Marjorie Lee Browne (9 Sept 1914-19 Oct 1979) was a notable mathematics educator, the second African-American woman to receive a doctoral degree in the U.S., and one of the first black women to receive a doctorate in mathematics in the U.S.
Browne was born in Tennessee in 1914. Her mother died when she was only two years old, and she was raised by her stepmother, Mary Taylor Lee, and her father, Lawrence Johnson Lee. Her father, a railway postal clerk, was also a "math whiz" who shared his passion for mathematics with his children. She attended LeMoyne High School, a private Methodist school started after the Civil War to offer education for African-Americans.
Read more about Marjorie Lee Browne in Notable Women of Mathematics by By Charlene Morrow and Teri Perl , free from Googlebooks.com. She attended Howard University, majoring in mathematics and graduating cum laude in 1935. After receiving her Bachelor's degree, she taught high school and college for a short term, including at Gilbert Academy in New Orleans.
She then applied to the University of Michigan graduate program in mathematics. Michigan accepted African-Americans, which many US educational institutions did not at the time. After working full-time at the historically black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and attending Michigan only during the summer, Browne's work was recognized and she earned a teaching fellowship at Michigan, attending full-time and completing her dissertation in 1949. Her dissertation, "Studies of One Parameter Subgroups of Certain Topological and Matrix Groups," was supervised by George Yuri Rainich. She was one of the first two African-American women in the US to earn a doctorate in mathematics, along with Evelyn Boyd Granville who also earned a Ph.D. in 1949.
Browne then joined the faculty at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University (NCCU)), where she taught and researched for thirty years. She was also the head of the department for much of her time at NCCU, from 1951 to 1970.
Browne's work on classical groups demonstrated simple proofs of important topological properties of and relations between classical groups. Her work in general focused on linear and matrix algebra.
Browne saw the importance of computer science early on, writing a $60,000 grant to IBM to bring a computer to NCCU in 1960 -- one of the first computers in academic computing, and probably the first at a historically black school.
Throughout her career, Browne worked to help gifted mathematics students, educating them and offering them financial support to pursue higher education. Notable students included Joseph Battle, William Fletcher, Asamoah Nkwanta, and Nathan Simms. She established summer institutes to provide continuing education in mathematics for high school teachers.
Marjorie Lee Browne died of a heart attack in Durham, North Carolina, on October 19, 1979.