Felix Browder was a child prodigy, terrorizing grade school teachers with his expansive knowledge. He is said to have read a book each day since age 5. In 1940, his father – an active communist – was sentenced to four years in prison for passport fraud, having traveled incognito to Moscow.
This hardship, however, had little effect on Browder’s school performance – which is nothing short of legendary.
At age 16, he won a scholarship and enrolled at MIT, graduating two years later. By age 20, he completed a doctorate. Later, he helped develop the field of nonlinear functional analysis and its applications to partial differential equations.
From 1999 to 2000, he served as president of the American Mathematical Society, advocating for math education and funding.
“Mathematics is increasingly relevant to us all,” he said in 2000. “The amount of sophisticated mathematics you have to know to do almost anything, especially anything scientific, has increased dramatically.”