Jean E. Taylor was born and grew up in Northern California as the middle of three children. There were no scientists or mathematicians in her family; her father was a lawyer and her mother a high school gym teacher and counselor. She went to Mount Holyoke College as a "back east" adventure, where she sorely missed the presence of boys but found success and wonderful mentors in the form of two female chemistry professors and a male psychology professor. The Outing Club both connected her to boys and instilled in her a life-long love of hiking in mountains.
She received her A.B. (summa cum laude and first in her class) in 1966 and went to the University of California to study chemistry. After passing her qualifying exams and beginning to work on a thesis that did not inspire her, she audited a class in differential geometry taught by S.S. Chern which did. With his help, she transferred to mathematics (obtaining an M.Sc. in chemistry in the process). Then, overwhelmed by the political turmoil in Berkeley, she went to the University of Warwick where she completed an M.Sc. in mathematics. Finally, she went to Princeton University in fall 1970 and finished her thesis work in May 1972, under the supervision if Fred Almgren. While an instructor at MIT she finished writing her thesis; her Princeton Ph.D. was awarded in January 1973. She is eternally grateful in NSF or supporting her with a Graduate Fellowship throughout six years and four different graduate programs.
In 1973 she went to Rutgers University as an Assistant Professor and rose through the ranks to Professor. in 2002 she became Professor Emerita there and settled into the Courant Institute. Her research has been primarily in the field of Geometric Measure Theory applied to problems of optimal shapes of crystals, both in equilibrium and otherwise. Among her honors are receiving an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and being named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as of the American Association or the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science. In May 2001 she was awarded an honorary D.Sc by Mount Holyoke.
Taylor was President of the AWM from 1999-2001 She has also served the AMS in many capacities, ranging from the Nominating Committee in the 1970s to the Council and then its Executive Committee, to being elected a Vice President and, in fall 2002, a Trustee. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of AAAS. She gave an invited address to the AMS in 1976 and an AMS-MAA invited address in 1989. She was the Hedrick Lecturer for the MAA in 1998 and a plenary speaker at the AMS Mathematical Challenges meeting in August 2000 at U.C.L.A; a paper based on that lecture appears in the January 2003 issue of the Bulletin of the AMS. She has organized meetings and sessions for SIAM and ICIAM as well as for AMS, AWM, and AAAS; she has been a consultant for Project NeXT, a member of the executive committee of CBMS, the AMS Council representative to JPBM, Trustee of Black Rock Forest Consortium, and has held numerous other positions.
Taylor has been married to three extraordinary men: John Guckenheimer, Fred Almgren, and now William T. Golden. She has a daughter and two step children via Almgren, and two more adult stepdaughters via Golden. In her spare time she enjoys hiking (she recently became a member or the Catskill 3500 Club), reading and puzzles of all kinds.