Person: Chauvenet, William
William Chauvenet was an American professor of mathematics, astronomy, navigation and surveying who was instrumental in the establishment of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- William Chauvenet senior was a farmer but later became a businessman.
- Although William was extremely good at mathematics and this was the natural subject for him to study at university, he had to also be knowledgeable in Latin and Greek in order to be accepted onto a degree course.
- After graduating Chauvenet was appointed as assistant to Alexander D Bache at Girard College in Philadelphia.
- Girard College had been founded by the American financier and philanthropist Stephen Girard in 1833 and Chauvenet worked there making observations of the terrestrial magnetic field.
- This proved the most important post for Chauvenet for it led him to be involved in the founding of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
- This did not reach the levels that Chauvenet thought were required so in 1842 he moved to the Naval Asylum school in Philadelphia where he set up an eight month course.
- It had been established to educate midshipmen and junior officers but was poorly equipped when Chauvenet arrived.
- One son, Regis Chauvenet, who was born in Philadelphia on 7 October 1842, went on to became a professor of chemistry.
- A Naval School was founded at Fort Severn, Annapolis, Maryland on 10 October 1845, by George Bancroft, historian, educator, and secretary of the Navy, with the aim of meeting the needs which Chauvenet had set out.
- Chauvenet, who is considered to be one of the founders, moved to Annapolis when the Naval School opened in 1845 being appointed as professor of mathematics and astronomy and also as head of department.
- Chauvenet continued to press for a four year academic course, and the Naval School was reorganized in 1850-1851 as the U.S. Naval Academy, with a course of study of four consecutive years.
- Chauvenet held his mathematics position at the Academy until 1853 when he became professor of astronomy, navigation and surveying there.
- The first chancellor of Washington University was Joseph Hoyt, but after his death in 1862 Chauvenet was appointed chancellor to succeed him.
- What, we should ask, was Chauvenet's main contributions to mathematics.
- As a textbook writer we mention Chauvenet's A treatise on plane and spherical trigonometry (1850), Spherical astronomy (1863), Theory and use of astronomical instruments : Method of least squares (1863), and A treatise of elementary geometry (1870).
- Chauvenet was the general secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1859 and became its president in 1870.
- Chauvenet is particularly remembered by mathematicians since the Mathematical Association of America created the Chauvenet Prize in 1925 to be awarded for mathematical exposition.
- You can see a list of winners of the Chauvenet Prize.
- In 1969 Chauvenet Hall was dedicated at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
- The USNS Chauvenet built by Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1970 was the first ship specially designed for the U.S. Navy to conduct coastal hydrographic surveys.
Born 24 May 1820, Milford, Pennsylvania, USA. Died 13 December 1870, St Paul, Minnesota, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Usa
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive