On this day in 1902 accomplished mathematician and one of the earliest female computer pioneers Mina Spiegel Rees was born. Rees was born in Cleveland, Ohio but grew up in New York City where she received her formal education. She graduated valedictorian from Hunter College High School and Summa cum laude at Hunter College. She had degrees in mathematics from both Hunter College and Columbia University, and became a professor at Hunter College before becoming a Technical Aide with the Applied Mathematics Panel at the Office of Scientific Research and Development in World War II. She later became the Head of Mathematics at the Office of Naval Research, where she spearheaded research on various programs involving hydrofoils, logistics, computers and more. She was instrumental in developing such projects as the study of mathematical algorithms for computing, and the building of computers such as Project Whirlwind at MIT. Her many contributions in the use of computers to solve applied mathematical problems left a lasting mark on the growth of mathematical studies and computer technology.
Rees earned at least 18 honorary doctorates during her lifetime and many prestigious achievement awards. In 1971 she became the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a remarkable event as women were a rarity in the field at the time, much less in positions of community leadership.
Rees died on October 25, 1997. She was 95 years old.
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