The Cornell Campus around 1870 ## Laurent Saloff-Coste – Cornell Mathematics history page
email: lsc(at)math.cornell.edu or lps2(at)cornell.edu ## How this page came to beIn 2015, I was Chair of the Department of Mathematics and the University celebrated its sesquicentenial: The Charter establishing Cornell University was signed by the Governor of New York in 1865 and the University opened in 1868. I thought it would be fun to learn about the history of Cornell and its Department of Mathematics and started to read available material and dig into the department and university archives. What do we know about the first professors, the first students, their interests, and the development of the department and university? I was surprised to discover it was not very hard to establish the list of all faculty members of the Department of Mathematics up to 1930, and to find information about their whereabouts and careers. The early years of Cornell University coincides with the emergence of scientific research in the United States and this made looking at the department history more fascinating. The department website includes history pages that give some basic information including the complete list of Cornell Mathematics Ph.D.s. ## Content (Links are found on the left-column menu)The link `Part I (1868-1898)`on the top-left menu takes you to a 148 pages pdf document:
NOTE: If you open one of the pdf documents using acrobat reader you should be able to use the
MATHEMATICS AT CORNELL: STORIES AND CHARACTERS, 1865-1965. PART I: 1865-1898, THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS. The link `Short bios, Part I`takes you to a 34 pages pdf document containing short biographies of the main characters appearing in Part I. They are, in alphabetic order:
Agnes Sime Baxter; Abram Rogers Bullis; William Elwood Byerly; Henry Turner Eddy; Evan William Evans; George Egbert Fisher; Rollin Arthur Harris; Arthur Hathaway; Edward Wyllys Hyde; George William Jones; Annie Louise MacKinnon; James McMahon; John Hiram Messenger; Ida Martha Metcalf; James Edward Oliver; Anna Helene Palmié; Ziba Hazard Potter; Paul Louis Saurel; Charles Ambrose Van Velzer; Lucien August Wait. The link `Part II`takes you nowhere at this time! Part II, under construction, will cover the period 1899-1935.
The link `PhDs before 1940`take you to the complete list of the one hundred doctorates awarded by the Cornell Department of Mathematics before 1940.
## Some highlights: Part IIn my opinion, the most important character in the entire history of Mathematics at Cornell is James Edward Oliver, the second Chair of the Department, who served as chair for 21 years from 1874 to his death in 1895. Although there is no remaining traces of his mathematics activities, he was considered a mathematics genius in the context of the American scientific community of his time (he was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Science). He devoted his professional life to establishing an ambitious research oriented mathematics department and graduate program at Cornell. The department Colloquium, which he created as a mathematical club in 1891, has been named after him since 1898. To a large extend, the text *Mathematics at Cornell: Stories and Characters, 1865-1965, Part I: 1865-1898*is an attempt to present the life work of Jimmy Oliver in the context of the devopment of Cornell University and other similar institutions.
Among the first Cornell students with mathematics interests, the lifes and works of Arthur Hathaway, Rollin Arthur Harris and Annie Louise MacKinnon provide remarkable examples of what it meant to pursue research interests in mathematics at the end of the nineteen century in the United States.
## Some highlights: Ph.D. recipients before 1940 include
The Cornell Campus around 1870 with students and faculty members. Images from Cornell's Rare Book and Manuscript Collections |