Smith College Archives, Smith College
November 29, 1873 - April 8, 1942
Suzan Benedict was born in Norwalk, Ohio in 1873, the daughter of David and Harriet (Dever) Benedict. She received her B.A. degree in 1895 from Smith College with a major in chemistry and a minor in mathematics, German, and physics. She taught high school mathematics in Norwalk from 1895 to 1905 while also working as a real estate agent. She then entered Columbia University, receiving her master's degree in the history of mathematics in 1906. That same year she started teaching mathematics at Smith College where she remained for the rest of her professional career. She continued her graduate studies while teaching and in 1914 became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation was on "A comparative study of the early treatises introducing into Europe the Hindu art of reckoning" [Summary].
At Smith Benedict continued her research in the history of mathematics, publishing papers in the Mathematics Teacher and the American Mathematical Monthly ("The Algebra of Francesco Ghaligai," May 1929, 275-278 [Summary]). Through her efforts the Smith College library developed a large collection of rare books on the history of mathematics. She was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1921. Benedict was also a charter member of the Mathematical Association of America, founded in 1915.
Benedict retired from Smith in February, 1942. She died from a heart attack two months later. At that time the Smith College Faculty adopted the following resolution in her honor:
As a teacher her standards were high and her interests wide. She was impatient with those who suggested that any branch of science was too difficult for girls to attempt, yet her less gifted pupils found her patience endless. She was a friendly person, tolerant of failings, modest as to her own attainments but ungrudging in praise of others. These qualities did much to make her department united and harmonious. They endeared her to her classes. The mathematics club has been raising a prize fund in her honor and the amount already collected (more than $1000) is a proof of her popularity with her students as well as with a wider circle. She was one of the first Class Deans and the members of 1922 and 1926 had reason to be grateful for her appointment. In the words of one of them, "She left an imprint upon our lives which the years will never dim."
Her friendliness was not confined to the College. To her an acquaintance was a friend and people of all sorts and conditions in the town felt that they knew her and will miss her.
As a member of the faculty she had served on every important committee. She had the courage of her convictions and her convictions commanded respect. her colleagues will not forget her sincerity, her intellectual honesty, her unfailing loyalty.
The Suzan Rose Benedict Prize described above was established in 1942 by the President of Smith College and former members of the math club to be given to "a member of the freshman or sophomore class who has done outstanding work in differential and integral calculus."
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of the Smith College Archives, Smith College