Tatyana Ehrenfest-Afanasyeva

Tatyana Ehrenfest c. 1910 (source)

Tatyana Ehrenfest c. 1910 (source)

Tatyana Ehrenfest-Afanasyeva, born November 19, 1876, was a mathematician and another woman whose work has at least been partially obscured by the name of her famous husband. Tatyana Afanasyeva was born in Kiev, Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian Empire. After the death of her father, she was raised by an uncle in St. Petersburg where she attended a women’s college and pedagogical school.

In 1902, Tatyana transferred to the university at Göttingen, which had attracted a number of world class mathematicians by the end of the 19th century. Over the next couple of decades, it also became a center for theoretical physics. This is where mathematician Tatyana AFanasyeva met Austrian physicist Paul Ehrenfest. They married on December 21, 1904, and collaborated closely in their research. Their most well-known collaboration was a review of the statistical mechanics of Ludwig Boltzmann. Tatyana also published papers on her own on various topics such as randomness, entropy and geometry.

Tatyana and Paul had four children: Tatyana, who became a mathematician; Galinka, an author and illustrator; Paul Jr,. a physicist; and Vassily (Wassik). In 1912, Paul obtained a position at the University of Leiden where they would spend the rest of their life together.

Find out what else happened on November 19 in Women’s History.

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