Person: Smith (2), David Eugene
David Eugene Smith was an American mathematician who is very important in the history of mathematics and in the development of mathematical education.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- David began studying at Cortland Normal School, located off Church Street in Cortland, New York, in 1869.
- This was a new school which had been authorised by the New York State Legislature in the previous year and, after the Board of Trustees had been appointed and the school organised, Smith began his studies as soon as classes began.
- Smith completed his intermediate studies in 1876 and moved to the academic department of the Normal School.
- This was a comparatively new university when Smith began his studies there for the state of New York had granted its charter in 1870 and it had opened in September 1871.
- Smith studied a wide range of courses at Syracuse University in the arts and humanities.
- Smith was now following a surprising number of different paths for, in addition to his law studies, he went twice a week to Syracuse University where he was undertaking graduate studies in history, modern languages and mathematics.
- We note that at Abram Smith's his funeral it was said: "No attorney in the history of this county ever worked harder or more successfully for clients without expectation of reward than he did." In 1884 David Smith was admitted to the bar and was also awarded the degree of Master of Philosophy by Syracuse University.
- Now with a Master's degree and setting out on a promising career in law, Smith received a request by the Cortland Normal School to help them out by teaching some mathematics courses, standing in for an absent teacher.
- When the Principal of Cortland Normal School, delighted with Smith's performance, offered him a permanent position, he was happy to accept.
- We see from this list that Smith was publishing on both mathematical education and on the history of mathematics.
- Smith left Ypsilanti in 1898 when he moved back to New York to take up the position of principal of Brockport Normal School.
- From their first meeting, Plimpton recognized Smith's expertise and appreciated his resourcefulness.
- When Dean James Earl Russell sought out Smith at a professional meeting in 1901 to offer him the chair in mathematics at Teachers College of Columbia University, he quickly accepted and moved to New York for the fall semester.
- One aspect of Smith's teaching was to allow his students to make use of his remarkable mathematical library.
- Dr Smith has personally collected these rarities during his numerous travels in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America and has spent much time and money as well as care in selecting them.
- The collection is more than a collection - it is an expression of the interest and personality of Dr David Eugene Smith.
- Smith donated his library to Columbia University in 1931.
- Smith published a remarkable number of papers and books.
- In February 1926, at the age of 66, Smith retired from his chair at the Teachers College of Columbia University.
- At this time his students and colleagues arranged for presenting to the College a portrait of Professor Smith and, at a dinner in his honour, they endeavoured to express to him their appreciation of the uniqueness of his work and their regard for him as a friend and teacher.
- Doctor Smith's influence on the teaching of mathematics is such that it seems appropriate that the interpretations of his contributions as given on these occasions be made known.
- Retiring for Smith certainly did not mean that he led a quiet life and he continued his love for travel (in fact during his life he made eighty Atlantic crossings).
- On 19 January 1933, Plimpton sent greetings to Smith for his 73rd birthday.
- Later in 1933 Smith gave an address as retiring president of the International Commission on the Teaching of Mathematics.
- Finally let us note Smith's many contributions to the American Mathematical Society, the History of Science Society and the Mathematical Association of America.
- Smith was vice-president of the American Mathematical Society in 1922, was associate editor of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society from 1902 to 1920, and the Society's Librarian (1902-20).
Born 21 January 1860, Cortland, New York, USA. Died 29 July 1944, New York City, New York, 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