Click for another photo
July 2, 1925 - October 13, 2001
Olga Oleinik was born in the town Matusovo in the Kiev district in 1925, and spent her entire childhood in the Ukraine. After finishing high school in 1942, she enrolled in the Physics and Mathematics Department at Perm University, but in 1944 transferred to the Mechanics and Mathematics Department of Moscow State University from which she graduated with distinction in 1947. She received a master's degree in mathematics in 1950, then her Ph.D. in 1954 from the Institute of Mathematics of Moscow State University with a dissertation on "Boundary-value problems for partial differential equations with small parameter in the highest derivatives and the Cauchy problem in the large for non-linear equations." Oleinik taught at Moscow State University for her entire professional career, first as a lecturer starting in 1950, then as an assistant, a docent, and from 1955 as a professor. She became head of the Department of Differential Equations in 1973. She was also active with the Steklov Mathematical Institute and the Institute for Problems in Mechanics, both part of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Oleinik wrote over 370 published papers and eight books. Her main research was concerned with algebraic geometry, partial differential equations, and mathematical physics. Winner of numerous prizes including the 1952 Chebotarev Prize for her research on elliptic equations with a small parameter in the highest derivative, the 1964 Lomonosov Prize for research on asymptotic properties of the solutions of problems of mathematical physics, and the 1988 State Prize for her series of papers on the investigation of boundary-value problems for differential operators and theirs applications in mathematical physics. In 1985 she was awarded the honorary title of Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation for her achievements in research and teaching, and in 1995 was awarded the Order of Honor by the president of the Russian Federation. She was also the 1996 AWM Noether Lecturer.
Read her profile from the AWM Emmy Noether Lectures.
See the profile in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, February 2003, by Willi Jager, Peter Lax, and Cathleen Morawetz.
The following biography was circulated through electronic mail at the time of Oleinik's death in 2001:
Professor Olga Arsenevna Oleinik passed away ... at the age of 76. She made her mark through out the world with her articles (almost three hundred!) and her monographs. After having completed her thesis under the guidance of Professor Petrovski, she began her career in the Moscow State University. She became professor in the same university and for a long period was the head of the chair of Differential Equations. She has guided much research, was the adviser of more than fifty mathematicians some twenty of which obtained the degree of Doctor of Science.
The range of interest of Professor Oleinik was very wide, from the study of Real Analytic Manifolds (in connection with Hilbert's sixteenth problem) to the questions of existence and uniqueness of solutions of linear and non-linear partial differential equations.
She is the author of very general and elegant proofs of Korn's inequality, an essential tool in the theory of elasticity. She gave talks in numerous international congresses and seminars in universities throughout the world. She was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and other academies, she was also a Doctor Honoris Causa of many foreign universities. Professor Oleinik was awarded the medal of the College de France. J. Leray and J.-L. Lions invited her several times to this eminent institution, since some of her work was related to those of the two distinguished mathematicians.
She will also be remembered as a lady with a very strong personality. She was very generous with her colleagues and her friendship, once acquired, was limitless. Her loss will be deeply felt by the international mathematical community.
The AWM/MSRI workshop to celebrate the careers of Olga Ladyzhenskaya and Olga Oleinik was held May 18-20, 2006, in Berkeley, California. Further information can be found at the MSRI website. In particular, this site contains links to videos from the workshop including a talk by Cathleen Morawetz on "Early memories of Olga Ladyzhenskaya and Olga Oleinik" and other talks about the "two Olgas" and their mathematical contributions.
Photo Credit: Photograph used with permission of the Association for Women in Mathematics and is taken from Profiles of Women in Mathematics-The Emmy Noether Lectures, published by the AWM.