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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 6.9 Profile: Doris Jean Schattschneider

Doris Schattschneider is one of the EPADEL’s most decorated members. Born in New York City to Robert and Charlotte (Ingalls) Wood, she took her undergraduate degree in 1961 from the University of Rochester. She then enrolled in the graduate program at Yale. One year later she married David E. Schattschneider. The newlyweds moved to Northwestern that year because David had won a Danforth internship there, so Doris spent the 1962-1963 academic year as a graduate student there as well. At the end of the year she received an M.A. degree from Yale. When David next moved to Chicago to embark on his Ph.D. program, Doris called Ralph Boas to ask if there were any openings. She recalled, “Two days later he phoned me to say I had a job as instructor.” So Doris taught at Northwestern for the 1964-1965 academic year before moving to the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago campus, where she taught until 1968.
With impressive tenacity, Doris continued her own doctoral program at Yale. Although Ichiro Satake (University of Chicago) mentored her, and gave her the research problem she solved to complete her dissertation when she ran up against a stone wall with the original problem, the official Yale advisor for her 1966 degree is T. Tamagawa. The title of her dissertation, “Restricted roots of a semi- simple algebraic group”, contains no hint of her future expertise in geometry.
Schattschneider accepted a professorship at Moravian College in 1968 and she has remained at the Bethlehem school ever since, serving two stints as chair of the department, 1971-1974 and 1985-1991. Her initial involvement with the Philadelphia Section came at the annual meeting in 1974 when she presented the film she had produced with the captivating title, “Rotating polyhedral forms: M. C. Escher with a twist”. She was elected vice-chair of the section in each of the next two years (1975-1977) and elected chair the following two years (1977- 1979). She also presented an invited lecture at the 1977 annual meeting titled, “Tiling the plane with pentagons: A perplexing problem”. An excellent speaker, in 1988 she became the first woman to deliver Pi Mu Epsilon’s J. Sutherland Frame Lecture.
Moreover, in 1995 Schattschneider was selected to present the MAA’s prestigious Hedrick Lectures. Named for the first president of the MAA, these lectures were established in 1952 to be delivered by a mathematician “of known skill as an expositor of mathematics who will present a series of at most three lectures accessible to a large fraction of those who teach college mathematics”. Only two other section officers, John Oxtoby (in 1956) and Nathan Fine (1966), have delivered Hedrick lectures. However, several of our section’s invited speakers did: Paul R. Halmos (1953), William Feller (1959), R. H. Bing (1961), Hans Rademacher (1963), George E. Andrews (1980), John Conway (1991), and Ronald Graham (1994).
Schattschneider has also been an active participant in the national MAA. She was the first woman editor of Mathematics Magazine (1981-1985), served as a governor from 1981 to 1989, and was elected vice-president from 1994 to 1996. In addition, she was a councilor for Pi Mu Epsilon from 1990 to 1996. Her activity has garnered her several awards, including the 1979 Allendoerfer Award for her paper “Tiling the plane with congruent pentagons,” which appeared in Mathematics Magazine the previous year. She was also awarded a Certificate of Meritorious Service by the MAA in 1991. In the year 2000, Gerald Porter and she were awarded certificates of appreciation for their role “in the installation of a very special tiling in the front lobby area” of the MAA headquarters. Finally, she won the MAA’s initial Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics in 1993. Only two other members of our section have won this award, Herbert S. Wilf in 1996 and Rhonda Hughes in 1998.
Doris Schattschneider has written numerous works that have been popular and positively reviewed. In 1979, she wrote the book (with L. F. Baker), The Perceptive Eye: Art and Mathematics, which was based on a special exhibit held at the Allentown Art Museum in the spring of that year. Schattschneider was a curator of this exhibit! An especially successful book titled M. C. Escher Kaleidocycles, written with Wallace Walker, appeared in different versions in 1977, 1982, and 1987. From 1986 to 1991 she was the senior associate and “geometer” of the Visual Geometry Project, directed by Gene Klotz and funded by the NSF. This project produced videos and activity books on polyhedra and symmetry; it now offers the popular software program called The Geometer’s Sketchpad.
Schattschneider’s most famous work might be her 1990 book Visions of Symmetry: Notebooks, Periodic Drawings, and Related Work of M. C. Escher. With funding from FIPSE, she joined Dennis Ebersole, Alicia Sevilla, and Kay Somers in developing and disseminating a course that integrates precalculus review with the first course in calculus; this project produced the 1995 text A Companion to Calculus. Schattschneider returned to the mix of art and mathematics in 1996 while serving as a “talking head” to explain Escher’s tessellations on the CD Rom Escher Interactive: Exploring the Art of the Infinite. More recently she was an editor for the 1997 MAA book Geometry Turned On. In that same year she was interviewed live for a radio program in honor of the Canadian geometer H. S. M. Coxeter; a cassette from the program is available in the Reeves Library at Moravian. Her current project is editing a book of 40 articles that resulted from the 1998 Escher Centennial Congress in Rome.