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Lester Randolph Ford, 1947-1948 MAA President

Born: October 25or 29, 1886, Missouri
Died: November 11, 1967, Charlottesville, Virginia

Lester Randolph Ford was a mathematics professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology known for his mathematical exposition and editorial work.

Presidency: 1947-1948

The first Herbert Ellsworth Slaught Memorial Paper, by R.E. Langer, was published in 1947.

During Ford's presidency, W.B. Carver retired as secretary-treasurer and joined the finance committee and the nominating committee. Ford appointed C.C. MacDuffee chair of the nominating committee.

Education and Career

1911 Missouri State University, A.B.
1912 University of Missouri, A.M.
1913 Harvard University, M.A.
1917 Harvard University, Ph.D., advised by Maxime Bôcher

Following World War I, Ford joined the Rice Institute (now Rice University). In the late 1930s, he moved to the Armour Institute of Technology, which merged into the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1940. He was a mathematics professor and chaired the department.

In 1938, Ford demonstrated a geometric interpretation of the Farey sequence by introducing what are now known as Ford circles.

Ford edited the American Mathematical Monthly from 1942 to 1946. In December 1946, he reflected on his term as editor, particularly the difficulties the Monthly faced due to World War II, in "Retrospect" (also available here). In the same month, he was elected president.

Ford gained a reputation for his mathematical exposition. He wrote Elementary Mathematics for Field Artillery, and about 15,000 students took a course based on this text before the signing of the armistice in 1918. His well-received 1929 textbook Automorphic Forms was the first on the subject in English. Differential Equations (1933) was also well-received, and both textbooks have had new editions printed.

Since 1965, the MAA has given the Lester R. Ford Award for articles of expository excellence published in the Monthly.

External Resources

MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive Biography

Records of editors, presidents, and secretaries from MAA headquarters, Lester R. Ford, includes chronology of life (1886-), 1940-1976 at the Archives of American Mathematics

Rice University Information Files, Lester R. Ford

The Mathematics Genealogy Project