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Margaret Zarudny Freeman, touched many over long MIT career

Margaret Zarudny Freeman SM '34, who spent more than four decades at MIT as a student and staff member, died Oct. 23, just weeks before her 100th birthday.

Freeman was the oldest of five daughters and one son in a St. Petersburg, Russia, family. In 1919, her father, an engineer and steel factory director, went into self-exile in Manchuria. The rest of the Zarudny children later set out to follow him east across Russia to flee the Soviet Union, a trip she chronicled in her book, "Russia and Beyond: One Family's Journey, 1908-1935."

After arriving in California in 1931 and mastering the English language, she was able to realize her dream of gaining admission as a graduate student to MIT. She received her SM in mathematics in 1934, and although she had hoped to continue her education, the arrival of her four younger sisters in Boston led her to find work instead as a designer of steam turbines for General Electric. 

In 1935, she married Harold Freeman, a fellow graduate student who went on to become a distinguished statistician in the MIT Department of Economics. In 1938, Freeman returned to MIT, working as an applied mathematician in the remarkable Wiener-Rosenblith electroencephalography project. 

In the 1960s, with the growing interest in the Soviet Union, Freeman introduced Russian language instruction to MIT by volunteering to teach the language. She later led MIT's "language lab" -- one of the first of its kind.

After her retirement in 1978, Freeman was named an associate professor emeritus.

Freeman leaves behind her sons, Arthur Freeman of London and Edward Freeman of Los Angeles; two sisters, Katerina Singleton of Providence and Zoya Chambers of New York; numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews; relatives in Russia; and a host of devoted friends.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 19, 2008 (download PDF).

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