California Institute of Technology



John Todd and Olga Taussky-Todd in their Caltech office, 1970s. Photo ID JOT-1



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Born in Olmütz, then Austria-Hungary, today Olomouc in the Czech Republic, Olga Taussky was educated at the University of Vienna and in Zürich. Afterwards she became one of the editors at Göttingen of David Hilbert’s collected works in number theory. Taussky married John Todd, a native of the north of Ireland, in London shortly before the outbreak of World War II. During the war years, Taussky-Todd worked at the Ministry of Aircraft Production in Teddington, outside of London, while Todd was assigned to the Admiralty. In 1947, they visited the US, where they spent time at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and the Institute for Numerical Analysis at UCLA. In fall 1947, they accepted jobs at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, DC. Ten years later, in 1957, John Todd was appointed professor of mathematics at Caltech; Olga Taussky-Todd’s appointment as professor of mathematics came in 1971, after serving 14 years as a research associate in the mathematics department.

The Caltech Archives received the Todds’ papers in multiple donations between 1994 and 2009. Although Taussky was an algebraist and Todd an analyst, there were large areas in which they could and did work together. For this reason, their papers have been treated as one unified collection. Correspondence and manuscript material has been organized chronologically and thematically wherever possible, keeping in mind that the material was loosely scattered in their home and in their departmental offices in Sloan Laboratory, with little obvious internal organization.

Shown above right: Portrait of John Todd and Olga Taussky-Todd by Sylvia Posner, 1985. The portrait was destroyed following a fire on June 27, 1990.  Photo ID 10.43-21

The core of the collection consists of long runs of correspondence with eminent scientists in Germany, Austria, and the United States, in many cases reaching back 80 years. Of particular interest are the letters from Erwin Schrödinger, Helmut Hasse, Wilhelm Magnus, Emmy Noether, Arnold Scholz, B. L. van der Waarden, and Hans Zassenhaus.

Dedicated teachers both, Olga Taussky-Todd and John Todd were passionate about mathematics and dedicated to mentoring young mathematicians around the world.

The collection is presently organized in 52 archival boxes (about 26 linear feet), and the finding aid is expected to be completed within the next several months and made available to researchers through the Online Archive of California.

For more information on Olga Taussky-Todd and John Todd, please consult their oral histories published at the Caltech Archives digital collections site Oral Histories Online:
Olga Taussky-Todd
John Todd

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