How Julia Robinson helped define the limits of mathematical knowledge

December 01, 2019

Every December 8 for years, Julia Robinson blew out the candles on her birthday cake and made the same wish: that someday she would know the answer to Hilbert’s 10th problem. Though she worked on the problem, she did not care about crossing the finish line herself. “I felt that I couldn’t bear to die without knowing the answer,” she told her sister.