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Cathleen Synge Morawetz

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Title: Cathleen Synge Morawetz  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of New York University alumni, Canadian expatriate academics in the United States, John Lighton Synge, Irish mathematicians, Leroy P. Steele Prize
Collection: 1923 Births, 20Th-Century Mathematicians, Canadian Expatriate Academics in the United States, Canadian Mathematicians, Canadian Women Academics, Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, Fellows of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Guggenheim Fellows, Irish Mathematicians, Living People, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni, Mathematical Analysts, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, National Medal of Science Laureates, New York University Alumni, New York University Faculty, Pde Theorists, Presidents of the American Mathematical Society, University of Toronto Alumni, Women Mathematicians
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Cathleen Synge Morawetz

Cathleen Synge Morawetz (born May 5, 1923 in Toronto, Canada) is a mathematician.[1] Morawetz's research was mainly in the study of the partial differential equations governing fluid flow, particularly those of mixed type occurring in transonic flow. She is Professor Emerita at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at the New York University, where she has also served as director from 1984 to 1988. She was awarded National Medal of Science in 1998.[2]


  • Childhood 1
  • Education 2
  • Career 3
  • Honors 4
  • Doctoral students 5
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7


Morawetz's father, John Lighton Synge was an Irish mathematician, specializing in the geometry of general relativity and her mother also studied mathematics for a time. Her childhood was split between Ireland and Canada. Both her parents were supportive of her interest in mathematics and science, and it was a woman mathematician, Cecilia Krieger, who had been a family friend for many years who later encouraged Morawetz to pursue a PhD in mathematics. Morawetz says her father was influential in stimulating her interest in mathematics, but he wondered whether her studying mathematics would be wise (suggesting they might fight like the Bernoulli brothers).[3]


Morawetz graduated from the University of Toronto in 1945 and received her master's degree in 1946 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Morawetz got a job at New York University where she edited Supersonic Flow and Shock Waves by Richard Courant and Kurt Friedrichs. She earned her Ph.D. in 1951 at New York University, with a thesis on the stability of a spherical implosion, under the supervision of Kurt Otto Friedrichs.[4][3] Her thesis was titled, "Contracting Spherical Shocks Treated by a Perturbation Method."[3] She became an American citizen in 1951.


After earning her doctorate, Morawetz spent a year as a research associate at MIT before returning to work as a research associate at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU, for five more years. During this time she had no teaching requirements and could focus purely on research. She published work on a variety of topics in applied mathematics including viscosity, compressible fluids and transonic flows. Turning to the mathematics of transonic flow, she showed that specially designed shockless airfoils develop shocks if they are perturbed even by a small amount. This discovery opened up the problem of developing a theory for a flow with shocks. Subsequently the shocks she predicted mathematically have been experimentally observed as air flows around the wing of a plane.[1]

In 1957 she became an assistant professor at Courant. At this point she began to work more closely with her colleagues publishing important joint papers with Peter Lax and Ralph Phillips on the decay of solutions to the wave equation around a star shaped obstacle. She continued with important solo work on the wave equation and transonic flow around a profile until she was promoted to full professor by 1965. At this point her research expanded to a variety of problems including papers on the Tricomi equation the nonrelatavistic wave equation including questions of decay and scattering. Her first doctoral student, Lesley Sibner, graduated in 1964. In the 1970s she worked on questions of scattering theory and the nonlinear wave equation.

She is Professor Emerita at Courant, where she served as director from 1984 to 1988, becoming the first woman ever to be director of a mathematics institute in the United States. [3]


In 1980 Morawetz won a

This article incorporates material from Cathleen Morawetz on PlanetMath, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  1. ^ a b  .
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Knowles, Tyler. "Cathleen Morawetz". Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Agnes Scott College. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Cathleen Synge Morawetz at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Morawetz, Cathleen S. (1979). "Nonlinear conservation equations". Amer. Math. Monthly 86: 284–287.  
  6. ^ Morawetz, Cathleen Synge (1982). "The mathematical approach to the sonic barrier". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 6 (2): 127–145.  
  7. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-02-10.


Morawetz now lives in [3]

Personal life

Doctoral students

Morawetz is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences; she was the first woman to belong to the Applied Mathematics Section of the National Academy of Sciences.[3]

[7].American Mathematical Society In 2012 she became a fellow of the [3]

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