In Memory of Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes

Mathematics is…mathematics.  It may seem cold and impersonal at times—appearing not to be driven by human wants or desires but by the precise statements of assumptions and propositions that lead to the proofs of theorems.  This is just not so! Math is, after all, as human as art.  And yet, the seemingly impersonal nature of the discipline is actually one of its greatest assets.  Mathematicians’ shared intensity to irrefutable argument is one of the reasons why we as a group love to celebrate the beautiful mind of anyone who discovers and proves a new theorem.

Today I wish to celebrate the mathematical genius of Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes, a Ph.D. alumna of Louisiana State University who died last week.  Help celebrate one of her mathematical accomplishments with me: take a moment to read and absorb the abstract to her 1971 Ph.D. thesis:

Title: Semi-Valuations and Groups of Divisibility

From the abstract:  This paper gives procedures for constructing a class of groups of divisibility of rings (not necessarily domains) which properly includes the class constructed by Ohm.  Toward that end, we first extend the concept of a semi-valuation of a field to rings which may contain zero-divisiors.  The notion of a composite of two valuations of fields is then extended to the notion of a composite of two semi-valuations of total quotient rings (which may not be fields), and the construction of this composite is then related to an exact sequence of semi-value groups.  Necessary and sufficient conditions for this sequence to be lexicographically exact are given.

Dr. Spikes also made history in 1971 by becoming the first black graduate to receive a doctorate in mathematics from Louisiana State University.  She was only the 19th African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics at any university.  Her thesis work stands on its own and is a true testament to her intellect, but the circumstances of the times surrounding her achievement makes it all the more remarkable.  Thank you for your contributions to mathematics, Dr. Spikes.

I highly encourage everyone to read more about Dr. Spike’s rich and impactful life by visiting her Wikipedia page and reading the excellent reference articles there.  Also, check this out.

spikes-dolores(photo: SUNO)

CHANNEL: That’s News to Me
© 2015 Scott Baldridge

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About Scott Baldridge

Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, LSU. Geometric topologist: gauge theory, exotic 4-manifolds, knot theory. Author: Elementary Mathematics for Teachers.
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