Moore, R. L. (Robert Lee), 1882-
Alternative namesRobert Lee Moore (1882-1974), a prominent mathematician, was a professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin for almost fifty years. He is well known for his work in point-set topology, but is most remembered for his work as an educator. During his long career, Moore supervised over fifty doctoral students, including three members of the National Academy of Sciences, three presidents of the American Mathematical Society and four presidents of the Mathematical Association of America.
Moore was born November 14, 1882, in Dallas, Texas, the fifth child of Charles Jonathan and Louisa Ann Moore. He developed an interest in mathematics early in life, teaching himself out of a calculus textbook before entering The University of Texas in 1898 at the age of sixteen. There he studied under George Bruce Halsted, simultaneously earning a B.S. and M.A. in 1901. After graduating, Moore spent a year as a Fellow in mathematics at UT and taught an analytic geometry course. During his fellowship, Moore discovered a redundancy in Hilbert's formulation of a set of axioms for geometry; this redundancy, unbeknownst to Moore, had already been published earlier that year by E. H. Moore (no relation) of the University of Chicago. Nonetheless, R. L. Moore's version of the redundancy was "elegant" and an important early achievement in his career.
After teaching high school mathematics in Marshall, Texas, for a year (1902-1903), Moore was accepted in the mathematics program at the University of Chicago. He completed his doctorate in two years under the direction of E. H. Moore and Oswald Veblen, graduating in 1905 with a thesis entitled "Sets of Metrical Hypotheses for Geometry." From 1905 until returning to the University of Texas in 1920, Moore held teaching posts at several universities: University of Tennessee at Knoxville (1905-1906), Princeton University (1906-1908), Northwestern University (1908-1911) and the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia (1911-1920). In Pennsylvania, Moore supervised three Ph.D. students: John R. Kline, George H. Hallett, and Anna M. Mullikin.
In 1920, Milton Brockett Porter, head of the pure mathematics department at The University of Texas, recruited Moore away from the University of Pennsylvania. Moore joined E. L. Dodd and H. J. Ettlinger on the faculty, which was soon augmented by H. S. Vandiver. He served on the faculty until he was forced to retire in 1969 at the age of 86. Moore had a major influence on the culture of pure mathematics at UT, both in his personality and his teaching style.
Moore regularly taught undergraduate calculus and pre-calculus courses in addition to his more advanced classes. In his advanced classes, Moore's way of teaching, known as the "Moore Method" or the "Texas Method" began with the careful selection of students who did not have an extensive knowledge about the topic to be discussed. He would then give the students some basic axioms and definitions and ask them to construct proofs and examples for different theorems. The students were not allowed to read any texts, discuss the problems among themselves, or seek help from other professors in the department. Instead of lectures, the classroom experience consisted of a student explaining his or her proof at the board while other students asked questions. If the student got stuck, or if a flaw was found in his or her proof, another student would take his or her place at the board.
R. L. Moore's honors included: University Research Lecturer (1929); National Academy of Sciences, member (1931); American Mathematical Society (AMS), visiting lecturer (1931-1932), and president (1937-1938); American Association for the Advancement of Science, vice president of mathematics section (1947); and the title of Distinguished Professor at UT. He also served as editor for both the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society and the colloquium publications of the AMS.
Moore married Margaret MacLellan Key in 1910, and their marriage lasted 64 years, ending with his death. They had no children. Moore had many hobbies, including target shooting, automobiles, boxing, and genealogy. He also had a great interest in his health and even went so far as to prescribe his own glasses for many years.
After his retirement, Moore was honored with the dedication, in 1972, of Robert Lee Moore Hall, home of the physics, mathematics and astronomy departments on the corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway on the UT campus. Moore suffered a stroke in May of 1974, and a second stroke in June. He passed away October 4, 1974.
- Sources [available in "Moore, Robert Lee" vertical file]:
- Greenwood, Robert E., R. H. Bing, W. T. Guy, Jr., R. C. Osborn, "In Memoriam, Robert Lee Moore," 1975
- Jones, F. Burton. "The Moore Method," American Mathematical Monthly 84: 273-277 (Apr. 1977)
From the guide to the R. L. Moore Papers, 84-63, 86-20, 86-41, 87-3., 1875, 1891-1975, (Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin)
Role | Title | Holding Repository | |
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referencedIn | Archives of American Mathematics Reprint Collection 2006-213; 2010-123; 2010-136; 2010-173; 2010-195., 1912-1993 | Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin | |
referencedIn | Duren, William Larkin, 1905-. Oral history interview with William Larkin Duren, Nathan Jacobson, and E.J. McShane, 1984 Apr. 10. | University of Minnesota, Minneapolis | |
referencedIn | Bing, R. H. Bing, R.H., Papers, 1948-1986. | University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries | |
referencedIn | Moore (R. L. ) Legacy Collection 2003-034; 2003-094; 2003-095; 2003-135; 2003-177; 2009-176; 2009-297; 2010-320; 2010-334; 2011-375; 2011-388., 1890-1900, 1920-2009 | Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin | |
creatorOf | R. L. Moore Papers, 84-63, 86-20, 86-41, 87-3., 1875, 1891-1975 | Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin | |
referencedIn | Cohen, Leon W. (Leon Warren), 1903-. Oral history interview with Leon W. Cohen, 1984 Apr. 13. | University of Minnesota, Minneapolis | |
referencedIn | Wilder, Raymond Louis, 1896-1982. Wilder, Raymond Louis, papers, 1914-1982. | University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries | |
referencedIn | Jones, F. Burton, 1910-1999. Jones, F. Burton, papers, 1906-1999. | University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries | |
referencedIn | Stiles, Frederick A., 1944-1992. Stiles, Frederick A., papers, 1963-1971. | University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries | |
referencedIn | Tucker, Albert W. (Albert William), 1905-1995,. Oral history interview with Albert W. Tucker, 1979 Apr. 9. | University of Minnesota, Minneapolis | |
referencedIn | F. Burton Jones Papers 2000-213; 2001-062., 1906-1999 | Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin . | |
referencedIn | R. H. Bing Papers, 94-208., 1934-1986 | Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin | |
creatorOf | Moore, R. L. (Robert Lee), 1882-. Moore, R.L., Papers, 1875, 1891-1975. | University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries |
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