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Edwin Evariste Moise, 1967-1968 MAA President

Born: December 22, 1918, New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: December 18, 1998, New York, New York

Edwin Evariste Moïse was a mathematics professor at Queens College and a textbook author who contributed to mathematics education reform.

Presidency: 1967-1968

In January 1967, the American Mathematical Monthly published a special issue for the fiftieth anniversary of the MAA. MAA presidents W.L. Duren, R.H. Bing, E.J. McShane, and Saunders Mac Lane contributed articles, and two histories of the MAA were included.

At the 1967 annual meeting, Moïse and G.S. Young participated in the Session on School Geometry of the Future.

Education and Career

1940 Tulane University, B.A.
1947 University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D.

Moïse taught at the University of Michigan from 1947 to 1960, with two years at the Institute for Advanced Study (1949-51). In 1961, he moved to Harvard University, where he was a professor for ten years before moving again to Queens College of the City University of New York (1971-87). After he retired, Moïse turned his attention to studying 19th-century English poetry.

At the University of Texas, Moïse studied topology under R.L. Moore, like four other MAA presidents. He took at least one class with, and was good friends with, both Richard Anderson and Gail Young, and Moïse and Young were brothers-in-law. In "Activity and Motivation in Mathematics" (1965), Moise discusses Moore's discovery-based teaching method and its significance. He writes,

We can "cover" very impressive material, if we are willing to turn the student into a spectator. But if you cast the student in a passive role, then saying that he has "studied" your course may mean no more than saying of a cat that he has looked at a king. Mathematics is something that one does.

In a 1998 interview with Richard Anderson and Ben Fitzpatick, Moïse wrote,

I always respected teaching and thought it required my best efforts. This is true of every Moore student I know of. But, my conception of mathematics and of teaching was always different from his.

Moïse supported the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG), an effort to improve primary and secondary mathematics education. Of SMSG and New Math, Moïse wrote in the same interview,

I think that the new math was a mixed bag. Mainly it was an improvement. Mainly it differed from the old math by insisting that mathematics is a form of knowledge, not a repertoire of conditioned responses. SMSG had defects. It was often over-formal and it used too many big words.

Moïse was an accomplished textbook author. His SMSG textbook Geometry and Elementary Geometry from an Advanced Standpoint (high school geometry for prospective teachers of the subject) were widely used, and new editions of them were published in 1991 and 1990, respectively.

Moïse's research was noteworthy as well. His doctoral thesis, which solved a problem posed by Knaster several years earlier, was, according to Anderson and Fitzpatrick, one of the best of the 50 dissertations completed under Moore, and a "tour de force." However, Moïse's greatest mathematical achievement came later, at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Advanced Study, when he proved that every 3-manifold could be triangulated.

Moïse was vice president of the American Mathematical Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

External Resources

New York Times obituary

International Commission on Mathematical Instruction biography

An Interview of Edwin Moïse by Richard Anderson and Ben Fitzpatrick

Records of editors, presidents, and secretaries from MAA headquarters, Edwin E. Moïse, includes photo, 1966-1969 at the Archives of American Mathematics

Students of R.L. Moore

The Mathematics Genealogy Project

"Edwin Moïse, Former MAA President, Dies at 79," MAA FOCUS, Volume 19, Number 5, page 2