Agnes Scott College

Anna Margaret Mullikin

Anna Mullikin

March 7, 1893 - August 24, 1975


Anna Mullikin was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Goucher College, which was then a women's college located in Baltimore. While there she managed her class basketball team, participated on the swimming team, and earned her A.B. degree in 1915. That same year her name was mentioned in the American Mathematical Monthly [Vol. 22, No. 5 (May 1915),pp. 165-166] for solving the following geometry problem:
geometry problem
A quadrilateral of any shape whatever is divided by a transversal into two quadrilaterals. The diagonals of the original figure and those of the two resulting (smaller) figures are then drawn. Show that their three points of intersection are collinear.
The published solution was by Vola Barton, also from Goucher College, with the remark "Also solved by Anna Mullikin."

After graduating from Groucher, Mullikin taught mathematics at the Science Hill School in Kentucky (a private prep school for girls) for two years, and at the Mary Baldwin Seminary in Virginia (at that time a women's junior college, later to become Mary Baldwin College in 1923) for one year. In 1918 she entered the graduate program in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, earning her master's degree in 1919. She continued her graduate studies at Penn during the 1919-1920 academic year under the direction of the topologist, Robert L. Moore, while also teaching at the Stevens School in Germantown, Pennsylvania, another private preparatory school for girls. In the fall of 1920 she moved to the University of Texas along with Moore, who had convinced the Texas math department to appoint her as an instructor. Mullikin stayed in Texas for only the one academic year before returning to Philadelphia to complete the requirements for her degree from the University of Pennsylvania, with Moore still as her advisor. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1922 with a dissertation on "Certain theorems relating to plane connected point sets." She was the third of Moore's 50 graduate students (another was Mary Ellen Rudin). Her thesis was published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society [Abstract]. An extensive analysis of the mathematical content of this important work in point-set topology and its influence on future research in topology can be found in the paper by Thomas Bartlow and David Zitarelli, and in the article by David Hill and Zitarelli in Convergencehttp://www.maa.org/publications/periodicals/convergence/limit-points-and-connected-sets-in-the-plane.

Mullikin did not pursue mathematical research after earning her Ph.D. She spent the rest of her professional career as a high school mathematics teacher, first at William Penn High School for Girls in Philadelphia for one year, and then at Germantown High School where she remained until her retirement in 1959. She was appointed head of the mathematics department in 1952. In 1956 she was a joint author with Ethel and Ewart Grove for the textbook Algebra and Its Use, Book 1 [Table of Contents] and Book 2 [Table of Contents], and in 1961 the three authors published Basic Mathematics [Table of Contents]. While Mullikin herself may not have continued original mathematical research, by all indications she was a caring and enthusiastic teacher who inspired some of her students to pursue advanced work in mathematics and computer science. One such student was Mary-Elizabeth Hamstrom (1927-2009) who earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas in 1952, also with R.L. Moore as her advisor, and who was a topologist at the University of Illinois for 38 years.

References

  1. Bartlow, T.L., and D.E. Zitarelli. "Who was Miss Mullikin?", American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 116 (February 2009), 99-114. [pdf version or online version from MAA website]
  2. Hill, David R. and David E. Zitarelli. "Limit Points and Connected Sets in the Plane - Mullikan's Nautilus", Loci (August 2010). [http://www.maa.org/publications/periodicals/convergence/limit-points-and-connected-sets-in-the-plane]
  3. Green, Judy and Jeanne LaDuke, Supplementary Material for Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhDs, American Mathematical Society, 2009.
  4. Peterson, Ivars. "The Remarkable Miss Mullikin", The Mathematical Tourist, February 20, 2009 [The second sentence is now out of date!]
  5. Author Profile at zbMath
  6. Mathematics Genealogy Project