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Walter Buckingham Carver, 1939-1940 MAA President

Born: January 11, 1879, Town Hill, Pennsylvania
Died: July 4, 1961

Walter Buckingham Carver was a mathematics professor whose interests focused on the teaching of mathematics at the undergradute level.

Presidency: 1939-1940

Carver continued to serve on the American Mathematical Monthly committee during his presidency. He had been editor-in-chief of the journal from 1932 through 1936 and on the editorial committee from 1937 through 1939. The committee was discontinued, and he became an associate editor for 1940-42.

At the 1940 summer meeting of the MAA, on September 9, George Stiblitz of Bell Telephone Laboratories first demonstrated his "electrical calculating machine," which could be operated remotely and which could perform calculations with complex numbers. MAA members at the meeting, held at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, transmitted problems to the machine at Bell Labs in New York and received answers in seconds.

Education and Career

1899 Gettysburg College and Dickinson College
1904 Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D.

Carver was a professor at Ursinus College for two years before joining Cornell University, where he chaired the mathematics department from 1938 to 1940 and continued occasional teaching and advising even after he officially retired in 1948.

A charter member of the MAA, Carver became the second secretary-treasurer of the MAA (1943-1948) when W.D. Cairns retired after 27 years in that office. At that point, Carver had already begun working on the Finance Committee, where he remained until illness forced him to resign in 1960.

At the 1937 annual meeting of the MAA, Carver gave an invited address titled "Thinking Versus Manipulation", criticizing the tendency in education to teach students only how to carry out formal processes without understanding their meaning and calling attention to the importance of teaching students how to reason about mathematical problems.

Carver frequently contributed problems to the Monthly. His contributions span a period of 60 years.

External Resources

American Mathematical Monthly obituary

Records of editors, presidents, and secretaries from MAA headquarters, Walter B. Carver, includes obituary (1879-1961), 1932-1942 and 1948-1962 at the Archives of American Mathematics

Walter Buckingham Carver papers, 1906-1948

Cornell University faculty biographical Files, 1865-2004. Carver, Walter, B.

The Mathematics Genealogy Project