Rebeca Cherep de Guber

Quick Info

2 July 1926
Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina
25 August 2020
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Rebeca Guber was one of the first Argentinian women mathematicians. She played a major role in the development of computing in Argentina. She also made important contributions to education particularly teaching science in schools.


Rebeca Guber was given the name Rebeca Cherep and only used the name Rebeca Cherep de Guber after her marriage to José Guber. She was widely known as "Rebe." Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who arrived in Argentina early in the 20th century. They came from a situation in their homeland where Jews were not allowed to study and could only do manual work. In addition, they did not feel safe with pogroms that could break out at any time. Arriving in Argentina, they lived in Avellaneda, an area south of the centre of Buenos Aires. Although they felt that the move gave them the chance of a better life, it certainly did not let them escape from poverty. They lived in a collective housing tenement and when Rebeca was born in July 1926 she was delivered on a table in their home. Rebeca's parents felt that education was the way out of poverty so they made every effort to give her the best chance to study.

Rebeca attended both elementary school and high school in Avellaneda. In elementary school she was the person who always solved the mathematics problems the fastest while in secondary school she was fortunate to have good teachers who saw her mathematical talents and encouraged her to continue to study mathematics at university. We should note that these teachers should be given much credit for encouraging a girl to study university level mathematics since at this time in Argentina is was almost unknown for a girl to study mathematics at university. At the High School in Avellaneda, Rebeca became friends with Cecilia Tuwjasz (known as Cecilia Berdichevsky after her marriage). Rebeca and Cecilia both loved mathematics and excelled at that topic at the High School. After graduating, however, they chose different routes to a mathematical career. They felt that there were two ways in which they could pursue a career in mathematics, either by doing an accounting degree or by studying for a B.Sc. in mathematics. Rebeca took the B.Sc. in mathematics option while Cecilia opted for an accounting degree. Later Rebeca would persuade Cecilia to take a mathematics degree and they would become colleagues.

Rebeca began her university studies of mathematics in the National University of La Plata. This university, in the city of La Plata, was situated not far south of Buenos Aires. It was at the National University of La Plata that Rebeca met José Guber (1925-1995), the son of the Polish born businessman Wolf Guber and his wife Etta, who was training to be an engineer; they later married.

At the National University of La Plata, Rebeca was fortunate to be taught by Manuel Sadosky and Luís Antoni Santaló. Manuel Sadosky was an Assistant in the Department of Mathematics in the Faculty of Physico-mathematical Sciences of the National University of La Plata and was in charge of the practical courses Higher Mathematics I and II (differential equations and analytical functions). Luís Santaló was a leading Spanish mathematician who had left Spain for political reasons due to the Spanish Civil War. After a short stay in France, he took the advice of Julio Rey Pastor and went to Argentina in 1939. There he served as a professor in the National University of the Littoral, the National University of La Plata and the University of Buenos Aires. After her first degree Rebeca continued to study for a Ph.D. advised by Santaló to study problems in differential and integral geometry. She defended her doctoral thesis El estudio de los invariantes afines asociados de las curvas del espacio y de ciertos elementos geométricos ligados con las mismas de manera afín in December 1949. She published two papers containing the main results of her thesis: Affine invariants of certain triples of curves in space (Spanish) (1951) and Affine invariants of pairs of space curves (Spanish) (1951). Reviewing the first of these, Abraham Schwartz writes [27]:-
The author studies triples of curvilinear elements of the second order in Euclidean 3-space, each element determining a centre point, a tangent line, and an osculating plane. Nine affine invariants are found in the general case, three in the special case where the curves have an ordinary point in common, and one in the still more special case where the curves have a common tangent at an ordinary point. Metric and affine interpretations for the invariants are given in the three cases. The six projective invariants determined by P Buzano in the general case (1948) are included among those obtained here. The invariant obtained in the third case is simply related to those studied by L A Santaló (1947).
Reviewing the second, Chuan-Chih Hsiung writes [13]:-
By the neighbourhoods up to and including the third order of each of five different pairs of curves at two ordinary points in an ordinary space, affine invariants, which are not projective invariants, are derived, together with their metric characterizations. A typical one of the above five cases is concerned with two curves C, C' and two ordinary points A, B on C, C' respectively under the conditions that A is on the tangent tBt_{B} of C' at B and the osculating planes of C, C' at A, B do not pass through tBt_{B} and the tangent of C at A, respectively.
We have been unable to give a precise date for when Rebeca married José Guber. In March 1951 she sailed from Buenos Aires to New York on the Fletero arriving on 17 March. She travelled with José Guber but, at this time, they were nor married. They returned from New York to Buenos Aires on the Argentine SS Artiller leaving New York on 27 May 1951. It seems likely that they were married either later in 1951 or in 1952. José Guber's friend Julio Broner started up the Wobron automobile parts company in 1951 with José Guber as a minor partner so he had a good income.

Juan Perón had been elected president of Argentina in 1946 and in 1949 introduced Constitutional Reforms. These were not supported by all and were opposed by the Radicals who declared the Peronists did not have the required majority to make constitutional changes. Universities lost their autonomy and opponents of the Constitutional Reforms pointed out that Perón had centralised too much power in his own hands. Both Rebeca Guber and her husband had left-wing views which prevented Rebeca from taking a university position. She said [7]:-
When I graduated I won a contest for head of Practical Works but, despite the fact that the position was attractive and the dean of that time supported me as much as he could, his offer was impossible, because I did not accept joining the ruling party.
By 1952 Perón's government became more determined that only supporters of the party could teach in universities. Rebeca earned her living giving private mathematics classes and created an institute in which she taught Mathematical Analysis to Engineering students. She worked with Manuel Sadosky writing the book Elementos de cálculo diferencial e integral which was published in 1956. This textbook was in two volumes, the first on the Differential Calculus and the second on the Integral Calculus. The book was not aimed primarily at mathematics students but rather it was written for engineers and users of mathematics. It was very popular and was still being reprinted in 2010.

In 1955 Guber and her husband went to Europe, spending some time in France. Shortly after they returned to Argentina, there was a coup that ousted Perón. He had began to lose the support of the military and, after a failed coup in June 1955, another in September 1955 succeeded and Perón fled to exile in Spain. Although there was an unstable political situation over the following years, the universities regained their autonomy in 1956. At the University of Buenos Aires, Manuel Sadosky was appointed Acting Professor of Mathematical Analysis in the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences and Acting Professor of Special Mathematics in the Faculty of Engineering. In October 1955, Rebeca Guber began to work at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. On 13 October 1957 Rebeca and José Guber's only child, Rosana Guber, was born. Rosana went on to study Anthropological Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, then obtained a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in the United States. She became a university professor.

Rebeca Guber spoke about her work at the University of Buenos Aires in an interview (see for example [23]):-
After 1955, Manuel Sadosky became a professor of the Analysis I course and I was his head of practical work. When the Computational Institute was created, Manuel called me to be his chief of operations. It was a very busy and rewarding time. Manuel outlined the policies and I made sure that everything went as planned. He had to handle a group of seventy people.
Her work over the following year was much involved with the Computational Institute and the computer that was installed there so we should give a little background concerning these. The university authorities to set up a Computational Institute and purchased a computer; a Special Commission comprising of Alberto González Domínguez, Manuel Sadosky and Simón Leonado Altmann was, on 18 November 1957, given the responsibility to study the "organisation and governance of the Computational Institute and present draft regulations and a plan for its needs." Before looking at Guber's contribution to computing, we note that in 1957 her third paper on differential geometry Developable surfaces related in an affine manner with a space curve was published. In it she finds necessary and sufficient conditions that a certain ruled surface be developable.

Cecilia Berdichevsky writes about the purchase of the Ferranti Mercury computer in [2]:-
After issuing an international bid that year [1957], all members of a Special Commission from the University of Buenos Aires selected the Ferranti Mercury computer to be purchased for the University.... The installation of the Mercury was completed by the beginning of 1961. The reason for such delay was that the chosen room to place the computer, being prepared on the second floor of the new building of the School of Exact and Natural Sciences, was not yet ready and did not suit the required strict Ferranti specifications.
The Ferranti Mercury computer was known from the time it was installed as Clementina. This was because it had been programmed to play the song Oh My Darling, Clementine. A small team began work with the new computer led by Manuel Sadosky. Rebeca Guber and Cecilia Berdichevsky had leading roles in Sadosky's team. Guber was appointed Technical Secretary of the Computational Institute on 6 June 1960. The Computational Institute, directed by Manuel Sadosky, began operating the new computer on 15 May 1961. Guber said in an interview (see for example [7]):-
The first job we did was a national census sample that took half an hour to process. When we left, three years later, the computer processed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, due to the number of projects we carried out.
The Institute was highly successful in carrying out tasks for various faculties in the University of Buenos Aires, for institutions such as the National Atomic Energy Commission, and for various private companies. In addition members of the Computational Institute carried out their own researches. Cristina Zoltan was taught by Guber and then was a assistant at the Computational Institute. She explained some of the specific tasks undertaken there [17]:-
Rebeca Guber was my teacher at the Faculty of Sciences, when I was studying mathematics. As soon as the computer science course opened, I enrolled. For this reason, I began working at the Computational Institute as an assistant to Wilfred Durán. Rebe's management at the Institute has always had my admiration. Her support and drive for the Institute's projects was notable. In particular, Wilfred Durán's project to make a programming language that could facilitate the programming of the models developed in Oscar Varsavsky's group. Wilfred asked for more help from work, more space and even a blackboard that covered an entire wall. Everything was granted. Rebe personally took care of supporting the project (COMIC), which had overtones of the quixotic since at that time IBM was developing FORTRAN with the participation of 1000 programmers and in the Institute a language with more facilities was developed with a team of 5.
Liana Lew said:-
Guber stood out for promoting the most ambitious projects. As I remember it, in 1962 when I entered the Scientific Computer career, I had the opportunity to program an Economic Model of the Argentine Republic, processed by Clementina and directed by Oscar Varsavsky. Guber was very demanding and we had a lot of respect for her, the entire Computational Institute felt that way.
The mathematician Hugo Scolnik said:-
Rebeca had a very hard childhood, she was born in a tenement house, perhaps everything that happened in her life forged her strong character. I met her in 1960 when I went to the Computational Institute looking for a job. She was a close friend of Cecilia Berdichevsky and they were both classmates of my aunt's. When Sadosky proposed me to be secretary of the Argentine Computing Society, I began to interact with Rebe and from then on we saw each other a few times. I think her personality, her good intentions and her organisational skills helped her achieve a lot of results.
Arturo Illia had become President of Argentina following elections in June 1963. He tried to split the Perónists, who controlled the unions, from their exiled leader Perón. The Perónists reacted by supporting a coup against President Arturo Illia in June 1966 and General Juan Carlos Onganía, the commander in chief of the army, took control of the country. Following the military takeover, the University of Buenos Aires was attacked by police in July 1966. Guber said [7]:-
That night the board of directors met and we already anticipated that this was coming. Two people, Cora Ratto de Sadosky and I, were in our houses standing guard to be able to react to arrests, or whatever was necessary.
Guber's daughter, Rosana Guber, said:-
The first time I saw my mom cry was one evening on a day when she had come home too early. She called at the Faculty and no one answered her. She stopped short, crying and screaming: 'They got in! They got in!
Guber, along with around 400 other faculty members, resigned in protest at the police brutality directed at the university staff following what became known as the 'Night of the Long Batons'. Guber, who had put so much effort into managing the Computational Institute was devastated to see it destroyed.
More information about this is at THIS LINK.

Guber, along with the engineer Juan Chamero, the mathematician Manuel Sadosky and the chemist David Jacovkis created the company called Asesores Ciencia Técnicos S.A. Other members of the Computational Institute worked for the company [7]:-
Rebeca played a managerial role in the company and was also in charge of preparing all the proposals for the work to be carried out, including a technical, economic and financial feasibility study for a project to extend 9 Julio Avenue. This project considered mathematical models of traffic flow and parking, and was probably the largest carried out in Latin America.
In 1970 Guber and the other two founders sold the company to some of those workers. In 1971 Rebeca and José Guber were divorced. José Guber said that their family relations deteriorated after the 'Night of the Long Batons' in July 1966. In 1973 she began working for then Association of Social Benefits but resigned from the board in 1976 when the military dictatorship that took power in Argentina that year began to persecute the business men that the Association supported. In 1977, after a year in which she had been unable to get a job, Guber went to Venezuela. Her daughter Rosana said [6]:-
She told me on Monday that we were traveling on Friday. I cried and cried, but we left.
In Venezuela she served as an advisor to the Fundación Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho, later becoming director of the Information Technology Department, and coordinated the Mathematics Department of the Faculty of Architecture of the Central University of Venezuela.

In 1983 Argentina became a democracy under President Raúl Alfonsín. Guber returned to Argentina before the election of Alfonsín to the presidency and worked along with Manuel Sadosky to support his candidacy. After Alfonsín became president, Guber was made head of the Cabinet of Advisors and, later, Undersecretary of Operational Coordination. In this role she was a major player in the creation of the Technological Institute of Chascomús and the Latin American School of Informatics. The Technological Institute of Chascomús is a multidisciplinary centre whose mission is to provide excellent education and generate innovative basic and applied knowledge. Top-level scientists are trained and numerous highly relevant and internationally recognised investigations are carried out there. The Latin American School of Informatics, established in 1986 at the Pereyra Iraola Park about 40 km from Buenos Aires, was an Argentine undergraduate school of computer science. Guber put in very effective support to make this successful but after four years its funding was withdrawn. Guber said funding was withdrawn [1]:-
... because there is a bad habit. One can say that in Argentina it is the custom, but in many countries the same thing happens. Unfortunately, a new official, almost by definition, destroys what the previous one did.
For the rest of her career, Guber was an advisor to many different organisations such as the Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires. Her work between 2000 and 2002 for this commission had her create a project for teaching science in schools in the Province of Buenos Aires. She also worked for the Board of Directors of the National Agency for Scientific and Technological Promotion and for the National Commission for the Improvement of the Teaching of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Another of her projects, the study centre the Grupo Redes, was described by its coordinator Mario Albornoz [17]:-
Rebe was a founding member of the Grupo Redes in 2002 .... She worked with us until her health prevented her from doing so. She was instrumental in several projects. She, with Willy Durán, worked on a science teaching project in schools in the Province of Buenos Aires. For several years, she supervised the annual report of 'The State of Science', she directed several online surveys and was in charge (above all) of teaching the youngest to work.
Rosana, Guber's daughter, published the book De Chicos a Veteranos. Nación y Memorias de la Guerra de Malvinas (Al Margen, La Plata, 2009). She wrote in the Preface:-
My mother Rebeca Cherep has always been with me, ever since her incredible effort to understand my work on an Argentina that punished her and ignored her since the Night of the Long Batons in 1966, when I saw her cry for the first time. Her values, such as commitment, solidarity and passion for Argentina, are woven into each semicolon of this work.
Guber continued to work until her 85th birthday in 2011. She died aged 94, one of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been honoured with the naming of a room in the Computational Institute the 'Rebeca Cherep de Guber Classroom'.

Let us end with this assessment from Pablo Jacovkis, author of [14], [15], ... [20], who was dean of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences:-
Rebe was on the one hand tireless, very attentive to everything, and detailed; she has great leadership skills. She had a very strong character, which was very common among professional women of that time, more macho than today, in which a woman always had to show that she was on par (or ahead) of the men in the work circle where she moved.

References (show)

  1. M F Arias, Política informática y educación: el caso de la Escuela Superior Latinoamericana de Informática (ESLAI), VII Jornadas de Sociología (Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2007).
  2. C Berdichevsky, The Beginning of Computer Science in Argentina - Clementina - (1961-1966): A Personal Experience, in J Impagliazzo (ed.), History of Computing and Education 2, Proceedings of the Second Conference on the History of Computing and Education, August 21-24, Santiago, Chile (Springer, New York
  3. J Elffman (ed.), Científicas de Acá: Historias que cambian la historia (TantaAgua Editorial, 2021).
  4. Fallecimiento de Rebeca Guber (1926-2020), Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro (31 August 2020).
  5. R Guber, De Chicos a Veteranos: Nación y Memorias de la Guerra de Malvinas (Al Margen, La Plata, 2009).
  6. C Hadad, Rebeca Cherep de Guber: los errores están en la cuenta del hacer, Científicas de Acá (15 May 2021).
  7. C Hadad, Detrás de Clementina: la historia de Rebeca Guber, pionera de la informática en la Argentina, La Nacion (28 July 2021).
  8. N Haeberer, Despedimos a Rebeca Cherep Guber, una mujer pionera en la Ciencia argentina, Izquierda Web (2 September 2020).
  9. Homenaje a una precursora de la computación argentina, Departamento de Computacion, Faculty of Exact, Physics and Natural Sciences, University of Buenos Aires.
  10. Homenaje a Rebeca Guber: Rebe y los jóvenes trabajadores de APS, Página 12 (1 September 2020).
  11. H Huergo, Homenaje a Rebeca Guber - Rosana: ¡Digna y fiel sucesora!, Dinos y Dinas de la Informática en la Argentina (11 December 2017).
  12. Homenaje a Rebeca Guber, Exactas, University of Buenos Aires.
  13. C C Hsiung, Review: Affine invariants of pairs of space curves (Spanish), by Rebeca Cherep, Mathematical Reviews MR0100859 (20 #7287).
  14. P Jacovkis, Manuel Sadosky y su Impacto en la Ciencia y en la Política Argentina, in Raúl Carnota and Carlos Borches (eds.), Manuel Sadosky. El sabio de la tribu (Libros del Zorzal, Buenos Aires, 2014), 17-83.
  15. P Jacovkis, Rebeca Cherep de Guber, protagonista fundamental de la computación Argentina, Ciencia y Tecnología (31 August 2020).
  16. P M Jacovkis, Rebe Guber y su aporte a la informática y a la gestión científica en Argentina, in V Simpósio de História da Informática na América Latina e Caribe: Livro de Resumos: História Informática (NCE/UFRJ, 2018), 49-51.
  17. P M Jacovkis, Rebe Guber y su aporte a la informática y a la gestión científica en Argentina,
  18. P M Jacovkis, Some aspects of the history of applied mathematics in Argentina, Revista de la Unión Matemática Argentina 49 (1) (2008), 57-69.
  19. P M Jacovkis, De Clementina al siglo XXI. Una historia de la computación en la Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales de la Universidad de Buenos Aires (Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2013).
  20. P M Jacovkis, La computación en la Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, in V A Ramos (ed.), 150 años de Exactas (Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2016), 383-405.
  21. Maruglobina, Mujeres en STEAM: Quién es Rebeca Cherep de Guber?, (20 September 2019).én-es-rebeca-cherep-de-guber-85a091898be7
  22. Murió Rebeca Guber, una de las matemáticas que puso en marcha la primera computadora científica argentina, Página 12 (28 August 2020).
  23. Rebeca Guber (1926-2020), Red de Indicadores de Ciencia y Tecnología (26 August 2020).
  24. Rebeca Guber, pionera en la informática argentina, Ser Argentino (6 November 2021).
  25. Rebeca Guber impulsora, junto al Dr Ricardo Alfonsín, de la creación del Instituto Tecnológico de Chascomús (INTECH), Instituto Tecnológico de Chascomús (29 July 2021).
  26. L A Santaló, Informe sobre la tesis de doctorado de la señorita Rebeca Cherep, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 23 December1949.
  27. A Schwartz, Review: Affine invariants of certain triples of curves in space (Spanish), by Rebeca Cherep, Mathematical Reviews MR0046696 (13,773c).
  28. C Tomassino and H Huergo, Rebeca Cherep de Guber, Pioneras informáticas rioplatenses,
  29. S Visacovsky, Adiós a Rebeca Guber: pionera de la ciencia en Argentina, Museo de Antropologías, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba.
  30. A P Zappala, Fallecimiento de Rebeca Cherep de Guber, Espar Ciencia (27 August 2020).

Additional Resources (show)

Other pages about Rebeca Cherep de Guber:

  1. The Night of the Long Batons

Other websites about Rebeca Cherep de Guber:

  1. MathSciNet Author profile
  2. zbMATH entry

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update November 2022