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Department History

Existence and Influence

The Department of Mathematics has existed as a unit of WVU's College of Arts and Sciences since the late 1800s. The biggest influence in the early history of the department was Professor John Arndt Eiesland, for whom Eiesland Hall is named. He was chair from 1907 until he retired in 1938, and advised two PhD students, Joseph Stewart and Reginald Downing, who made contributions to the department into the 1960s and 1970s. The faculty member with the longest service has been Professor Henry Gould, who joined the WVU faculty as an instructor in 1958, rose to the rank of professor in 1969 and retired as professor emeritus in 2007 after 49 years. He continues his research, writing and working with faculty and students at WVU.

Military Involvement and Contribution

WVU is a land-grant institution. From 1867 until 1891, the federal government (War Department) assigned military officers on a rotating basis to such institutions to teach military science and tactics and be head of the cadet corps. Because of the lack of funds, WVU imposed on these officers to also teach undergraduate mathematics, such as calculus. Lt. Ingalls (1877-1878) was such a popular and effective teacher that the University tried to keep him here on a regular basis. West Virginia's Senator Waitman T. Willey (for whom Willey Street is named) wrote to U.S. President Rutherford Hayes, begging him to help. But President Hayes replied that he had no way to countermand the War Department. Ingalls left WVU and went to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he founded the U. S. Army Ballistics School. He wrote major papers and books in this area and was a major supporter of James Sylvester's American Journal of Mathematics at its inception in 1878.

Making a Mark

By 1906, it was decided that a major effort had to be launched to secure a distinguished mathematician to come to WVU to lead the Department of Mathematics. Some 40 candidates applied, and John Eiesland, a Norwegian with a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, was chosen. In his 31-year tenure, the first two PhD degrees in mathematics were granted at WVU in 1934. WVU did not offer doctoral work until 1930. Eiesland retired in 1938, and the PhD program folded due to lack of research and interest in classical geometry. Topology was gaining ascendancy among research workers.

Where We Are Now

Our current doctoral program was initiated during the three year tenure of Al Baartmans, with our first new PhD degree being awarded in 1993 to Gary Seldomridge. The strongest field of research and scholarship is in discrete mathematics (combinatorics, number theory and graph theory). More than 35 doctorates have now been awarded in these and other fields of research that have been added. Professor Baartmans had Henry Gould start a regular Wednesday seminar in discrete mathematics and introduce a course on graph theory. The hiring of Professor Cun-Quan Zhang and later Hong-Jian Lai in graph theory assured the Department of Mathematics had a strong effort in this field of research. Other strong faculty in discrete mathematics include Professors Michael Mays, John Goldwasser, Jerzy Wojciechowski and Henry Gould, guaranteeing strength to the program. For many years the program was also strengthened in the areas of hyperspace and continuum theory by the presence of Professor Samuel Nadler (now an emeritus professor), an internationally noted authority.

List of Chairs

  • 1867-1869 Col. J. R. Weaver, AM
  • 1869-1875 Bvt. Capt. H. H. Pierce, AM
  • 1875-1877 Lt. E. T. C. Richmond
  • 1877-1878 Lt. James M. Ingalls
  • 1878-1879 Maj. Thomas F. Snyder
  • 1879-1884 Daniel Boardman Purinton, AM
  • 1884-1888 Lt. James L. Wilson
  • 1888-1891 Lt. Edward S. Avis, PhD
  • 1891-1893 James Scott Stewart, MS
  • 1893-1894 Robert Allen Armstrong, AM
  • 1894-1907 James Scott Stewart, MS
  • 1907-1938 John Arndt Eiesland, PhD
  • 1938-1946 Clarence Newton Reynolds, Jr., PhD
  • 1946-1960 Hannibal Albert Davis. PhD
  • 1960-1965 Joseph Kyle Stewart, PhD
  • 1965-1967 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1967-1972 James Clifton Eaves, PhD
  • 1972-1973 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1973-1979 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1979-1980 James E. Dowdy, PhD
  • 1980-1982 Vadim Komkov. PhD
  • 1982-1984 James E. Miller, PhD
  • 1984-1985 John W. Schleusner, PhD
  • 1985-88 Alphonse H. Baartmans, PhD
  • 1988-1990 James H. Lightbourne, PhD
  • 1990-1991 James H. Lightbourne, PhD
  • 1991-1992 Michael E. Mays, PhD
  • 1992-1996 Harvey Diamond
  • 1996-1999 Lawrence N. Mann, PhD
  • 1999-2008 Sherman D. Riemenschneider, PhD
  • 2008-2016 Edgar J. Fuller, Jr., PhD
  • 2016-2017 Hong-Jian Lai, PhD
  • 2017-2018 Edgar J. Fuller, Jr., PhD
  • 2018-Present Marjorie Darrah, PhD

Thanks to Emeritus Professor Henry Gould for providing this historical narrative of the Department of Mathematics.