Agnes Scott College

Carol Karp

Carol Karp

August 10, 1926 - August 20, 1972

Carol Ruth Vander Velde was born in Forest Grove, Michigan, part of the Dutch farming community near Holland, Michigan. She attended school there and in Ohio where her family moved when she was 11. She graduated with distinction from Manchester College, Indiana, in 1948, and then earned a master's degree in mathematics from Michigan State University in 1950. Before entering the graduate program in mathematics at the University of Southern California in 1951, she spent time as a violist in a touring all-woman orchestra.

During her first year at USC, Carol married Arthur Karp. During the next 8 years she pursued her graduate studies while following her thesis advisor, Leon Henkin, and her husband around the country and the world. She spent two years at the University of California at Berkeley and parts of the years 1957 and 1958 in Japan where her husband was stationed in the Navy. In 1958 she accepted a position at the University of Maryland. Karp finally received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1959 with a dissertation on "Languages with expressions of infinite length" [Abstract].

Karp spent her entire career at the University of Maryland, reaching the rank of professor only 7 years after earning her Ph.D. She was a highly respected member of the international logic community and a leader in the developing theory of infinitary logic. Her book Languages with Expressions of Infinite Length was one of her most important contributions to this area. She was instrumental in the growth of the mathematical logic group in the mathematics department at Maryland and supervised four Ph.D. students in logic. She was a consulting editor of the Journal of Symbolic Logic and an active member of her department until her death from breast cancer at the age of 46. Lopez-Escobar, a colleague at the University of Maryland, writes [3]:

Carol Karp died...after a brave battle against cancer which had lasted for three long years. To her, teaching had always been more than a duty, and even during her illness she taught all her classes in addition to carrying out her administrative tasks. Her research, too, was pushed forward with her usual determination, but unfortunately the planned new monograph on infinitary languages remained unfinished. Her early work was collected in her one published book, but she realized that it very much need to be brought up to date.

Towards the end she was rather apprehensive that her doctoral students would not be able to complete their studies; but her fears were unfounded: they all now have their Ph.D. degrees...To them as to us the memory of the conduct of her life, exceptional spirit and warm personality persists as a lasting inspiration.


  1. Green, Judy. Women of Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook, Louise S. Grinstein and Paul J. Campbell, editors. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1987, p86-91.
  2. Williams, Mary B. "Obituary," AWM Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan/Feb 1973), 2-3.
  3. Lopez-Escobar, E. G. K. "Introduction," Infinitary Logic: In Memoriam Carol Karp, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, Vol. 492, Springer-Verlag 1975.
  4. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  5. Author Profile at zbMath
  6. Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive