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Gail Sellers Young Jr., 1969-1970 MAA President

Born: October 3, 1915, Chicago, Illinois
Died: August 29, 1999

Gail Sellers Young Jr. was a mathematics professor at six different universities with a strong interest in mathematics education.

Presidency: 1969-1970

Young wrote an editorial, "Providing a Better Mathematics Education," in the inaugural, Spring 1970 issue of The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal (now the College Mathematics Journal). He had been a longtime supporter of the journal and had devoted significant effort toward concerns of two-year colleges.

At the conclusion of Young's term as president, Harry Gehman resigned from the finance committee, and Young took his place from 1971 to 1973.

Education and Career

Young began his undergraduate studies at Tulane University, where Professor W.L. Duren introduced him to rigorous mathematics. He completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where he conducted graduate work with the direction of R.L. Moore. Young introduced a student he knew at Tulane, E.E. Moise, to Moore. Moise became a Moore student, an MAA president, and Young's brother-in-law.

After he completed his Ph.D. at Texas in 1942, Young taught at Purdue University until 1947, the University of Michigan (1947-59), Tulane (1959-70; chair, 1963-68), the University of Rochester (1970-79; chair), Case Western Reserve University (1979), the University of Wyoming (1981), and the Teachers College at Columbia University.

His interest in mathematics education is evident from his involvement with the School Mathematics Study Group and the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics. Young published more than sixty papers on topology, n-dimensional analysis, complex variables, and mathematics education, as well as the book Topology (1961) with J.G. Hocking, which is regarded as a classic topology textbook.

As a professor committed to both research and teaching, Young emphasized the need for cooperation between the MAA, the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and more specialized professional mathematics organizations. He said in "The Crises of the Mathematical Sciences, and Why No One Group Can Solve Them" (1971) that "the greatest mistake in American mathematics was the founding of the MAA." In his view, the AMS should have expanded to encompass both college-level mathematics and advanced research rather than encouraging the creation of a separate organization.

Young was active in the AMS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. He served as first vice president of the MAA during the presidency of R.L. Wilder, another Moore student. In 1987, Young won the MAA's Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award.

External Resources

Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award citation

Students of R.L. Moore

The Mathematics Genealogy Project

"In Memoriam: Gail Young 1915-1999," MAA FOCUS, Volume 19, Number 8, page 7