University of Michigan. Department of Mathematics.Alternative names
The Department of Mathematics dates back to 1841, when formal instruction began at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Mathematics and science was taught by the Rev. George P. Williams (1841-1875).* The curriculum during the early years covered algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytical geometry and calculus. In 1863 Williams became professor of physics, and Edward Olney (1863-1887) became professor of mathematics. Course offerings gradually expanded as the mathematics faculty increased to five by 1877. From 1888 on, the department expanded steadily. Notable additions included Alexander Ziwet (1888-1925) and Frank N. Cole (1888-1895). Cole was the first professor to teach mathematics who had earned a Ph.D. (his degree was from Harvard University.) Both Cole and Ziwet were actively involved in the early years of the American Mathematical Society, and worked to form a student mathematical society at the university.
Around the turn of the century several influential members joined the faculty and course offerings were greatly expanded. James W. Glover (1895-1937) offered the first courses in actuarial mathematics, Walter B. Ford (1900-1940) taught asymptotic series and summability theory, and Louis C. Karpinski (1904-1948) taught the history of mathematics. Theophil H. Hildebrandt (1909-1957) also began his lengthy affiliation with the department. He would later serve as chairman for twenty-three years (1937-1957), and did important research in functional analysis and integration theory.
In the 1920s, the curriculum expanded through the introduction of courses in applied mathematics, vector analysis, hydronamics, infinite series and graphical methods. This growth was the result of an aggressive effort to bring new talent to Michigan. Among the new mathematicians were George Y. Rainich (1926-1956) in relativity, Raymond L. Wilder (1926-1968) in topology, and Arthur H. Copeland (1929-1968) in probability. These appointments of the 1920s propelled the department through the war years and into the post-war era. The first Ph.D. was granted in 1911; by 1941 a total of ninety doctoral degrees had been granted.
During the Second World War research and war manpower demands affected the department in many ways. The decline in mathematics enrollment in undergraduate programs was offset by the fact that many of the military training programs established on the campus had a mathematical component. These programs included the Air Force
Meteorology Program and the Navy's V-12 Program. The increased staff demands were met by bringing in teachers from other departments as well as by using faculty wives with mathematics backgrounds to teach courses. Immediately after the war, enrollment rose considerably.
Throughout the postwar years, the mathematics curriculum expanded to reflect the increasing use of the discipline in engineering, the sciences (especially the social sciences), and computing. In addition, general concern over the quality of teaching mathematics in grades K-12 led to more offerings on the teaching of mathematics, and included special summer institutes and in-service programs for teachers.
Important organizational changes in the postwar years revolved around the departmental chairmanship. Prior to 1957, the chairmen had received life-time appointments; since 1957, chairmen have been appointed for fixed terms which have not exceeded five years. In 1968 an associate chairman position was established; since 1973 there have been two associate chairmen. In 1967, the department wrote a new constitution to govern its affairs, with increased powers, including appointments to tenured positions, vested in the faculty.
* Dates in parentheses indicate the years during which the professor taught at the University of Michigan.
From the guide to the Dept. of Mathematics (University of Michigan) records, 1913-1981, 1935-1981, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)
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