Mary Ellen Rudin (December 7, 1924 – March 18, 2013) was an American mathematician known for her work in set-theoretic topology.[1]

Mary Ellen Rudin
Mary Ellen Estill

(1924-12-07)December 7, 1924
Hillsboro, Texas
DiedMarch 18, 2013(2013-03-18) (aged 88)
Spouse(s)Walter Rudin
AwardsNoether Lecturer
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin,
InfluencesRobert Lee Moore
Academic work
Sub-disciplineset-theoretic topology
InstitutionsDuke University,
University of Rochester,
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Early life and educationEdit

Mary Ellen (Estill) Rudin was born in Hillsboro, Texas to Joe Jefferson Estill and Irene (Shook) Estill. Her mother Irene was an English teacher before marriage, and her father Joe was a civil engineer. The family moved with her father's work, but spent a great deal of Mary Ellen's childhood around Leakey, Texas.[2] She had one sibling, a younger brother. Both of Rudin's maternal grandmothers had attended Mary Sharp College near their hometown of Winchester, Tennessee. Rudin remarks on this legacy and how much her family valued education in an interview.[2]

She attended the University of Texas, completing her B.A. in 1944 after just three years before moving into the graduate program in mathematics under Robert Lee Moore.[3] Her graduate thesis presented a counterexample to one of "Moore's axioms". She completed her Ph.D. in 1949.

During her time as an undergraduate, she was a member of the Phi Mu Women's Fraternity,[4] and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society.[5]

In 1953, she married mathematician Walter Rudin, whom she met while teaching at Duke University. They had four children.


At the beginning of her career, Rudin taught at Duke University and the University of Rochester.[6] She took a position as Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin in 1959, and was appointed Professor of Mathematics in 1971. After her retirement in 1991, she continued to serve as a Professor Emerita. She was the first Grace Chisholm Young Professor of Mathematics and also held the Hilidale Professorship,.[2][6]

She was an Invited Speaker of the ICM in 1974 in Vancouver.[7] She served as vice-president of the American Mathematical Society, 1980–1981. In 1984 she was selected to be a Noether Lecturer. She was an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1995). In 2012 she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[8]

Rudin is best known in topology for her constructions of counterexamples to well-known conjectures. In 1958, she found an unshellable triangulation of the tetrahedron.[9] Most famously, Rudin was the first to construct a Dowker space,[10] which she did in 1971, thus disproving a conjecture of Clifford Hugh Dowker that had stood, and helped drive topological research, for more than twenty years. Her example fueled the search for "small" ZFC Dowker spaces. She also proved the first Morita conjecture and a restricted version of the second.[11] Her last major result was a proof of Nikiel's conjecture.[12] Early proofs that every metric space is paracompact were somewhat involved, but Rudin provided an elementary one.[13]

"Reading the articles of Mary Ellen Rudin, studying them until there is no mystery takes hours and hours; but those hours are rewarded, the student obtains power to which few have access. They are not hard to read, they are just hard mathematics, that's all." (Steve Watson[14])

Later lifeEdit

Rudin resided in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Rudin House, a home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

See alsoEdit


  • Rudin, Mary Ellen (1975). Lectures on set theoretic topology (Rep. with corr. ed.). Providence: Published for the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences by the American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-0821816738.
  • Rudin, Mary Ellen (1984). Dowker spaces (in the Handbook of set-theoretic topology). Amsterdam u.a.: North-Holland. pp. 761–780. ISBN 978-0444865809.


  1. ^ "Mary Ellen Rudin (December 7, 1924 – March 18, 2013)". webpage of Topology and its Applications published by Elsevier. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Albers, D.J. and Reid, C. (1988) "An Interview with Mary Ellen Rudin". The College of Mathematics Journal 19(2) pp.114-137
  3. ^ Mary Ellen Rudin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ Cactus Yearbook. Austin, TX: University of Texas. 1944. p. 394.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Cactus Yearbook. Austin, TX: University of Texas. 1945. p. 141.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Mary Ellen Rudin", Profiles of Women in Mathematics. Association of Women in Mathematics [1]. Accessed March 13, 2015.
  7. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen. "The Normality of Products." Archived 2017-12-07 at the Wayback Machine In Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, Vancouver, 1974, vol. 1, pp. 81–86.
  8. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-07-07.
  9. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1958-02-14). "An unshellable triangulation of a tetrahedron". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 64 (3): 90–91. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1958-10168-8. MR 0097055.
  10. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1971). "A normal space X for which X × I is not normal" (PDF). Fundam. Math. 73 (2): 179–186. Zbl 0224.54019. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  11. ^ Chiba, Keiko; Przymusiński, Teodor C.; Rudin, Mary Ellen (1986). "Normality of products and Morita's conjectures". Topology and its Applications. 22: 19–32.
  12. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (2001). "Nikiel's conjecture". Topology and its Applications. 116: 305–331. doi:10.1016/S0166-8641(01)00218-8. MR 1857669.
  13. ^ Rudin, Mary Ellen (1969). "A new proof that metric spaces are paracompact" (PDF). Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. 20 (2): 603. doi:10.2307/2035708. MR 0236876.
  14. ^ W. S. Watson: Mary Ellen Rudin's early work on Suslin spaces, in: The work of Mary Ellen Rudin, (Madison, WI, 1991), 168–182, Ann. New York Acad. Sci., 705, New York Acad. Sci., New York, 1993;

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit