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Edward James McShane, 1953-1954 MAA President

Born: May 10, 1904, New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: June 1, 1989, Charlottesville, Virginia

Edward James McShane was a mathematics professor at the University of Virginia known for his research in pure and applied mathematics, interest in mathematics education, and service to mathematics.

Presidency: 1953-1954

As president, McShane conceived and appointed the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics, which makes recommendations to guide mathematics departments in designing curricula for their undergraduate students. He stressed the importance of mathematical teaching and communication.

McShane won the MAA Chauvenet Prize in 1953 for his article "Partial Orderings and Moore-Smith Limits."

Education and Career

McShane studied mathematics and engineering at Tulane University, receiving a degree in each in 1925. He received a master's degree in mathematics from Tulane in 1927. In 1930, he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, with his thesis supervised by G.A. Bliss, who was involved with the early years of the MAA.

McShane split the next few years among Princeton, Ohio State, Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Göttingen before becoming a professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1935.

At the University of Virginia, McShane published on the calculus of variations, stochastic calculus, theory of integration, and ballistics. He earned a reputation for "graciousness, kindness, and hospitality," according to his graduate student Victor Klee. McShane spent 1942-45 as head of the Ballistics Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. During this time he coauthored Exterior Ballistics, which was considered a leading work in the field when it was published in 1953. The Fiftieth Anniversary Issue of the American Mathematical Monthly included his talk on "Trends in Analysis." McShane retired from the University of Virginia in 1974 but continued to publish.

McShane was president of the American Mathematical Society in 1959-60 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He chaired the mathematics division of the National Research Council and served on the board of the National Science Foundation and on the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences. In addition to the 1953 Chauvenet Prize, he won the 1964 MAA Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award.

A letter from McShane to Edward Begle is featured in the School Mathematics Study Group Records spotlight page.

External Resources

MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive biography

AMS Presidents Timeline biography

National Academies Press biographical memoir (pdf)

New York Times obituary

Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award citation

Records of editors, presidents, and secretaries from MAA headquarters, E.J. McShane, 1952-1955 at the Archives of American Mathematics

Papers of E.J. McShane

The Mathematics Genealogy Project