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Department of Mathematical Sciences : Leaders of the Nation

Leaders of the Nation at the Department

by Colonel David Arney

Faculty from the Department have been notable military leaders for the country. Robert E. Lee was a standout student-instructor in the Department, Omar Bradley served as an Instructor for four years, Harris Jones and William Bessell were Deans of the Academic Board at USMA for a total of 15 years, and Department Heads Harris Jones, William Bessell, Charles Nicholas, John Dick, and Jack Pollin served impressively during two world wars.

The unique technical curriculum in place at the Academy during the middle of the 19th century produced many successful mathematicians and scientists for the country at large. West Point graduates Horace Webster, Edward Courtenay, Alexander Bache, James Clark, Francis Smith, Richard Smith, Henry Lockwood, Henry Eustis, Alexander Stewart, and William Peck filled positions as professors of mathematics or college presidents at other schools such as the U. 5. Naval Academy, Geneva College, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, University of Mississippi, Yale, Brown, Harvard, Columbia, Virginia Military Institute, Cooper Institute, and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Two mathematics department heads became college presidents after leaving USMA; Alden Partridge founded and became the first president of Norwich University, and David Douglass served as president of Kenyon College in Ohio for four years. Jared Mansfield was appointed surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory, and Ferdinand Hassler became superintendent of the United States Coastal Survey. The West Point model of undergraduate mathematics education was exported throughout the nation by capable individuals such as these.

While the faculty at USMA has been primarily military, the Department has benefited from civilian visiting professors since 1976. As part of the goal for civilianization of 25% of the faculty by 2002, begun in 1992, the Department established in 1994 a Center for Faculty Development in Mathematics. This Center establishes faculty development models and curricula and provides for the development of the "Davies Fellows", who serve as rotating civilian faculty members.