Mina Rees elected AAAS president

The following article, 'Woman Elected President of Largest Science Group', The Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut) (31 December 1969), appeared when Mina Rees was elected as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. An almost identical article appears in many other newspapers.

Woman Elected President of Largest Science Group

Boston, Mass. (AP) - "Because it was fun," Mina Rees became a mathematician.

And she enjoyed it enough to carve out an illustrious career that now is making her the first woman president of the nation's largest scientific society - the 122,000-member American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr Rees helped to develop high-speed computers, but herself is the antithesis of cold electronic calculators, no computer with curls. Totally feminine, warm, vivacious, she has dark blond curls and possesses, says another scientist, "a very sharp mind and a highly organised one."

In the balloting by mail for the presidency of the AAAS, Dr Rees to her surprise won over another mathematician, Dr Mark Kac, of Rockefeller University, New York. She says she never expected to be elected. She tried to hide the fact she had even been nominated from her husband, Dr Leopold Brahdy, a physician. She didn't succeed in that ploy - he was getting mail from the AAAS in his own name.

Dr Rees, 67, is president of the graduate division of the City University of New York, a post she has held since serving as dean of Hunter College in New York from 1953 to 1961.

She will begin duties as president-elect of the AAAS next month, and take over as president on January 15, 1971, succeeding Dr Athelstan Spilhaus, an oceanographer of Palm Beach, Florida.

Dr Rees says one of her great concerns is in helping people acquire the information that they need with which wisely to make decisions - as they must in a democracy - as to what science and technology should be doing, where they should be going.

"She is alive and open-minded to change and the challenge of the 70's," one friend remarked. "As a politician she knows how to cope with the interests of a variety of people," says another acquaintance.

Born in Cleveland on August 2, 1902, Dr Rees was reared in New York City, attended the Hunter College High School, received her bachelor's degree from Hunter College in 1923, her master's degree from Columbia in 1925, and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1931.

Mathematics was her first love from the beginning, she says. But for one year she attended law school at New York University, dreaming, perhaps, of becoming a judge. But she went back to mathematics when, she says, she found she would "have to work with lawyers all the time."

She finds mathematicians to be "human beings with many interests outside mathematics," and her own include oil painting, concerts, bird watching, travel and cooking.

During World War II, Dr Rees served on the staff of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and later was director of the Mathematical Sciences Division of the Office of Naval Research.

She worked, she says, on fascinating subjects, such as the flow of fluids (to help solve anti-submarine warfare problems) and later on mathematics involved in rocketry.

She is the only mathematician in the family - her father was an insurance agent and three brothers and a sister are in business.

While very modest, Dr Rees does confess to being a good teacher. The young people who take her courses tell her so.

Last Updated December 2021