# American Mathematics 1890–1913: Catching Up to Europe

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*Steve Batterson*

MAA Press: An Imprint of the American Mathematical Society

At the turn of the twentieth century,
mathematical scholarship in the United States underwent a stunning
transformation. In 1890, no American professor was producing
mathematical research worthy of international attention. Graduate
students were then advised to pursue their studies abroad. By the
start of World War I, the standing of American mathematics had
radically changed. George David Birkhoff, Leonard Dickson, and others
were turning out cutting edge investigations that attracted notice in
the intellectual centers of Europe. Harvard, Chicago, and Princeton
maintained graduate programs comparable to those overseas. This book
explores the people, timing, and factors behind this rapid
advance.

Through the mid-nineteenth century, most American colleges followed
a classical curriculum that, in mathematics, rarely reached beyond
calculus. With no doctoral programs of any sort in the United States
until 1860, mathematical scholarship lagged far behind that in
Europe. After the Civil War, visionary presidents at Harvard and Johns
Hopkins broadened and deepened the opportunities for study. The
breakthrough for mathematics began in 1890 with the hiring, in
consecutive years, of William F. Osgood and Maxime Bôcher at
Harvard and E. H. Moore at Chicago. Each of these young men had
studied in Germany where they acquired vital mathematical knowledge
and taste. Over the next few years, Osgood, Bôcher, and Moore
established their own research programs and introduced new graduate
courses. Working with other like-minded individuals through the
nascent American Mathematical Society, the infrastructure of meetings
and journals were created. In the early twentieth century, Princeton
dramatically upgraded its faculty to give the United States the
stability of a third mathematics center. The publication by Birkhoff,
in 1913, of the solution to a famous conjecture served notice that
American mathematics had earned consideration with the European powers
of Germany, France, Italy, England, and Russia.

#### Reviews & Endorsements

Batterson's book is smoothly written and well researched, drawing from over a dozen archival collections at almost a dozen different institutions. Included are appendices that show the 1849–50 Yale course catalogue as well as the 1905–06 list of graduate mathematics courses at Harvard and Chicago. Along with a handful of expository descriptions of important mathematical results, readers will find a well-crafted account of departments, careers, training and administration during a crucial period in American mathematics.

-- Ellen Abrams, BSHM Bulletin

# Table of Contents

## American Mathematics 1890-1913: Catching Up to Europe

- Cover 11
- copyright page 33
- Contents 1010
- Preface 1212
- An American colony in Göttingen 1616
- 19th century American notions of scholarship 3636
- Presidents Eliot and Gilman 6666
- Harvard and Chicago Hire Osgood, Bôcher, and Moore 104104
- The American Mathematical Society and the Transactions 130130
- The Princeton preceptors 158158
- The verge of parity with European nations 188188
- Sources and Acknowledgements 214214
- Curriculum for 1849–1850 from the Yale College catalog 1849–1850 216216
- Graduate mathematics courses for 1905–1906 from the Harvard President's Report for 1905–06 220220
- Graduate mathematics courses for 1905–1906 from the University of Chicago Annual Register of 1904–1905 222222
- Bibliography 226226
- Index 238238
- Back cover 246246