AUM's Sonia Kovalevsky (SK) Day is a one day program for young women who are enrolled in
Algebra I or higher. The Department of Mathematics here at AUM hosted its first SK Day back in February 2004. Since that time,
AUM has hosted a total of seven SK Day events. Similar events have been presented across the country with partial
funding through grants from the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), the National
Security Agency (NSA), and various universities. This program has always been strongly supported by AUM administration and has opened up opportunities
for young women by having them actively learn about various mathematics topics, hear from a respected female mathematician, and learn about numerous math related careers through a
career panel. Sonia Kovalevsky is credited as the first female to be awarded a doctorate in mathematics.
Sofia Kovalevskaya (January 15, 1850 - February 10, 1891), often called Sonya, was born in 1850 into an aristocratic Russian family. Sonya's curiosity in mathematics began early in her life. She was influenced by the notes from one of her father's mathematics course. As the story goes, when Sonya was a child, one of the walls in the house was covered with these notes. After high school, she found pursuing a higher education in mathematics difficult, since the Russian universities were closed to women. In 1868 she entered into a marriage of convenience, giving her a certain amount of freedom to travel and study abroad. The couple studied in Saint Petersburg and Heidelburg. In 1870, Sonya went to the University of Berlin and studied under the notable mathematician, Karl Weirstrass. For the next four years she received private lessons and wrote three papers. The most important being on Partial Differential Equations. In July 1874, after Weirstrass presented the papers to the University of Göttingen, Sonya was the first women to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.
Sonya and her husband returned to Russia having been unable to find employment. During this period Sonya was invited by the great Russian mathematician Chebyshev to speak at a scientific conference in St. Petersburg. After Sonya's lecture, the Swedish Mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffler offered her an academic position at the University of Stockholm. In 1883, she assumed the teaching position for a probationary year; but, she did so that first year without pay and with no official university affiliation because of her gender. She lectured on such subjects as partial differential equations and higher analysis. Sonya would later win the prestigious Prix Boridin of the French Academy of Sciences in 1888 for her paper on the On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point. She was also a gifted novelist writing Memories of Childhood and The Nihilist Girl. Unfortunately Sonya developed pneumonia while traveling and died on February 10, 1891. She was buried in Stockholm. This incredible woman left a legacy of mathematical and literary works behind, but most of all opened the doors for other women after her to be able to freely pursue a higher education.