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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 2.2 The First Community

We proceed to describe the small but active community of mathematicians in Eastern Pennsylvania during the year of the section’s founding in \(1926\) by examining articles and reports from the ten issues of the Monthly appearing that year. \(This\) group would overcome “Atlantic apathy” to form the first Eastern section of the MAA 1 .
The January issue begins with the official report of the ninth annual summer meeting of the MAA 2  held the previous September at Cornell University. Of national interest was the formal adoption of the Chauvenet Prize 3  for mathematical exposition, the first award given by the MAA 4 . The three-person committee charged with selecting the winner of this coveted prize included Bryn Mawr College’s Anna Pell Wheeler, who would present the AMS Colloquium Lecture at the \(1927\) summer meeting. As we will see, Wheeler became the first woman ever to head our section.
The same issue of the Monthly reveals that of the \(160\) mathematicians who attended the Association’s national meeting in Kansas City the previous year, only J. R. Kline of the University of Pennsylvania and Harold S. Everett of Penn State came from eastern or central Pennsylvania. However, another attendee, Arnold Dresden, would move from the University of Wisconsin to Swarthmore College the next year.
The February \(1926\) issue reveals that five of the \(61\) new MAA 5  members hailed from the Philadelphia area. Not only does this quintet reflect a growing community, but also the scattered locations of their institutions, different levels of their teaching, and wide range of mathematical interests, suggest a diverse local populace. Three of the new members taught at colleges in the Lehigh Valley: Laura F. McDonough (Moravian College), W. B. Marquard (Lafayette College), and Morris S. Knebelman (Lehigh University). Although Knebelman was an active participant in sectional activities, there is no record of McDonough or Marquard ever attending one of the section’s annual meetings.
  • Laura F. McDonough was appointed the head of the mathematics department at the Moravian College for Women in \(1925\text{.}\) She had apparently joined the department a year earlier at a miserly “$\(75\) a month and house” (which probably meant a room in a dormitory). McDonough held a B.A. from Penn and pursued graduate studies there. Moravian catalogues list her as a faculty member up to \(1930\text{;}\) we assume that she moved after that.
  • William B. Marquard received an E. M. degree from Ohio State. He came to Lafayette College in 1907 as an instructor in mining engineering. Although he was promoted to assistant professor five years later, in 1920 he moved to the Department of Mechanics as an associate professor. He was promoted to professor of applied mechanics in 1929 and retired as emeritus professor in \(1943\text{.}\)
The two other new MAA 6  members were Nora Kieffer, then at the Normal School but later at Cumberland Valley State Teachers College in Shippensburg, and V. Z. Shippy, from the select Central High School in Philadelphia.
A second measure of activity within the section is graduate education. Of the \(27\) Ph.D. degrees in mathematics granted by American universities in \(1925\text{,}\) universities in eastern Pennsylvania awarded four. The University of Pennsylvania awarded three: to longtime MAA 7  secretary Harry Gehman, to Perry Aquila Caris, and to Robert William Hartley. No supervisor is listed for Caris’s dissertation, but our section founder Howard Mitchell supervised Hartley’s dissertation while section leader J. R. Kline supervised Gehman’s. The remaining Ph.D. degree was awarded to Anna M. Lehr at Bryn Mawr College. Although Marguerite Lehr officially received her degree from the physics department, the title of her dissertation indicates a purely mathematical topic: “The plane quintic with five cusps”. Besides, she was one of seven women whose doctoral studies were supervised by the renowned Charlotte Angas Scott, who taught at Bryn Mawr from \(1885\) to \(1925\text{.}\) Scott herself received a Ph.D. from the University of London in 1885, although she had actually carried out her studies at Cambridge University, which did not grant degrees to women at the time. Profiles of Caris and Lehr will appear in chapters devoted to the periods in which they served as chairs of the section – Caris in \(1945\) and \(1950\text{,}\) and Lehr in \(1958\text{.}\)
In general we will adhere to the following convention.
A profile of each chair of the section will appear in the chapter that covers the year in which the chairman’s term occurred.
A third measure of growth in the local community is the increase in the size of faculties, which was carried out in the face of severe economic conditions. Lehigh hired K. W. Lamson and the famous calculus textbook author L. L. Smail. Other new faculty members in the area included James E. Davis at Drexel and Echo D. Pepper at Bryn Mawr. According to our convention, profiles of Smail and Davis will appear subsequently. For now we provide biographical sketches of Pepper and Lamson.
  • Echo Dolores Pepper (\(1897-1979\)) was born, raised, and mostly educated in the Pacific Northwest. We do not know the origin of her most unusual first name. Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Echo Pepper received her B.S. degree in 1920 and her M.S. two years later from the University of Washington in Seattle. She entered the graduate program at the University of Chicago in \(1923\) and obtained her Ph.D. two years later under the eminent algebraist Leonard Dickson. After spending a year at Oxford University on a National Research Council fellowship, Pepper accepted an instructorship in mathematics at Bryn Mawr College, a position she held for only two years. Even though she attended national AMS 8 - MAA 9  meetings, she never joined either of these organizations, preferring the AAAS instead. In \(1928\) Pepper moved to the University of Illinois, where she stayed until becoming the department head at Notre Dame University in \(1965\text{.}\) She retired from that position in \(1970\text{.}\)
  • Kenneth Worcester Lamson was born in Vermont in \(1885\text{.}\) He obtained an A.B. from Harvard in \(1906\) at age \(21\text{.}\) Lamson played the string bass in college. When he was playing gigs with a band, he would put his physics books on the music stand and study while plucking away subconsciously at the instrument. Five years later he was appointed an instructor at South Dakota College (now the University of South Dakota). He then enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he was situated when he became a charter member of the MAA 10  in \(1915\text{.}\) He obtained his Ph.D. in \(1917\) under Gilbert Bliss for a dissertation on the calculus of variations, which was published in the American Journal of Mathematics three years later. Upon graduation Lamson accepted an assistant professorship at Columbia University, where he remained through the summer of \(1926\text{.}\) He then moved to Lehigh University, which brought him to the area the same fall that the Philadelphia Section was founded. Three years later he presented an invited lecture at the section’s annual meeting. Lamson spent the rest of his career at Lehigh, retiring in \(1951\) as emeritus associate professor. He then taught in Puerto Rico for three years before returning to teach part-time at Lehigh.
The Monthly for \(1926\) also records vigorous activity by undergraduate students in the area. During its summer term the University of Pennsylvania not only offered standard courses in solid geometry, trigonometry, college algebra, analytic geometry, and calculus, but there was sufficient demand to run three advanced undergraduate courses: elementary statistics with J. D. Eshelman, advanced calculus with G. H. Hallett, and the theory of invariants with O. E. Glenn. Hallett and Glenn had received their doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania. George Hervay Hallett was awarded his degree in 1896 for a dissertation on linear differential equations. He directed the 1905 dissertation of O. E. Glenn. Hallett’s son, George H. Hallett, Jr., wrote a dissertation in \(1918\) under the renowned R. L. Moore at Penn.
In addition to summer courses offered at the University of Pennsylvania in \(1926\text{,}\) the Monthly reported on activities offered by its Pi Mu Epsilon Chapter. There were also reports submitted on activities sponsored by The Ibis Club at the Women’s College of Delaware in Newark, and the Math Club of the New Jersey College for Women.
A traditional measure of faculty activity is publication, and here too the Monthly reflects increased bustle in eastern Pennsylvania. Albert Bennett published a note in the November issue on “New properties on an orthocentric system of triangles”. The same issue contains a paper by his Lehigh colleague Frank Mark Weida, titled “On the correlation between two functions”. The paper was based on a lecture that Weida had presented at the annual AMS 11  meeting on New Year’s Day, 1926.