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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 6.5 Presenters

The Philadelphia Section sponsored three forms of professional activity during the period 1956-1978 that were quite different from any before: films, panel discussions, and student contributed-paper sessions. We already discussed the three films that were shown.
Altogether there were 12 panel discussions involving 39 panelists in the 23- year period. Five panelists appeared twice: Barnard Bissinger (1960, 1970), Albert Filano (1960, 1965), David Rosen (1964, 1966), Benjamin Volker (1969, 1975), and Donald Western (1966, 1972). Because the topics of many panels dealt with pre-college mathematics, it is not surprising that among the 39 panelists, eight came from two-year institutions and six from high schools. Four of the remaining 25 panelists came from outside the area: Brown, Colgate, Columbia, and Hunter. From our section, four of the 21 panelists were affiliated with Franklin & Marshall, while five institutions were home to two panelists: Delaware, Drexel, Lehigh, Swarthmore, and West Chester.
The program for the 1962 meeting included student speakers for the first time. At the time two students from Penn and one from Swarthmore were listed as part of the usual program. Apparently that program was not deemed successful because students were not part of any program for another 12 years. In 1974 there was a special session of 20-minute contributed papers at which six students from a number of schools spoke (two from Swarthmore and one each from Villanova, Delaware, Moravian, and even Princeton). The topics ranged from calculus to graph theory to computer programming. Special sessions were also held in 1975, when three papers were presented (by students from Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, and Lafayette) and in 1977, when four papers were presented (by students from Temple, Muhlenberg, Shippensburg, and Delaware). The success of the program of student speakers hid the difficulty of attracting students to present their work in such a public forum. The head of the program, Jerry King, hinted at the underlying problem in his report from the fall of 1977, when he wrote, “There’s been a problem in the past in getting volunteers for student talks, although those that have been given have been appreciated.”
Overall, invited lectures continued to be the mainstay of sectional activity, with 80 invited lectures being given from 1956 to 1978. After discussing the lecturers and their affiliations, we analyze the lectures in two ways, a chronological tour and mathematical classification. The complete list of lecturers and the titles of their talks is given in an appendix.
Altogether 70 different lecturers account for the 80 invited talks, a number that clearly indicates a wide mix of invited speakers. It also attests to the oratorical skill of those few individuals who were invited to speak a second time. With that in mind, what can one say about the two mathematicians who were invited three times? One can say that H. O. Pollak (of Bell Labs in 1961 and 1965, and as president of the MAA in 1975) and Albert Wilansky (of Lehigh, who spoke in 7-year cycles: 1956, 1963, and 1970) not only were captivating speakers but that the mathematical topics they investigated were of interest to a large number of MAA members in the section. It was noted in Chapter 3 that Wilansky delivered the most lectures to the section, five. The six speakers who were invited twice in the present period were Frederick Cunningham (Bryn Mawr), Samuel Gulden (Lehigh), Edwin Moise (Institute for Advanced Study and Michigan), David Rosen (Swarthmore), Isaac Schoenberg (Penn), and Herbert Wilf (Penn). Recall that overall both Schoenberg and Wilf accepted four invitations to speak at the section’s annual meetings.
Institutional affiliations are as diverse as the speakers, with 18 institutions accounting for the 80 lecturers. Once again the University of Pennsylvania led the way with 14, followed by Lehigh University and Princeton University (7 each), Bell Labs and Swarthmore College (4 each), Bryn Mawr College and Penn State (3 each), and the University of Delaware, Drexel University, and New York University (2 each). It is notable that even though the section’s boundaries no longer included New Jersey or central Pennsylvania, seven speakers came from Princeton and three from Penn State. It is also notable that whereas heretofore few speakers were invited from outside the area, there were so many after 1956 that we do not bother to single them out. Academic diversity amongst invited speakers is reflected in a different way, because three of them were high school teachers and nine held nonacademic affiliations at the time of their lecture. From the latter set, four came from Bell Labs and one each from the Bureau of Standards, General Motors, IBM, American Cyanamid, and the Department of Public Instruction. The last affiliation is reminiscent of the program at the organizational meeting in 1926 when the final speaker was J. A. Foberg, the State Director of Science and Mathematics for Pennsylvania.
Now we take a brief chronological tour of the lectures from 1956 to 1978. The first meeting in this period was taken up with four invited lectures, one of which was given by Edwin Moise of Harvard with the same title as the talk he delivered in 1964, “How to tell that a simple overhand knot is really knotted”.
Two talks at the 1957 meeting by Albert W. Tucker (Princeton) and David Rosen (Swarthmore) discussed aspects of high school mathematics. Tucker reported on a list of recommendations made by the Commission of Mathematics of the College Entrance Examination Board, while Rosen described a course he had designed for, and taught to, teachers taking part in an NSF summer institute. Two years later the concern for the preparation of high school teachers arose again when Vincent Haag of Franklin & Marshall reported on the recent progress of SMSG and M. A. Linton, a teacher at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, discussed “Liaison problems in collegiate mathematics today – With the high school”. JoAnne Growney (Bloomsburg) wrote a two-page editorial in the section’s fall 1978 newsletter addressing the issues that Linton raised 20 years earlier. The unusually long title of the editorial provides a good synopsis of its content: “QUESTION: How can colleges and universities enroll students with better mathematical preparation? ANSWER: Work with elementary and secondary schools to improve programs there.”
Also at the 1957 meeting Penn’s Bernard Epstein examined the undergraduate curriculum in his lecture, “College mathematics for the prospective graduate student”. The fact that Epstein spoke on an educational theme, which differs markedly from the analytic functions he examined in invited lectures at annual meetings in 1950 and 1951, shows the extent to which deep concerns with educational issues had penetrated the local mathematical establishment.
Two of the three invited speakers at the 1961 meeting supplied viewpoints from industry. A. G. Grace recommended ALGOL 60 as a programming language appropriate for the undergraduate mathematics curriculum, while H. O. Pollak reported on recommendations from the CUPM Panel on Physical Sciences and Engineering.
In 1963 Cletus Oakley (Haverford) presented a history of the “revolution in mathematics” since 1955. Based on these developments the former section chair predicted, “College algebra and analytic geometry as college courses are on the way out. The first two years of college mathematics for most liberal arts students is, or will be very shortly, calculus and linear algebra. And sooner than you think, students will enter college with a solid year of high school calculus.”
The 1964 meeting began with an Edwin Moise lecture bearing the same title as a talk he gave eight years earlier. Princeton probabilist William Feller followed Moise. He spoke on exactly the same topic as his 1955 talk – differential operators – only this time he gave an intrinsic characterization of second order differential operators on the line. Once again there was no mention of probability in the talk.
V. V. Latshaw’s report from the 1965 meeting reads, “At the business meeting R. L. Wilder read the names of six charter members of MAA now affiliated with the Philadelphia Section.” However, the report does not list the six names. An examination of the MAA’s list of charter members has turned up four who lived within the section’s boundaries in 1965. Two resided in the area when they joined the MAA in 1915 – Joseph B. Reynolds and William M. Smith. In addition, George E. Raynor lived in the state of Washington, while Anna Pell (later Anna Pell Wheeler) lived in Massachusetts.
At the 1966 meeting Preston Hammer, the first head of the new computer science department at Penn State, lectured on a purely mathematical subject. Samuel Gulden of Lehigh, who took the audience on “A brief trip through the affine plane”, followed him on the program.
The 1967 meeting began with the first of Herbert Wilf’s four talks to the section. This time the Steele Prize recipient from Penn spoke on “Counting finite graphs”. Two speakers who would later become section officers, James Brooks of Villanova and William Pervin of Drexel, followed him on the program.
The attendance of 165 at the 1968 meeting at Drexel smashed the previous record (115 at the 1954 meeting in Princeton) but the new record would be short lived – the 225 who attended the 1970 meeting at West Chester eclipsed it. The 1969 meeting at Swarthmore was also well attended (194), but it was the program that day that deserves mention. The morning session began with a lecture by Moore School topologist Gail Young titled “Topological methods in analysis”. Next came Eric Wolman of Bell Labs who discussed applications in communication systems as “an application of topological methods”. After the audience dined in Swarthmore’s student center, the famous mathematician L. J. Mordell from Cambridge regaled the assembly with memories he titled “Reminiscences of an octogenarian mathematician”.
The program at the 1970 meeting was typical of many that were held at the time. It started with a national figure discussing his specialty, this time Victor Klee on geometry. Then local favorite Albert Wilansky (Lehigh) answered the question, “What is an FK space?” The afternoon session consisted of two panel presentations. The first one, on the place of computers in the mathematics curriculum, featured two emerging section leaders, Gerald Porter of Penn and Carl Leinbach of Gettysburg.
One panelist at the 1972 meeting at Lebanon Valley College, Charles Hofmann of LaSalle, subsequently became the section’s newsletter editor (along with his wife, Roseanne). A notable speaker at the that meeting was Haskell Curry, who had addressed the section 30 years earlier while on leave from Penn State at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. Curry’s talk on the foundations of mathematics was the only lecture on this subject during the present 23-year period.
  • Haskell Brooks Curry (1900-1982) was David Hilbert’s last American student, receiving his Göttingen doctorate in 1930. He taught at his alma mater, Harvard, and at Princeton in the 1920s before accepting a position at Penn State in 1929. Except for World War II stints at the Frankford Arsenal (1942-1944), Applied Physics Lab (Johns Hopkins, 1944-1945), and Aberdeen Proving Ground (1945-1946), Curry spent the rest of his career at Penn State. In 1960 the University awarded him its prestigious Evan Pugh Research Professorship, which he held until his retirement six years later. Instead of remaining in State College he moved to Amsterdam as director of the Institute for Foundational Research; he retired from that post in 1970.
Two of the invited speakers at the meeting in 1973 later played active roles in the section, Marialuisa McAllister (Moravian) and David Rosen (Swarthmore). A speaker of national reputation on the program was Martin Davis of New York University.
James England, then a Swarthmore mathematician and later a provost there and at Temple, opened the 1974 meeting at Swarthmore College. He was followed by two regular contributors to sectional activities, Herman Gluck (Penn) and Frederick Cunningham (Bryn Mawr). Doris Schattschneider (Moravian) showed her film at the end of the day. What a way to end a great program conducted entirely by local talent!
The 1976 meeting at Montgomery County Community College included two talks by section members whose affiliations reflect the academic (two-year institution) and geographic (northeast Pennsylvania) broadening of the section. The host school’s Samuel Plotkin spoke about applications of group theory, though that topic might not be evident from his theatrical title, “The sound of music”. The day began with a talk by John Koch of Wilkes College titled “The proof of the four color theorem”.
Doris Schattschneider led off the 1977 meeting with a lecture on tiling. She was followed by Stephen Shatz (Penn), who spoke about algebraic curves. The afternoon concluded with a talk by William Thurston (Princeton) simply titled “Symmetry”. That talk was delivered five years before Thurston received the Fields Medal.
The three speakers on the final program in the present period reflect the diversity of affiliations and topics seen at many sectional meetings. Dorothy Bernstein (Goucher College), the president-elect of the MAA, began the day with a lecture on applications. After lunch Chris Rorres (Drexel) also spoke about applications. In between the graph theorist Thomas Saaty presented an address titled, “Priorities, hierarchies, and behavioral systems”. Saaty was affiliated with Penn’s renowned Wharton School of Business.