Julia Robinson and Hilbert's Tenth Problem

Constance Reid and Yuri MatiyasevichAt the beginning of 1999, Constance Reid went to St. Petersburg, Russia, to celebrate her birthday and the anniversary of the solution of H10 with Yuri Matyasevich and his family. The documentation of this trip initiated the project's production phase. Production was resumed in San Diego in June 1999. The material includes scenes from Julia Robinson's childhood with Constance Reid as interviewee and guide, the award ceremony at San Diego High School at which the Julia Robinson Prize in Mathematics was presented by Reid, and interviews with three students who had won the prize. In November 1999, two days of filming at a workshop on Hilbert's tenth problem held in Gent, Belgium provided key interviews with mathematicians Yuri Matiyasevich, Martin Davis, Alexandra Shlapentokh, and Jan Denef.

During 2001 and 2002, in-depth interviews about Julia Robinson's life and Hilbert's tenth problem were conducted with Lenore Blum in Washington, D.C., with Constance Reid in San Francisco, and with Anita and Solomon Feferman in Palo Alto. During 2006 and 2007, interviews and explanations of the mathematics behind H10 were filmed with mathematicians Kirsten Eisenträger, Steve Givant, Bjorn Poonen and Dana Scott.

On February 7, 2006, Stanford University's Institute for Research on Women and Gender hosted a forum, "Proof and Prejudice: Women in Mathematics," on the experiences of women mathematicians, the barriers to women in math, the achievements of women, and math culture in general. A newly edited sample reel of footage from the film was shown at the program. Producer George Csicsery participated on an hour-long panel on Julia Robinson as a role model for women. One unexpected result of this conference was that Hollywood actor and mathematician Danica McKellar was also on the panel and became interested in Julia Robinson's story. Almost two years later Danica McKellar became the film's narrator.

Kirsten EisenträgerDuring 2006, interviews and explanations of the mathematics behind H10 were filmed with Kirsten Eisenträger. An interview was filmed with Kirsten Eisenträger at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), and a classroom style presentation of the mathematical concepts in the story of H10 was filmed with Steve Givant at Mills College. These explanations and interviews are the basis for illustrating the concepts with animated sequences and computer graphics.

Eva LiddleA reenactment, with Eva Liddle (left) playing a young Julia Robinson, was filmed in the desert near Phoenix, Arizona in April 2006.

A 45-minute rough was screened at the Boston Museum of Science on March 15, 2007, as part of a Conference on Hilbert's Tenth Problem held by the Clay Mathematics Institute.

The same cut was featured at a sneak preview at the Urania kino in Berlin, Germany on March 26, 2007 as part of the MathFilm Festival 2007.

Julia Robinson and Hilbert's Tenth ProblemThese sneak previews provided audience feedback to help determine the final structure and editing of the film.

The completed film was first screened at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, California on January 7, 2008, courtesy of the Clay Mathematics Institute. Several key participants were present, including Constance Reid, who was celebrating her 90th birthday, and Martin Davis.

Project Supporters

Julia Robinson and Hilbert's Tenth Problem was made possible by a grant from Margaret and Will Hearst, and by generous support from the Clay Mathematics Institute. The project is sponsored by Film Arts Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit arts organization based in San Francisco.


George Paul Csicsery
Zala Films
PO Box 22833, Oakland, CA 94609 USA
Tel: +1 510 428-9284 / Fax: +1 510 428-9273
Email: geocsi@zalafilms.com

© 2004- George Csicsery