Lillian R. Lieber (1886-1986) was a mathematician and popular author. Many generations of readers have been inspired and influenced by her popular books on mathematics and its philosophical implications. She often teamed up with her illustrator husband, Hugh Gray Lieber to produce visually compelling works.
Lieber was one of four children of Clara and Abraham Rosanoff.
Lieber was head of the math department at Long Island University and the Galois Institute of Mathematics and Art in Brooklyn, New York until her retirement in 1950. Her highly accessible writings were praised by no less than Albert Einstein, C. J. Keyser, E. T. Bell, and S. I. Hayakawa. Concerning her book, The Education of T. C. MITS, Dorothy Canfield Fisher said:
"This is quite different from any other book you ever bought... full of mathematics and full of humor... also full of a deep, healing philosophy of life, reassuring, strengthening, [and] humane..."
Few details of Lillian Lieber's life and career have survived, even at Long Island University.
In addition to enlivening her books with illustrations by her husband, Hugh Gray Lieber (who was head of the Department of Fine Arts at Long Island University), Lillian often chose an unusual scheme of typography which is self-explained in this example from her Preface to The Education of T. C. MITS:
This is not intended to be
Writing each phrase on a separate line
facilitates rapid reading,
is in a hurry
In her highly accessible book, The Einstein Theory of Relativity, Lillian Lieber stated her views on the inclusion of mathematics in books intended for "the celebrated man [or woman] in the streets:"
"...just enough mathematics to HELP and NOT to HINDER the lay reader... Many 'popular' discussions of Relativity without any math at all have been written, but we doubt whether even the best of these can possibly give to a novice an adequate idea of what it is all about.... On the other hand, there are many [books on relativity] that are accessible to experts only."
The Cavendish Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has adopted Lillian's rule of thumb with some elaboration.
Although her works were broadly influential (including a special paperback edition of The Education of T. C. MITS that was circulated to American servicemen during World War II), all seem to be out of print today; however, the MITS book is being republished by Paul Dry Books, Inc. on June 1, 2007 (ISBN 1589880331). Used copies of the rest of her books can often be found at various Internet booksellers.