Person: Alexander, Archie
Archie Alexander was an African-American mathematician and engineer. He became governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- It took the remarkable person that Archie was, together with strong support from his parents, to overcome these disadvantages, both from prejudice against someone of his race and against someone from a poor working class background, and go on to a life filled with achievements.
- Alexander's parents were far too poor to be able to afford to send him to College to study further, yet Alexander was determined to continue his education.
- To allow him to study at Highland Park College in Des Moines, Alexander took on some poorly paid part-time jobs and his parents also helped out as much as they could.
- It is important to realise what an achievement it was for Alexander to enter the College of Engineering in Iowa City which was attached to the University of Iowa.
- One might have expected someone from Alexander's background to have been encouraged to undertake university studies, but this had certainly not been the case.
- Prejudice against someone of his race prevented Alexander from being appointed to any of the engineering posts to which he made application.
- Alexander was not one to give up when he encountered such difficulties.
- One might have thought that Alexander, having achieved remarkable success for someone of his background, might have been content with his position.
- As a consequence, Alexander's company ended up with the jobs for which no other firm competed.
- While at the Marsh Engineering Company, Alexander had become friendly with another engineer George F Higbee.
- Alexander took Higbee on a partner in 1917 and the partnership was only ended in 1925 when Higbee was tragically killed in a construction accident.
- For four years Alexander continued to run the company on his own, gaining a reputation as a talented construction engineer building fine bridges, viaducts and tunnels.
- Then in 1929 he took on a new partner, Maurice A Repass, who had been a fellow student with Alexander at the Iowa College of Engineering.
- Alexander did not confine his talents to developing his engineering firm.
- Alexander's period as governor lasted only sixteen months before he was forced to resign.
- It was a sad episode which almost certainly hastened Alexander's death and must have left him with much sadness after a life filled with so many achievements against all the odds that were stacked against him.
- In 1975, on the death of Alexander's wife, the University of Iowa, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and Howard University each received a substantial sum for engineering scholarships from a trust fund set up by Alexander in his will.
Born 14 May 1888, Ottumwa, Iowa, USA. Died 4 January 1958, Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
African American, Origin Usa
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive