Agnes Scott College

Vera Pless

[Vera Pless Photo]

March 5, 1931 - March 2, 2020

Vera Pless was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and received her Ph.D from Northwestern in 1957 with a thesis on "Quotient Rings of Continuous Transformation Rings." Parts of this work was published in the Duke Mathematical Journal in 1958 [Abstract]. After ten years at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory, she spent a few years at M.I.T.'s project MAC. She joined the University of Illinois-Chicago's department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science as a full professor in 1975 and taught there until her retirement. She was a University of Illinois Scholar. She was author of the well-known text An Introduction to the Theory of Error-Correcting Codes, and published over 100 papers.

-- Source: Communication from Daniel Pless

"Pless was one of the world’s top experts in the field of error correcting codes. She began her career in 1963 at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) in Massachusetts. During this time, she helped to found and later became president of the organization Women in Science and Engineering. In 1972, she became a research associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She returned to Chicago in 1975 to serve as a full professor of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (MSCS) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where she taught from 1975 until her retirement in 2006.

Pless authored over 120 peer-reviewed journal publications, several books and was a strong supporter of women’s rights and other anti-discrimination causes. She is remembered for her teaching expertise, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for theater and music. As recalled by Janet Beissinger, research associate professor emerita of MSCS, “She was quite an inspiration on how to get the most out of life.”

-- Source: University of Illinois-Chicago Today (March 9, 2020)


  1. Steven T. Dougherty, Gretchen L. Matthews, and Jay A. Wood. The Life and Work of Vera Stepen Pless, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 69, No. 11, December 2022, pp. 1942-1955. [Also available Online as webpage.]
  2. Vera Pless' Home Page
  3. A Moment with Vera Pless, 2001 AWM Essay Contest, 1st Place in Graduate School Category
  4. Vera Pless, "In Her Own Words," AMS Notices, Vol. 38, No. 7, Sept. 1991, pp. 702-706.
  5. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  6. Author Profile at zbMath
  7. Mathematics Genealogy Project
  8. Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive.