Section 5.6 Profile: George Cuthbert Webber (1906-1981)
George Cuthbert Webber was elected chairman of the Philadelphia Section in 1949. Born in Alberta, Canada, in 1906, Webber was awarded his Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1934 for a dissertation written under one of the country’s leading algebraists, Leonard Dickson. Webber had obtained a B.S. degree in 1930 and an M.A. degree two years later from the University of British Columbia. He spent the years 1934-1936 as a National Research Council fellow, the first year at Brown University and the second at the University of Pennsylvania.
Webber must have enjoyed the EPADEL area because after one year at Penn and another at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, he moved to the University of Delaware and remained there for the rest of his life. Appointed an instructor in 1937, he rose through the ranks until becoming a full professor in 1948. One year later Webber was elected chairman of the Philadelphia Section. The following year he succeeded C. J. Rees as chairman of the mathematics department at Delaware, a position he held for 14 years. In addition, from 1958 to 1971 he also held the University’s prestigious H. Fletcher Brown Professorship. He retired as emeritus professor in 1971.
Webber signed his name Cuthbert in all his sectional correspondence, but he was generally called Bert at Delaware. Shortly after his death, the University established a “Webber Award” for outstanding achievement in the field of mathematics education. The first award was given in 1983; it has been given every two years since then. The monetary award comes from an endowment left to the University by Mrs. Webber.
Most of Webber’s publications dealt with topics in number theory. However, he was also concerned about the mathematical education of elementary school and secondary school teachers, which explains the conditions of the award named in his honor.
Webber was a tireless worker for the Philadelphia Section in spite of time constraints demanded by administrative duties at the University of Delaware. His first activity with the section was an invited address delivered at the annual meeting in 1943, “Transcendentality of certain continued fractions”. Based on recent results of Siegel and Gelfond, this talk showed that Webber was able to remain current with mathematical topics in spite of wartime activities.
Webber’s first official position in the section began two years later when he was elected to the Program Committee in 1945. He was elected to this committee again in 1951 and 1952. He also served a three-year stint as secretary of the section.