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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section B.1 Willard Baxter, University of Delaware, Fall, 1990

I seem to have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth. This past summer I received a phone call from David Hill asking that I prepare a 15-20 minute talk in recognition of the 75 th anniversary of the Association. I agreed. Thinking that it would be an easy task, I put it on the back burner till the middle of October. Knowing I could not procrastinate further I began to look for sources for the material for this talk. I thought for a moment of individuals who are older than I, and who were always present at annual meetings of the Section. I thought immediately of John Oxtoby, of Bryn Mawr and called him. He provided me with some information that I reconfirmed. I called Al Filano and talked with him. I then called Kay Somers, Secretary of the Section. She replied that the books of the section do not go back much beyond my tenure as Secretary. I don’t know what that means! Did I lose the history of the section? Well, anyway, where do I turn? I called Jane Heckler, Executive Assistant of MAA. She supplied me with some remarks recorded in “The MAA: It’s First Fifty Years”. I finally turned to The Monthly and the major portion of this talk is taken from Reports of the Sections.
The history of the Section is shorter than the history of the MAA, and the history of the MAA is shorter than the history of The Monthly. The first issue of The Monthly was in January 1894. The first article in that issue was by Leonard Dickson, then a Fellow in Pure Mathematics at The University of Texas. The paper was titled “Lowest Integers Representing Sides of a Right Triangle”.
The MAA was organized in Columbus, Ohio in 1915. There were 450 members present at that meeting. It was decided that anyone joining during that year would be considered as a Charter Member. 1045 individuals and 52 institutions were admitted as Charter Members. There were five sections: Kansas, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. I looked at the charter member list. The first two names from this section of the country were Andrew Apple of F and M, and J. A. Bauman of Muhlenberg. I also noticed that the annual dues of MAA were 2 dollars, payable in advance.
On November 27, 1926, the Philadelphia Section was born. It was the thirteenth section and the second Eastern section of the MAA (The Maryland- D.C.-Virginia Section already existing). It is reported that Cairns and Slaught, national officers and from the Midwest, expressed concern about the “seeming apathy or lethargy” of the mathematicians of the Atlantic States. The Philadelphia Section was to attract members from Eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. The name (Philadelphia Section) caused a great deal of concern since all other sections had names of states, and to choose the name of a city broke all tradition. The Section countered. Pennsylvania had two population centers and by forming a section in the eastern portion of the state, one might prompt the forming of a Pittsburgh Section. The name was finally granted. The section was admitted subject to the conditions of the By-Laws and promises of good behavior. In 1926, there were 7 members of the MAA listed for Delaware, and 105 individuals listed in Pennsylvania (not all members of the Section). At the first meeting, held at Lehigh, there were 20 individuals present. Present were individuals from F and M, Haverford, Lafayette, Lehigh, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton. The first chair of the section was H.H. Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania, while A.A. Bennett of Princeton served as the first Secretary-Treasurer. It is noted that among the speakers at this first meeting was J.A. Foberg, the State (PA) Director of mathematical Instruction, who noted the attention given the secondary School curricula by MAA, the fact that mathematics was only required during the first nine-years of schooling and the fact that some universities and colleges were demanding 12 units of senior high mathematics. He called for a study to advise on appropriate curricula in the secondary school.
Following this theme for the moment one finds that in 1938, W.D. Carpenter, of Germantown Academy, stating “the thought of including elementary calculu”s and analytic geometry (in the high-school curricula) will only lead to a lack of thoroughness in the other subjects taught”. He called for new high school texts along the line of the Joint Commission of MAA and NCTM.
In 1945, the concern was expressed that teachers are leaving the classroom for better jobs. The speaker expressed the need to mobilize a retraining program for secondary teachers. By 1955, we find H. Brinkmann of Swarthmore College reporting on the integration of high school and college mathematics (Admission with Advanced Placement) and in 1959, J. Brown of Delaware chairing a committee to act as liaison with state authorities on the curricula. That same year, V. Haag of F and M reported on SMSG. Thus, throughout its history, the section has undertaken to work cooperatively with teachers and administrators of pre- college mathematics.
Another long-tradition of the Section is the administration of “The American Mathematics High School Examination”. Al Filano recalls the unusual circumstances of his assuming responsibility for this endeavor. Walter Lawton, then chairman of AHSME and of Temple University, disappeared in the woods of Eastern Pennsylvania just prior to the collection of data and so Al stepped in.
The undergraduate curricula have also been a concern of the section. In 1931, Professor Dresden spoke on the Swarthmore Honors Program. In 1951, Col R.C. Yates of West Point spoke on motivating freshmen, while in 1953, C.O. Oakley of Haverford addressed the topic of a new approach to freshman mathematics. In 1970 the program included a Panel Discussion on Computers in the first two years of College Mathematics. Participating were Gerald Porter of Penn and Carl Leinbach of Gettysburg. It is with special note that I call attention to the agenda of Morris Kline, of NYU who in 1956 took the view that the usual math taught freshmen (college algebra and analytic geometry) was meaningless, unmotivated, lacked in aesthetic quality and was incoherent. He proposed for freshmen: set theory, symbolic logic, Dedekind cuts, groups, fields, and the like!
Indeed in recent years, the Spring Meetings of the Association have had specialized curricular themes. I point to the periodic sessions on undergraduate student papers and the recognition given by the Section to outstanding performances in the Putnam Examination as activities consistent with the objectives of fostering undergraduate mathematics. The strength of the November meetings over the years has been to provide the members of the Section with expository papers involving advanced or research topics. History shows that contrary to what we may think, we are affected by the world around us. To make the point, the first statistical talk occurred in 1940, when S.S. Wilks of Princeton talked on statistics related to The College Boards and again in 1948 when he spoke on random sampling, statistical control, statistical tests of significance, and the like. In 1951, one finds a talk on the use of finite fields in the design of experiment by David Gosslee of North Dakota Ag. College.
In 1942, H.B. Curry of Frankford Arsenal spoke on “Heaviside Operational Calculus” and G.E. Raynor of Lehigh “On External Ballistics – How Firing Tables Are Made.” In 1949, A.D. Hestenes of the Franklin Institute spoke on “Some Observations Related to Mathematics in Research and Development”, and by 1957 we have a session chaired by I.E. Block, then of Burroughs Corporation, one topic being “Desired Mathematical Training for a Mathematician Who Plans to Work in Industry”. Henry Pollak of Bell Labs, in 1960 presented the CUPM Report: “Recommendations on the Panel for Physical Sciences and Engineering”.
Let me speak briefly of another thread. In 1949, H.H. Goldstine of The Institute of Advanced Study, talked on “Some Problems in Numerical Analysis” related to truncation error, and round-off error. Again in 1955, and related to the Electronic Computer Project at IAS, he spoke on “Numerical Stability” and the estimation of error. In 1961, “ALGOL 60 - A Language for Students” is promoted. By 1970, as I noted earlier, a panel discussion on how to introduce the computer into the classroom is a part of the program at an annual meeting.
Very fortunately, the Section has had a wealth of good speakers and it only seems appropriate to name some. In 1929, J.F. Ritt of Columbia talked on “Liouville’s Work.” I note that Ritt’s work has found renewed interest. Computer Algebra (Maxima, and Mathematica to name active computer packages in use today) uses his work. Among other visitors of note were Salomon Bochner of Columbia University, Richard Courant of NYU, who in a talk “Problems of Stability and Instability in Soap Film Experiments” alerted the Section of advances in Calculus of Variations. Marc Kac of Rockefeller Institute, in 1980, presented a memorable paper entitled “Recollections and Reflections on Fifty Years of Probability Theory” We even had speakers from Europe, for example, A.S. Besicovitch of Trinity College, Cambridge University addressed the Section.
The Section benefited before 1956, when the New Jersey Section was formed, by having expository talks by members of the Princeton faculty. Indeed, A.W. Tucker’s presentation in 1948, “Geometric Approaches to The Theory of Games”, was an extremely timely talk. R.H. Fox spoke twice. His titles were “Homotopy Groups” and “The Logical Development of Knot Theory.” Emil Artin, William Feller, and J.C. Moore also of that faculty presented papers at November meetings.
The litany can go on, I would remiss if I didn’t mention some members of the section whose presentations deserve acknowledgment. Hans Rademacher of Penn talked several times. I believe that one can point to Professor Rademacher as the most famed of mathematicians of the Section. His colleague, I.J. Schoenberg, was an outstanding expositor. He presented talks on “Smoothing Operators” and “On Spline Interpolation.” In 1947, Edwin Hewitt, then of Bryn Mawr, talked on “Generalizations of the Weierstrass Approximation Theorem”, while Antoni Zygmund, then of the University of Pennsylvania, lectured on “On Some Unsolved Problems in the Theory of Trigonometric Series”. He noted that the notion of function, the definite integral, and point set topology all developed in close connection with the theory of trigonometric series.
Other, who I remember, are W. Kuhn of Bryn Mawr, Curtis Greene of Haverford, J. Koch of Wilkes College who talked on his contribution to the solution of The Four Color Problem, R.D. Luce, a psychologist then at Penn, and known for his modeling “choice behavior”, and the most talented lecturer, Herb Wilf. Each of these individuals shared their talents with the section. I certainly have missed many individuals. I do so, with a general salute of thanks.
Finally, I would comment that the Section, now known as EPADEL (the name change occurred in 1979), would not have survived without those individuals who were willing to give of their time and energy in the promotion of the section and in the organization of its many endeavors. As an aside, a catastrophe related to the 1967 Section Meeting was averted when S.S. McNeary of Drexel assumed the chair on the untimely death of E. Amelotti of Villanova. There are many others who go unnamed, but one in particular deserves mention. Professor P.A. Caris of The University of Pennsylvania served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Section from 1928 to 1941, a total of 13 years!
Finally, I found the following title of a talk at an annual meeting to be the most amusing and perhaps the most prophetic- “How do we tell them that they need us?”