# Marjorie Senechal

**Marjorie Lee Senechal** (née Wikler, born 1939) is an American mathematician and historian of science, the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology at Smith College[1] and editor-in-chief of *The Mathematical Intelligencer*.[2] In mathematics, she is known for her work on tessellations and quasicrystals; she has also studied ancient Parthian electric batteries[3] and published several books about silk.[4]

Marjorie Senechal | |
---|---|

Born | Marjorie Wikler 1939 St. Louis, Missouri |

Alma mater | University of Chicago Illinois Institute of Technology |

Scientific career | |

Fields | mathematics history of science |

Institutions | Smith College |

## Biography

Senechal was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of four children of Abraham Wikler, a United States Public Health Service physician. The family soon moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and Senechal grew up as a "narco brat" on the grounds of the Lexington Narcotic Hospital, a prison farm for drug addicts, where her father was associate director.[5][6] She was educated at the Training School of the University of Kentucky, a small school with only one class in each grade; Senechal later wrote that the school's too-easy classwork, snobbish classmates, and anti-Jewish discrimination made her miserable.[7]

She left Lafayette High School after the 11th grade to begin her undergraduate studies as a pre-med at the University of Chicago, but soon switched to mathematics, graduating in 1960.[8] While doing graduate studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology, she married mathematician Lester Senechal, and moved to Arizona with him before completing her own degree.[8] Nevertheless, she finished her Ph.D. in 1965, under the supervision of Abe Sklar; her thesis concerned functional equations.[9]

Unable to get her own faculty position at Arizona because of the anti-nepotism rules then in place, she and her husband visited Brazil, supported by a Fulbright Scholarship. They then moved to Massachusetts, where she took the faculty position at Smith that she would keep for the rest of her career.[5] She eventually divorced Senechal, and married photographer Stan Sherer in 1989.[8] She retired in 2007; a festival in 2006 honoring her impending retirement included the performance of a musical play that she wrote with The Talking Band member Ellen Maddow, loosely centered around the theme of aperiodic tilings and the life of amateur mathematician Robert Ammann.[10][11][12]

## Awards and honors

Senechal won the Mathematical Association of America's Carl B. Allendoerfer Award for excellence in expository writing in *Mathematics Magazine* in 1982, for her article, "Which Tetrahedra Fill Space?"[8][13] In 2008, her book *American Silk 1830 – 1930* won the Millia Davenport Publication Award of the Costume Society of America.[14] In 2012, she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[15]

## Books

*Crystalline Symmetries: An informal mathematical introduction*(Alan Hilger, 1990)[16][17]*Quasicrystals and Geometry*(Cambridge University Press, 1995)[18][19][20]*Long Life to Your Children! A portrait of High Albania*(with S. Sherer, University of Massachusetts Press, 1997)[21]*Northampton's Century of Silk*(City of Northampton, Massachusetts, 2004)[22]*American Silk 1830 – 1930: Entrepreneurs and Artifacts*(with Jacqueline Field and Madelyn Shaw, Texas Tech University Press, 2007)[14][23][24][25][26]*I Died For Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science*(Oxford University Press, 2012)[27][28][29][30]

## References

- Faculty listing, Smith College Department of Mathematics and Statistics, retrieved 2013-07-15.
- Publisher's web site for
*The Mathematical Intelligencer*, retrieved 2013-07-15. - "Riddle of 'Baghdad's batteries'",
*BBC News*, 27 February 2003. - As well as the two books written by Senechal listed in the Books section, she edited and contributed to
*Silk Unraveled!: Threads of Human History*, Smith College Studies in History 53, 2005. - Budrus, Sarah (2007),
*Dr. Marjorie Senechal: What do Silk, Crystals, Culture, and History Have in Common?*, AWM Essay Contest College First Place Winner, Association for Women in Mathematics. -
*All Roads Lead to Lexington: The Consolidation of Addiction Research in the U.S. Public Health Service*, University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, retrieved 2013-07-16. - Senechal, Marjorie (2003), "Narco Brat", in Patey, D. (ed.),
*Of Human Bondage*(PDF), Smith College Studies in History,**52**, Smith College - Brunner, Regina Baron (1998), "Marjorie Wikler Senechal", in Morrow, Charlene; Perl, Teri (eds.),
*Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary*, Greenwood Press, pp. 225–229. - Marjorie Senechal at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- "Musical Play Toys with Rhythm, Order, Pattern, Sound",
*Smith College News & Events*, October 26, 2006. - Neale, Alexandra (October 26, 2006), "Festival of surprise: Smith event to connect math and art",
*The Sophian*. - Midgette, Anne (January 24, 2006), "Theatre Review,
*Delicious Rivers*: A Post Office With Attitude",*New York Times* -
*The Mathematical Association of America's Carl B. Allendoerfer Award*, retrieved 2013-07-13. - Millia Davenport Publication Award Archived 2009-09-19 at the Wayback Machine, Costume Society of America, retrieved 2013-07-15.
- List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-07-15.
- Review of
*Crystalline Symmetries*by Doris Schattschneider (1993),*SIAM Review*35 (2): 335–336, doi:10.1137/1035079. - Review of
*Crystalline Symmetries*by R. L. E. Schwarzenberger (1992), MR1100479. - Review of
*Quasicrystals and Geometry*by István Hargittai (1997),*Advanced Materials*9 (12): 994–996, doi:10.1002/adma.19970091217. - Review of
*Quasicrystals and Geometry*by Richard Kenyon (1996), MR1340198. - Review of
*Quasicrystals and Geometry*by Charles Radin (1996),*Notices of the AMS*43 (4): 416–421. - Raynor, Vivien (September 13, 1998), "Art: Life in Albania Captured in Photographs",
*New York Times*. -
*Northampton's Century of Silk*was produced as part of a year-long city celebration of silk, co-organized by Senechal; see "Town spins yearlong celebration of almost forgotten silk industry",*Toledo Blade*, January 19, 2003. - Review of
*American Silk*by Laurence F. Gross (2008),*Technology and Culture*49 (3): 796–798, doi:10.1353/tech.0.0050. - Review of
*American Silk*by Carolyn C. Cooper (2009),*Journal of Interdisciplinary History*39 (3): 450–452, doi:10.1162/jinh.2009.39.3.450. - Review of
*American Silk*by Melinda Talbot Nasardinov (2008),*Winterthur Portfolio*42 (4): 293–294, doi:10.1086/592797. - Review of
*American Silk*by Marla Miller (2008),*The New England Quarterly*81 (1): 165–168, JSTOR 20474621. - Deng, Boer (March 16, 2013), "Forgetting Dorothy Wrinch: Science and the Culture of Correctness",
*Los Angeles Review of Books*. See also a follow-up exchange of letters between Senechal and Deng. - Ball, Philip (6 December 2012), "X-Ray crystallography: Symmetry wars",
*Nature*,**492**: 37–38, doi:10.1038/492037a. - Engelhart, Katie (April 10, 2013), "Author Margorie Senechal resurrects a brilliant female scientist",
*Maclean's*. - Else, Liz (7 December 2012), "CultureLab: A mathematician's magnificent failure to explain life",
*New Scientist*.