Who Was Miss Mullikin?
Thomas L. Bartlow and David E. Zitarelli
The following article, which appeared in the American Mathematical Monthly, 116, no. 2 (February 2009): 99-114, is available as a PDF as well.
Anna Margaret Mullikin may be remembered as a mathematician, a teacher, a philanthropist, and a humanitarian. In mathematics, she was one of the earliest American researchers in point-set topology, advancing knowledge of connectedness in the plane and characterizations of 2-manifolds in terms of connected sets, and fostering an international collaboration among topologists in Poland and the
Although her only research was the doctoral dissertation, resulting in one published paper, it contained such deep results that all five theorems found application in subsequent investigations lasting another 50 years.
As a high-school teacher Mullikin served as an excellent mentor and role model for all her students during a 40-year teaching career. With a combination of firmness, patience, and kindness, she guided them both in mathematics and in the art of living.
She identified and encouraged students of strong mathematical ability, taught a meticulous and orderly approach to mathematics to all her students, and tailored her lessons to the abilities of individual students.
Although her pupils were unaware of her earlier exploits and some of them did not even know that she held a Ph.D., they benefited by experiencing firsthand a brilliant and serious mathematical mind at work. Perhaps this was especially true for her female students, but all her students remember her with admiration and respect.
As a person Miss Mullikin was generous of spirit and purse, leaving a financial legacy which continues to benefit humanity. Although all of her immediate family died before she did, some of them prematurely, and her own health was poor for several years, she maintained an optimistic outlook, welcoming visitors graciously. Firm in her sense of how to do mathematics, how to teach, and how to live, she was patient, modest, and considerate in her relations with others.
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