Is there a set convention for which name (maiden name or married name) a female married mathematician should use?

While this question addresses women's maiden name it applies equally to men's maiden name when it differs from their married name. The question seeks for an advice for the dilemma: whether to use the maiden name or the new married name.

For example, Fan Chung is married to Ron Graham, but she publishes under "Fan Chung." Vera T. Sós is another married woman who continued to use her maiden name, but the T. stands for Turán. Yet, I'm pretty sure that Emma Lehmer (née Trotskaia) published under her married name.

Does it have something to do with the name under which the woman first publishes or the name under which name she receives her Ph.D.?

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    $\begingroup$ I vote to close this question, as I think it has nothing to do with mathematics. While you ask about mathematicians, I strongly believe that in this regard there is nothing specific to mathematics relative to other scientific disciplines (or perhaps even other professional activities). $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Aug 30, 2011 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ I do not see why this question is different from the question regarding 2-body job search. mathoverflow.net/questions/5424/… . (MO is not so friendly to women so maybe it is better that this problem is closed.)It is a complicated question. Of course, the problem does not arise if the women does not change her last name. If she does,I know several cases that women used their maiden names, some cases that they used both names and some cases that they used the name after marriage. The issue becomes sometimes delicate in cases of divorce. $\endgroup$
    – Gil Kalai
    Aug 30, 2011 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ I find it a little odd that no one pointed out that this question is based on a false premise: that there is a convention about what to do in such situations. The name that someone puts on a paper is whatever they tell the publisher their name is. I publish all my papers under "Ben Webster" and no publisher calls to ask if it actually says "Benjamin" on my drivers license (it does). $\endgroup$
    – Ben Webster
    Aug 30, 2011 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Ben Webster - given that the question begins with the words "Is there a set convention..." I really, really (really) do not see how anyone can argue the question is based on the premise that there is a convention. $\endgroup$
    – alex
    Aug 30, 2011 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ Meta discussion: tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/1127/using-maiden-name $\endgroup$
    – Gil Kalai
    Aug 30, 2011 at 23:48

4 Answers 4


Like all questions involving names and marriage, there is no set convention (at least in the US). I know a male mathematician who publishes under his wife's last name which he took at marriage and I know people who have started publishing under a new name before they took it legally. As Ben says, there's also no rules for names that don't involve marriage: not only do people pick whether they use their full first name or a nickname, some people use initials, and some people use nicknames which are not related to their legal first name.

Although there are no set rules or conventions, most people seem to agree that early on in your career it's unwise to change the name that you are publishing under. Your name is your brand and diluting it is likely to hurt you professionally. Thus there's a strong tendency for people to publish under a fixed name. Nonetheless this is not a fixed rule, a particularly striking example is a theorem that's changed names: Nichols-Richmond nee Nichols-Zoeller.

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    $\begingroup$ That tradition continued into the MathSciNet era but does not appear to be continuing into the arXiv era. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ A technical point on MathSciNet: if one goes on the 'author profile page' there is a point 'also published as' catching 'everything' from larger name changes, over different transliterations, to minor variations (given name spelled out vs initial). More generally, MathSciNet distinguishes between the 'author' and the 'name on the publication' one can search for either. This is also important in the other direction for people having the same name as other math. I believe MathSciNet is very good at getting this right without the person getting involved, yet are also interested in corrections. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ On a purely cynical note, it's better to pick whichever name comes earlier in the alphabet. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ For faculty positions people are looking through hundreds of applications. Having people recognize your name while they're looking through that list seems like it would be a big deal. Changing names say halfway through a postdoc seems like it could really hurt your chances because you could miss the first cut because someone doesn't put your name on the application together with a mathematician they've heard of. That's what I meant by "brand." $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Noah: Are you suggesting I should change my name to Aardvark? :-) $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 18:52

There are numerous different circumstances when people marry and/or change their names. There is clearly no general rule on this, as the question hints already. Let me describe the ways.

First, conventions. There are not two but really four types of surnames we are talking about:
a) full legal name (usually found in passports)
b) professional name (university websites, wikipedia)
c) pen name (used to author papers, see arXiv, mathscinet)
d) maiden names and other former names

I believe neither two have to be the same, some people have more than one version of at least one of these items (say, have two passports from different countries, or publish under two different names, whatever), and occasionally people have different all four.


  1. a) Julia Hall Bowman Robinson, b),c) Julia Robinson, d) Julia Bowman

  2. b) Sofia Kovalevskaya, c) Sophie Kowalevski, d) Sofia Vasilyevna Korvin-Krukovsky
    as for a), I am not sure if there was a passport back then; if issued today she would have a passport in the name Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya (modern transliteration, changed several times)

  3. a),b) Mary Ellen Rudin, d) Mary Ellen Estill, c) published first as Estill, then as Rudin

  4. a),b),c) Cathleen Synge Morawetz, d) Cathleen Synge (published also with S. as an initial)

  5. a) Ruth Elke Lawrence-Naimark, b),d) Ruth Elke Lawrence, c) Ruth Lawrence

  6. a),b) Dmitry Feichtner-Kozlov, c),d) Dmitry N. Kozlov (although Russian passport is notoriously difficult to change, and usually continues to have maiden name).

  7. a),b),c) Lane A. Hemaspaandra, d) Lane A. Hemachandra (this is an example of this trend sometimes considered bogus)

Browsing here will give you many more different examples. For legal background in the US, see here.

P.S. To further appreciate complexity arising sometimes, consider e.g. this explanation by Paco Santos (ht Gil Kalai).

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    $\begingroup$ Another slightly complicated example: Andree Ehresmann has published as Andree Bastiani, Andree Bastiani-Ehresmann, Andree Ehresmann, Andree Charles Ehresmann, in various combinations with her late husband Charles Ehresmann. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts
    Sep 1, 2011 at 9:23

As with other questions of this type, it is best to ask your community. While the MathOverflow community is still deciding on whether to serve mathematicians by taking on such questions, originally it was (and many think still) intended exclusively for research level questions about mathematics. This question is not of that kind.

The reason to ask your community (advisors, fellow students, mentors) is that the results (which name will you choose for publishing) will most likely apply to it, and you will be judged by the community based on your choices and actions. (This is assuming you have no firm position on the issue, otherwise why ask?) The MathOverflow community is not that community, and will judge you differently if it judges you at all. (Please note that the current debate is about the question, not about the asker.)

I suggest asking a different community. There is an Association for Women in Mathematics, many of whose members (if not all) have maiden names. I bet their collective experience is more valuable than many of the responses you will get here. They may also be part of a community you will join (presuming you were a maiden and are intending to keep your gender). Hopefully others will provide other communities for which your question will be appropriate.

Good Luck, and congratulations.

Gerhard "My Maiden Name Is Paseman" Paseman, 2011.08.31

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    $\begingroup$ I liked Noah's answer and I think it covers the essentials. Still, your suggestion is right on the money: I can't think of a better place to get info than the AWM! (And the fact that no-one thought of suggesting it before shows that MO is not an ideal place to get good advice on this question...) $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ It is definitely not true that every member of the AWM has a maiden name. For example, I have been a member since I started graduate school, but I don't have a maiden name. $\endgroup$
    – Tom Church
    Aug 31, 2011 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ I have let my association memberships lapse, and have been out of the professional loop for years. If there is a worthy edit to make of the answer, let me know and I will make it. I still believe the AWM have many members who have or had maiden names. (Figuratively)Call me old school. Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2011.08.31 $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2011 at 16:58

No matter how futile this discussion is, I would still like to emphasize its insufferable sexism. It's a real shame it addresses female mathematicians only. Igor's answer provides an example (number 6) of real universality of this problem (those who are not in command of Russian may have not realized that the person in question is actually male). Another example is Dave Morris. To quote his home page, My older publications list "Dave Witte" as the author, but I changed my name when I married Joy Morris in December 2002".

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    $\begingroup$ R.W. I don't think it is appropriate to refer to the question as expressing insufferable sexism. In any case, I edited the question to make it clear that it applies also to men. $\endgroup$
    – Gil Kalai
    Sep 1, 2011 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ When dealing with phenomena with broken symmetry, I don't see such a big problem with asymetric questions. $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Sep 1, 2011 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ Yemon, it is mainly a problem because there is an asymmetry (and it goes in the 'wrong' direction). To make the point more clear: an analog of what you say is it is not such a big problem if various questions on general math advice are only phrased for male mathematicians, because afterall there are considerably more male than female mathematicians. Does this seem like a reasonable idea to you? I assume not. Why not? The same reason applies to this situation just that the majority-roles are interchanged. (It is not exactly the same, but I won't repeat here in detail what I wrote on meta.) $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Sep 2, 2011 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ Igor's example #7 also refers to a male mathematician. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2012 at 13:14

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