Person: Whyburn, William
William Whyburn was an American mathematician best known for his work on ordinary differential equations.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- William was brought up on the farm, near to Lewisville, North Texas.
- William attended Bethel School in the small settlement of Bethel which was situated near the present intersection of Bethel School Road and Moore Road to the east of Coppell.
- This school, which had existed since 1858, only taught pupils up to the ninth grade so, in 1916, when William was not yet fifteen years old, he entered North Texas State College in Denton.
- North Texas State College was a liberal arts college, mainly aimed at training teachers, but its President from 1906 to 1923 was William Hershel Bruce who had organised the starting of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programmes in 1917-18.
- William Hershel Bruce was a mathematician who had been a mathematics professor at North Texas State College for five years before becoming President.
- Whyburn studied at North Texas State College until 1920 when he went to the University of Texas in Austin.
- We note that Clifton Thomas Whyburn studied mathematics and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1964 from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Returning to our description of William Whyburn's career, after the award of his Master's degree he continued to study at University of Texas for his Ph.D. His thesis advisor was Hyman Joseph Ettlinger (1889-1986), who had been a student of G D Birkhoff, and Whyman was awarded a doctorate in June 1927 for his thesis Linear Boundary Value Problems for Ordinary Differential Equations and Their Associated Difference Equations.
- However, Whyburn had already published three papers before submitting his doctoral thesis, namely An extension of the definition of the Green's function in one dimension (1924), On the Green's function for systems of differential equations (1927) and On the polynomial convergents of power series (1927).
- Whyburn was still at the University of Texas when he submitted a further paper Existence and oscillation theorems for non-linear differential systems of the second order for publication on 7 September 1927 but, shortly after that, he went to Harvard where he spent the academic year 1927-28 as a National Research Fellow.
- The reader may have noticed that Whyburn took four years before submitting his Ph.D. thesis after the award of his Master's degree.
- This is not a particularly long time but, in Whyburn's case, his doctoral studies had only been a small part of his commitments since he was also teaching.
- It is worth noting that Samuel Wilks's first school was Little Elm School, a local one-room primary school, and when he was in the 7th grade at this school he was taught by Whyburn.
- In 1928 Whyburn was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles.
- He wrote a number of texts in collaboration with Whyburn in addition to the one we have just mentioned: First year college mathematics with applications (1949), Algebra for college students (1955), Introduction to mathematical analysis, with applications to problems of economics (1958), and Algebra with applications to business and economics (1961).
- The institution also profited by Whyburn's contacts with government agencies, as reflected by the excellent support that was obtained for certain programs.
- Even after two retirements, Whyburn found it difficult to leave the academic world and he was happy to accept a part-time position teaching in East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
- We must not let the fact that Whyburn wrote low level undergraduate texts lead us to believe that he did not contribute much in high-level research.
- Among the honours Whyburn received for his contributions, we mention that he served as Vice President of the Mathematical Association of America for 1943-1945.
Born 12 November 1901, Lewisville, Denton County, Texas, USA. Died 5 May 1972, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
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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