March 9, 2009

Olga Ladyzhenskaya (March 7, 1922 - January 12, 2004)

Olga Alexandrovna Ladyzhenskaya (March 7, 1922 - January 12, 2004) was a Russian mathematician who left a lasting legacy in the area of partial differential equations. As her father, Aleksandr Ivanovich Ladyzhenskii (a mathematics teacher descendant from Russian nobility, who died in an NKVD torture chamber in October 1937, and whose tragic story is recalled in Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago") was considered an "enemy of the nation" she endured tremendous hardship from the Stalinist regime. She could not defend her thesis until after Stalin's death, in 1953. She authored more than 250 mathematical articles practically covering the whole area of partial differential equations. She provided the first rigorous proof of the convergence of a finite difference method for the Navier-Stokes equations. Three monographs of hers played an important role in the development of the field of partial differential equations in the second half of the 20th century. Among many other honors, she was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal in 2002. She was a foreign member of the Deutsche Academie der Naturforscher Leopoldina and of the Academia Nazionale dei Lincei. She was highly cultured person, a close friend of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and of the poet Anna Akhmatova (who wrote a poem devoted to her).

I know I am adding this blog entry one day late, given that her birthday was on March 7, 1922. The reason for the delay is in a photograph of a 79 years old Ladyzhenskaya in her apartment in St. Petersburg featuring an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. I just chose to post this biographical entry today, March 8, 2009, when we celebrate the historical victory over the iconoclasm - the Sunday of Orthodoxy...