Professor Emerita Marcia Ascher Passes


Contributed by Peggy Termina

Submitted on behalf of Provost Marisa Kelly

For members of the campus community who may not be aware, I wanted to make note of the passing earlier this summer of Professor Emerita of Mathematics and Computer Science Marcia Ascher following a lengthy illness. She had taught at Ithaca College from 1960 until her retirement in 1995.

Marcia was educated in mathematics at Queens College (City University of New York) and the University of California, Los Angeles. While at UCLA, she became interested in the application of mathematics and computers to archeology. Later, she studied the interplay between culture and mathematical ideas and became internationally known as one of the founders of and leading figures in the field of ethnomathematics, with her research centering on the mathematical ideas of peoples in traditional, mostly non-Western cultures.

Marcia was the author of the books “Ethnomathematics: Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas,” “Mathematics Elsewhere: An Exploration of Ideas Across Cultures,” and “Code of the Quipu: A Study in Media, Mathematics, and Culture,” which she wrote with her husband and longtime research collaborator, Robert.

In the photo at right, Marcia holds an example of quipu, a system of knotted cords used by the Incan civilization to store and transmit information.

She helped found the math department at IC as well as the program in planned studies. She was twice named by the college as a Dana Research Fellow and served as a Getty Scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities. Her professional memberships included the American Mathematical Society, Mathematical Association of America, Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics, and British Society for the History of Mathematics.

Her family has asked that memorial donations be made to either the Innocence Project, 40 Worth St., New York, NY 10013; or Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, 10495 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.