Departmental History

Departmental History

Many thanks to Emeritus Professor Gould for providing this historical narrative of the WVU Mathematics department.

Existence and Influence

The Department of Mathematics has existed as a unit of the 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 Ph.D. students, Joseph K. Stewart and Reginald H. Downing, who made contributions to WVU mathematics into the 60s and 70s. The faculty member with the longest service has been Professor Henry Gould, who joined the faculty of West Virginia University 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 West Virginia University.

Military Involvement/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 B. Hayes, begging him to help. But President Hayes replied that he had no way to countermand the War Department. Remark: Ingalls left WVU and went to Fort Monroe, Va. 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 J. 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 head the Mathematics Department. Some 40 candidates applied, and John Eiesland, a Norwegian with a Ph. D. from Johns Hopkins University was chosen. In his 31-year tenure the first two Ph. D. degrees in mathematics were granted here at WVU in 1934. WVU did not offer doctoral work until 1930. Eiesland retired in 1938 and the Ph. D. program folded due to lack of research and interest in classical geometry. Topology was gaining ascendancy among research workers.

Where We're At Now

Our current doctoral program was initiated during the three year tenure of Al Baartmans, with our first new
Ph. D. degree being awarded in 1993 to Gary Seldomridge. The strongest field of research and scholarship here has now been 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 mahematics and introduce a course on graph theory. The hiring of Professor Cun-Quan Zhang and later Hong-Jian Lai in graph theory assured the Mathematics department of a strong effort in this field of research. Other strong faculty in discrete mathematics include Professors Michael Mays, John Goldwasser, Jerzy Wojciechowski, and the author (now emeritus), 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 B. Nadler, Jr. (now emeritus), an internationally noted authority.

List of Chairs
Years   Name
1867-69   Col. J. R. Weaver, A. M.
1869-75   Bvt. Capt. H. H. Pierce, A.M.
1875-77   Lt. E. T. C. Richmond
1877-78   Lt. James M. Ingalls
1878-79   Maj. Thomas F. Snyder
1879-84   Daniel Boardman Purinton, A. M.
1884-88   Lt. James L. Wilson
1888-91   Lt. Edward S. Avis, Ph.D.
1891-93   James Scott Stewart, M. S. (WVU graduate)
1893-94   Robert Allen Armstrong, A. M. (actually a professor of English)
1894-1907   James Scott Stewart, M. S.
1907-38   John Arndt Eiesland, Ph. D. (Johns Hopkins University doctorate)
1938-46   Clarence Newton Reynolds, Jr., Ph. D. (Harvard doctorate)
1946-60   Hannibal Albert Davis. Ph. D. (Cornell doctorate)
1960-65   Joseph Kyle Stewart, Ph. D. (WVU doctorate 1934)
1965-67   Iland Dee Peters, M. S.(acting chair) (WVU graduate)
1967-72   James Clifton Eaves, Ph. D. (Univ. of N. C. doctorate)
1972-73   Iland Dee Peters, M. S. (acting chair)
1973-79   Iland Dee Peters, M. S.
1979-80   James E. Dowdy, Ph.D. (acting chair) (Oklahoma State Univ. doctorate)
1980-82   Vadim Komkov. Ph. D. (Univ. of Utah doctorate)
1982-84   James E. Miller, Ph. D. (acting chair) (Univ. of Kentucky doctorate)
1984-85   John W. Schleusner, Ph. D. (interim chair) (Univ. of Alabama doctorate)
1985-88   Alphonse H. Baartmans, Ph. D. (Michigan State Univ. doctorae)
1988-90   James H. Lightbourne, Ph.D. (interim chair) (N.C.State Univ.doctorate)
1990-91   James H. Lightbourne, Ph.D.
1991-92   Michael E. Mays, Ph.D. (interim chair) (Penn. State Univ. doctorate)
1992-96   Harvey Diamond, (interim chair) (M.I.T. doctorate)
1996-99   Lawrence (Larry) N. Mann, Ph. D. (Univ. of Pennsylvania doctorate)
1999-2008   Sherman D. Riemenschneider, Ph. D. (Syracuse Univ. doctorate)
2008-Present   Edgar J. Fuller, Jr., Ph. D. (Univ. of Georgia doctorate)