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David Eugene Smith, 1920 MAA President

Born: January 1860, Cortland, New York
Died: July 29, 1944, New York, New York

David Eugene Smith was a mathematics professor at Teachers College and a mathematical historian, textbook author, and editor.

Presidency: 1920

During his presidency, Smith was on the editorial board of the the American Mathematical Monthly and chaired a committee that prepared a report on "the standardization of terminology and symbolism."

In 1920, he also reviewed Cajori's A History of Mathematics in the American Mathematical Monthly and on April 9 gave a talk on "Famous Problems in the History of Mathematics" for the Columbia University mathematics club.

At the December 28-29, 1920, annual meeting, Smith acted as toastmaster at a joint dinner for the MAA, the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and the American Astronomical Society. G.A. Miller, D.R. Curtiss, and Florian Cajori made brief speeches.

Education and Career

1887 Syracuse University, Ph.D.

Smith graduated from Syracuse University in 1881. His studies had been mainly in the arts and humanities, and he was proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

In accordance with his father's wishes, he studied to be a lawyer, but when he was admitted to the bar in 1884, he accepted an instructorship in mathematics at the Cortland Normal School, which he had attended before Syracuse.

He advanced to professor of mathematics at the Michigan State Normal School and then principal of the New York State Normal School. In 1901, Smith became a professor of mathematics at the Teachers College at Columbia University. He held this position until he retired in 1925.

Smith wrote several mathematics textbooks and pieces on the history of mathematics. Notably, with Yoshio Mikami, he coauthored A History of Japanese Mathematics (1914), the first resource on the history of Japanese mathematics in English. He also translated mathematical works of René Descartes and Felix Klein from Latin, French, and German into English. Smith served as mathematical editor for several encyclopedias and on the editorial committee of the Monthly.

He was active in the International Commission on the Teaching of Mathematics as vice president (1908-20), president (1928-32), and honorary president (after 1932). For the AMS, he was librarian, associate editor of the Bulletin of the AMS for eighteen years, and vice president (1932).

The Carus Mathematical Monographs originated through Smith's talks with H.E. Slaught and Mary Hegeler Carus.

External Resources

American Mathematical Monthly obituary

Bulletin of the AMS obituary

Records of editors, presidents, and secretaries from MAA headquarters, David Eugene Smith, obituary from the New York Times, 30 July 1944 at the Archives of American Mathematics

David Eugene Smith Professional Papers 1860-1945

David Eugene Smith Collection on the History of Mathematics at Columbia University

Mathematical Treasures article on the David Eugene Smith Collection by Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz

"The David Eugene Smith Mathematical Library of Columbia University" by Bertha Margaret Frick

The Mathematics Genealogy Project