Filmmaker George Csicsery (N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős) has started work on a one-hour documentary about the life of Julia Robinson and her involvement in finding the solution to Hilbert's tenth problem. Tracing the solution of the problem through the work of three American mathematicians—Martin Davis, Hilary Putnam, and Julia Robinson—to its ultimate solution by Yuri Matiyasevich, in 1970, the film will convey something of the history and nature of modern mathematics and of great mathematical problems. The tenth was one of 23 famous problems proposed by David Hilbert in 1900 as a challenge to the mathematicians of the coming century.

The film will focus on the individual and collaborative role of Julia Robinson (1919-1985), a past-president of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and on the friendship and collaboration that developed between her and Yuri Matiyasevich after he put the last necessary piece of the solution to H10 into place. Telling Robinson's story on screen will be her sister and biographer, Constance Reid, who is the author of several noted mathematical biographies, including one on David Hilbert.

In addition to those who worked on Hilbert's tenth problem, the film will present several outstanding mathematicians who will explain the mathematical concepts and their significance. They include Lenore Blum, a founding member of the Association for Women in Mathematics, and the logician Solomon Feferman, Julia Robinson's scientific biographer.

Julia Robinson and Solving Hilbert's Tenth Problem will combine traditional documentary film techniques with animations of mathematical concepts and problems. The film will explore the motivation of mathematicians and the relationship between pure mathematics and the real world (in this case, the technological world of computers).

Production was started in 1999, with filming in St. Petersburg, Gent, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Washington, D. C. completed to date. Additional shoots are being planned for early 2006, and the anticipated completion date is late 2006. The project is sponsored by Film Arts Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit arts organization based in San Francisco.

Julia Robinson's story, and the presence of other women mathematicians in the film, are intended to inspire high school students, particularly girls, to pursue mathematics through higher education and in their careers.

For more information see the film's Web site at

George Csicsery
Zala Films
POB 22833, Oakland CA 94609 USA
+1 (510) 428-9284
+1 (510) 428-9273 fax

American Mathematical Society