Talented algebraist whose vigorous career in mathematics was cut short by cancer.
Evelyn Nelson was born Evelyn Merle Roden, of Russian immigrant parents who strongly encouraged her passion in mathematics and natural sciences. She was gifted student, graduating at the top of her undergraduate class. Nelson completed her PhD thesis a few months after the birth of the first of her two daughters, and continued at McMaster as a research associate (1973-78), associate professor (1978) and full professor (1983). She also served as chair of the Computer Science Department.
Nelson's first interest was in algebra and theoretical computer science. She worked on equational compactness and formal language theory, and wrote over 40 papers, primarily in the area of universal algebra. She was editor of the prestigious journal Algebra Universalis.
Nelson died at the age of 44, after battling cancer for several years.
The Canadian Mathematical Society now awards the CMS Krieger-Nelson Prize Lectureship for Distinguished Research by Women in Mathematics in honour of Cecilia Krieger and Evelyn Nelson.
Sources: "Notable Mathematicians", Robyn V. Young, ed. (1998); Biographies of Women Mathematicians website; Image: Biographies of Women Mathematicians.