Williams’ Book Highlights Female Mathematicians

Share story

Through her new book Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College mathematics professor Talithia Williams hopes everyone can become better informed about influential women in her field.

“Growing up in Columbus, Georgia, I didn’t know any women who looked like me did math. It wasn’t until I got to Spelman College that I first met an African American woman with a PhD in math. And even though I spent three summers researching at NASA, I had no idea about the women of Hidden Figures until the movie came out,” says Williams, associate dean for research and experiential learning and associate professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd. “I didn’t want another generation of girls to be in college before they ever realized that they, too, could become mathematicians.”

Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics is a full-color volume that takes aim at the forgotten influence of women on the development of mathematics over the last two millennia. Eminent mathematicians, including Hidden Figures subjects Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, astronomer-philosopher Hypatia, theoretical physicist Emmy Noether and rocket scientist Annie Easley come to life within the pages. “I wanted the book to be an exciting, informative read of the fascinating lives of past and present women mathematicians of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities,” says Williams.

Williams is host of the PBS series NOVA Wonders, which premiered in April 2018. Her academic specialty is statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data. She has modeled rainfall to better predict flooding in Houston and cataract incidence to forecast cataract surgical rates in African countries. She’s also gained research experience at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the National Security Agency.

Renowned for her popular TED Talk, “Own Your Body’s Data,” she has delivered speeches nationally and internationally on the value of statistics in quantifying personal health information. In 2015, Williams won the Mathematical Association of America’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member and, in 2018, received The Claremont Colleges Diversity Mentor Award. She recently developed 24 college-level video lectures on learning statistics for The Great Courses, an online platform for lifelong learners.

Williams has made it her life’s work to get students, parents, educators and community members more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education.

Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics is available through The Quarto Group and various book retailers.