A headshot for Professor Joan Birman

On April 26, 2021, the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 120 new members, including Joan Birman, an emeritus research professor of mathematics at Barnard College, for distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Birman is among the organization’s largest-ever cohort of 59 new female members, making this a historic year for women in science. 

Established in 1863 under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln, the National Academy of Sciences is a nonprofit, nongovernmental American organization of scientists and engineers. Its active members – which now number 2,461 – advise the nation and the federal government on matters related to science and technology to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. 

Birman is a mathematician specializing in low-dimensional topology with revolutionary contributions to the study of knots, 3-manifolds, mapping class groups of surfaces, geometric group theory, contact structures and dynamical systems.