Marian Forster: UWaterloo Math’s ‘Hidden Figure’

Friday, May 10, 2024

“I decided to do mathematics out of defiance,” Marian Forster says, chuckling and leaning forward in her chair. “I pretty much got a message from society, my school, and my family that I was not very smart, and that I should take typing in Grade 10 and become a typist like my mother. And then that would be it.”

Forster (BSc ’64) was one of the first female math students at the University of Waterloo, and an essential part of Waterloo’s computing group following her graduation in the mid 1960s. However, unlike many of her male peers,  Forster’s contributions have largely been forgotten.

“I worked with Wes Graham for two-and-a-half years,” she says, “and I don’t have a single photo of my time there. I guess you can call me something of a ‘hidden figure.’”

Forster grew up in Brampton, Ontario, in an era when less than 10 per cent of women attended university. “Expectations for women were so different,” she says. “Even the guidance counsellor discouraged me from going to university. ‘Your highest marks are in math, but I don’t know what you’re going to do with it,’ he said.”

Read the full article on Waterloo News