Phyllis Ann Fox
Born(1923-03-13)March 13, 1923
DiedMay 23, 2017(2017-05-23) (aged 94)
Alma materWellesley College
University of Colorado
Known forDYNAMO (programming language)
PORT Mathematical Subroutine Library
Scientific career
InstitutionsGeneral Electric
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
Newark College of Engineering
Bell Labs
ThesisOn the use of coordinate perturbations in the solution of physical problems (1954)
Doctoral advisorChia-Chiao Lin

Phyllis Ann Fox (March 13, 1923 – May 23, 2017) was an American mathematician, electrical engineer and computer scientist.[1][2]

Early life and education

Fox was born on March 13, 1923,[3] and raised in Colorado.[2] She did her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College, earning a B.A. in mathematics in 1944.[4]

From 1944 until 1946 she worked for General Electric as an operator for their differential analyser project. She earned a second baccalaureate, a B.S. in electrical engineering, from the University of Colorado in 1948.[1][2] She then moved on to graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning an M.S. in 1949 in electrical engineering, and a doctorate (Sc.D.) in mathematics in 1954 under the supervision of Chia-Chiao Lin.[1][2][5] During this time, she also worked as an assistant on the Whirlwind project at MIT, under Jay Forrester.[1]

Later career

From 1954 to 1958, Fox worked on the numerical solution of partial differential equations on the Univac, for the Computing Center of the United States Atomic Energy Commission at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. In 1958, following her husband, she returned to Jay Forrester's system dynamics research group at MIT, where she became part of the team that wrote the DYNAMO programming language.[1][2][6] She then became a collaborator on the first LISP interpreter, and the principal author of the first LISP manual.[7]

In 1963, she moved from MIT to the Newark College of Engineering, where she became a full professor in 1972. During this time, she also consulted for Bell Labs, where she moved in 1973 to work on a highly portable numerics library (PORT). She retired from Bell Labs in 1984.[1][2]

Personal life and death

Fox married George Sternlieb. They moved to Short Hills, New Jersey in 1949. Fox died on May 23, 2017, at the age of 94.[8]


Fox was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1986.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Resume and brief autobiography for Phyllis Fox, for Wellesley College Class of 1944 Record Book, Jan 1974, SIAM history website [1].
  2. ^ a b c d e f Haigh, Thomas (2005). "Phyllis Fox" (PDF). The History of Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing - Oral Histories. SIAM. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  3. ^ Who's who of American Women, 1991-1992. Marquis Who's Who. 1991. p. 333. ISBN 9780837904177. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  4. ^ "The History of Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing". Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  5. ^ Phyllis Ann Fox at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  6. ^ "Origin of System Dynamics". Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  7. ^ McCarthy, J.; Brayton, R.; Edwards, D.; Fox, P.; Hodes, L.; Luckham, D.; Maling, K.; Park, D.; Russell, S. (March 1960). "LISP I Programmer's Manual" (PDF). Boston, Massachusetts: Artificial Intelligence Group, M.I.T. Computation Center and Research Laboratory. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  8. ^ "Alumnae Memorials". Wellesley College. Fall 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  9. ^ "Historic Fellows". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 2021-04-16.