Person: Pell (2), Alexander
Alexander Pell or Sergei Degaev was a Russian revolutionary terrorist who moved to America and became a mathematician who worked in South Dakota.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After this we refer to him as Alexander Pell.
- It is a strange story for this man led two totally distinct lives, one as Sergei Degaev a Russian revolutionary, and the other as Alexander Pell a highly respected American mathematics professor.
- He was soon captivated by their ideas and this led to him being expelled from the Academy, being described as 'unreliable'.
- Sergei and Liubov Degaev became Alexander and Emma Pell when, in 1891, they became naturalised Americans.
- It is not known quite why they chose these names, one suggestion being that Degaev called himself Alexander Pell after the Russian chemist Aleksandr Pel, another being that he called himself Pell after the mathematician John Pell.
- The Pells settled in St Louis and in 1895 he enrolled for a doctorate in mathematics at Johns Hopkins university.
- Pell was a great success as professor of mathematics at the University of South Dakota.
- From the head of the table beamed the jolly countenance of 'Jolly Little Pell' cracking jokes faster than the freshmen could crack nuts.
- one could readily believe that in a social environment where research was the dominating interest Dr Pell would have been completely satisfied.
- Pell joined the American Mathematical Society, published research articles in journals, and attended mathematics conferences.
- In 1907 the Department became the College of Engineering with Pell becoming its first Dean.
- Pell's wife, Emma Pell (called Liubov Degaev before emigrating to the United States), died in 1904.
- Anna returned from Germany to teach at the University of South Dakota where Pell continued as Dean of Engineering.
- There Anna completed her doctorate with Eliakim Moore as her supervisor, while Pell took a position at the Armour Institute of Engineering.
- Of course although Anna was starting out on her career when they went to Chicago, by this time Pell who was 26 years older than his wife, was over 60.
- In 1911 Pell suffered a stroke and was unable to continue working.
- Pell died while the couple were living in Bryn Mawr.
- Anna set up a fund for an Alexander Pell scholarship at the University of South Dakota.
Born 25 September 1857, Moscow, Russia. Died 26 January 1921, Bryn Mawr, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive