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Walter Burton Ford, 1927-1928 MAA President

Born: May 18, 1874, Oneonta, New York
Died: February 24, 1971, Seneca County, New York

Walter Burton Ford was a University of Michigan mathematics professor and textbook author involved in the early years of the MAA.

Presidency: 1927-1928

The December 1927 annual meeting included talks on "The Notion of Probable Error in Elementary Statistics" by E.V. Huntington, "The Human Significance of Mathematics" by Dunham Jackson, and "Some Philosophic Aspects of Mathematics" by Arnold Dresden.

In 1928, Ford presented the MAA with a gift of $500, which allowed the Chauvenet Prize to be awarded every three years instead of every five years. He was the biggest contributor to the Chauvenet Fund as of 1971. His philanthropy also extended to numerous educational institutions, and Ithaca College's Ford Hall is named for him.

Education and Career

1893-1895 Amherst College
1895-1897 Harvard University, A.B.
1898 Harvard University, M.A.
1905 Harvard University, Ph.D.

Ford taught as an instructor at the University of Michigan, starting in 1900, before earning his Ph.D., and he returned to Michigan afterward. He became a professor in 1917 and remained there until he retired in 1940.

Ford was deeply invested in his research and produced numerous publications. He hoped that the methods he had developed through much of his career could lead to a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis and continued this work far into his retirement.

As a charter member of the MAA, Ford served on the first MAA committee on libraries. He worked with E.R. Hedrick and R.C. Archibald in the early years of the MAA. He was editor of the American Mathematical Monthly (1923-26) and wrote a series of widely used textbooks for secondary schools.

In 1973, Ford's son contributed to the MAA to establish the Walter Burton Ford Lecture Fund.

External Resources

American Mathematical Monthly obituary

History of the University of Michigan mathematics department

Amherst College biographical record, 1963; biographical record of the graduates and non-graduates of the classes of 1822-1962 inclusive

The Mathematics Genealogy Project