Pernambuco and São Paulo are among the first mathematicians in Brazil – 09/26/2023 – Marcelo Viana

Pernambuco and São Paulo are among the first mathematicians in Brazil – 09/26/2023 – Marcelo Viana

Born in Pernambuco, Maria Laura Mouzinho (1917–2013) moved at the age of 18, with her family, to Rio de Janeiro, where she completed her bachelor’s degree and degree in mathematics at the Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia (FNFi), in 1942.

The following year, she was appointed geometry assistant at FNFi, where she also began her doctorate, under the guidance of Portuguese mathematician António Monteiro. She defended her thesis “Projective spaces – lattices of their subspaces” on September 24, 1949, a mere 11 days (!!) after the defense of Marília Chaves Peixoto, about whom I wrote last week.

Together with Marília, Leopoldo Nachbin, Candido Dias and Mauricio Peixoto, Maria Laura was part of the first Brazilian delegation to an International Congress of Mathematicians, in 1950. Two years later, she was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and became general secretary of the then newly created Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (Impa). She remained in the role until 1956, when she married physicist Jorge Leite Lopes and the couple went for internships in the United States. They had three children.

Her career was interrupted by AI-5 in 1969, when Maria Laura was compulsorily retired, and the couple were forced into exile abroad. Returning to Brazil in 1974, she continued to make important contributions to the cause of mathematics education. Among her greatest legacies is the creation of the Fundão Project, UFRJ’s first extension project, which remains fully active today.

Daughter and granddaughter of mathematics teachers, Elza Furtado Gomide (1925–2013) from São Paulo was always encouraged by her family in her studies. She started her degree in physics, but halfway through she realized what she really liked was mathematics. Having already graduated, at the age of 19 she was hired as an assistant to the Analysis chair at the University of São Paulo (USP), where she remained until her compulsory retirement, due to age, in 1995.

It was at USP that he completed his doctorate, under the guidance of the Frenchman Jean Delsarte. He defended his doctoral thesis “On the Artin–Weil theorem”, on November 27, 1950, just over a year after Marília and Maria Laura’s defenses.

In 1968, she was elected head of the Mathematics Department. Around that time, she also became increasingly interested in teaching mathematics, to which she made important contributions. His former students that I spoke to have a warm memory of his dedication, generosity and encouragement to students.

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