Known to commemorate and honour influential personalities across the world with its quirky doodles, search engine Google features Russian Mathematician, Olga Ladyzhenskaya, today on its homepage as it marks her 97th birthday. Google not just put out a doodle in her honour but also a video on YouTube, summing up her life and achievements.
Born in Kologriv in Soviet Russia on March 7, 1922, Olga had to overcome the political and social unrest of her time while she came up with an influential body of work. Penning more than 250 papers, Olga made valuable contributions to the field of fluid dynamics and her works continue to inspire oceanography, cardiovascular science, aerodynamics and weather forecasting to this day.
The doodle, celebrating her work on partial differential equations and fluid dynamics, features in yellow, brown and orange – an elliptical shape, indicative of her work involving linear and quasilinear elliptic equations. She has to her credit, the first rigorous proofs of the convergence of a finite difference method for the Navier-Stokes equations.
Google Doodle Celebrating Olga’s 97th Birthday today (Photo Courtesy: Google Homepage)
Losing her father, a mathematics teacher credited with inspiring her love for the subject, to the interior ministry of Soviet Union for being the “enemy of the people,” Olga was denied admission into the Leningrad University, despite exceptional grades. Teaching at an orphanage eventually and at a secondary school, Olga enrolled in Moscow State University in 1943 and later earned her doctorate from Leningrad State University.
Perceived as a rebel, Olga got involved in the St Petersburg intellectual scene and befriended the outspoken critic of the Soviet Union, writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. She even went on to become friends with Anna Akhmatova, a poet whose work denounced Stalin’s regime.
When Olga died at the age of 81, The New York Times quoted Dr Marshall Slemrod, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin, as saying, “She was perhaps the premier worker on the Russian side. If you believe your weather forecast, you have to solve the exact equations that she studied.”
She was shortlisted as one of the potential recipients for the reputed Fields Medal in 1958 but lost to the German mathematician Klaus Roth and French mathematician Rene Thom. She was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal in 2002, two years before her death.