She was also interested in the history of mathematics, and, in particular, the history of women in mathematics.
She is survived by her husband, five children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.