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Derrick Norman Lehmer | D.H. and Emma Lehmer

Selections from the University Archives
and the Lehmer Family Papers

Derrick Norman Lehmer
Derrick Norman Lehmer
Derrick Henry LehmerEmma Trotskaia Lehmer
Derrick Henry Lehmer and Emma Trotskaia Lehmer
The professional careers of the Lehmer Family have been intimately tied to the University of California at Berkeley for a century. Derrick Norman Lehmer joined the mathematics faculty at Berkeley in 1900, and later served as Chair of the Department. Son Derrick Henry (Dick, as he was known to friends and family) received a bachelor's degree in Physics at Berkeley, and later continued the Berkeley tradition of the family as professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department. Emma Trotskaia received her B.A. degree in Mathematics from Berkeley with honors in 1928, and met her future husband through his father, her employer in the Mathematics Department.
Through the years, the Lehmers individually made fundamental contributions in many areas of  mathematics. In addition many of their contributions, for instance in the areas of number theory, computational mathematics, and Fermat's Last Theorem, were the result of close, collaborative efforts among the them. The Lehmers helped to bring mathematics from pen on paper into the computer era through a series of machines they designed to automatically compute prime numbers. The mechanisms ranged from an early version utilizing a bicycle chain, then electricity, and they later harnessed a computer discarded by the University. Automation enabled calculations far beyond what had been possible before.
Derrick Norman was a creative man of wide interests. He did not limit himself to mathematics, but led his family in an active exploration of music, poetry, and theater. The Lehmers traveled extensively throughout the Southwest as Derrick Norman pursued a personal interest in Native American music and culture.
Derrick Henry and Emma Lehmer worked together as a team for sixty years, influencing many through their broad knowledge and expertise in mathematics, as well as their sociability. They founded the West Coast Number Theory Meeting in 1969, an annual meeting which still continues, and which has been as popular a forum on research as a friendly, informal get-together of like minds.
The lives of the three Lehmers are richly documented in the collections of the History of Science and Technology Program at The Bancroft Library, and papers of Lehmer family members. This exhibit is based upon one originally displayed at The Lehmer Conference held by the UCB Department of Mathematics on 25-26 August 2000.

Portraits of Derrick Norman Lehmer (1867-1938). Compiled by Ron Lehmer, great-grandson of D. N. Lehmer.  

All items in the exhibit are from the University Archives, the Derrick Henry Lehmer Papers, ca. 1926-1990  (CU-456) or private collections.

Copyright may not be assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Permissions Coordinator. The form to request permission to publish can be downloaded in a PDF version.


The Bancroft Library staff gratefully acknowledges the assistance of:  John Brillhart, Laura Lehmer Gould,
Ann Jensen, Donald Lehmer, Marsha Kay Watson Lehmer, Hendrik W. Lenstra, Bjorn Poonen and Daniel Johnston.

Exhibit created by David Farrell and Marilyn Kwock.

For further information about the archives, collections and services in The Bancroft Library contact:
David Farrell, Curator, History of Science & Technology Program.

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Last updated 1/18/01.

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