Anti-spam architect (plus a mathemagician)

The anti-spam architect would be Elizabeth Zwicky in a “Yahoo Women in Technology Profile” by Michael McGovern (Talent Community Manager at Yahoo!) on the 18th. The piece is in the form of an interview, but with questions submitted in writing by McGovern and answers written out by EDZ, so you get the full flavor of her writing — lucid, pointed, often wry. There are photos: one of EDZ with her team, one an unposed head shot of her which catches her nicely. It’s a bit too light, a consequence of the fact that the photographer (Opal Eleanor Armstrong Zwicky, then age 6) was a novice at the camera, though she already had a good eye):


On LinkedIn, EDZ says of this piece:

I talk about high school, breakfast, and DMARC. Also there is some mention of diversity. I am for it.

The high school part is mostly about a spectacularly bad math teacher she had and how she was written off as a failure in math. People who know her find the story falling-on-the-floor laughable, since her tech work has for some time relied on serious mathematical tools. And since she eventually became a sort of appreciator of many types of math as art forms, a fact I didn’t fully appreciate until at some point (in talk about logic puzzles) I observed that I took math courses from Ray Smullyan at Princeton, that he wrote letters for me to get into grad school in linguistics (in particular at MIT), and that I considered him to be a friend — and Elizabeth was truly, deeply impressed.


Read the interview. Now I’m going to shift to Ray Smullyan, a great scholar and one of the most entertaining people I have ever met. He plays a small part in my c.v., in this item on mathematical logic:

Stephen Isard & Arnold Zwicky, “Three open questions in the theory of one-symbol Smullyan systems” (SIGACT News, 1970).

The Wikipedia article on him begins with a masterpiece of compression:

Raymond Merrill Smullyan (… born May 25, 1919) is an American mathematician, concert pianist, logician, Taoist philosopher, and magician [“recreational mathematician” should be in there as a separate category].

and goes on with some basic bits of life history:

Born in Far Rockaway, New York [he has proudly maintained his Noo Yawker accent almost untouched through his various careers], his first career was stage magic. He then earned a BSc from the University of Chicago in 1955 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1959. He is one of many logicians to have studied under Alonzo Church [as did I, but I defected to linguistics].

The article lists his publications under three headings: “Logic puzzles”, “Philosophy/memoir”, and “Academic” [on mathematical logic]. There are YouTube videos of his piano performances.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: