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Department History

A view of the math building in the early 1970s

Vanderbilt University is a private institution founded in 1873 by a gift of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. To learn more about its history, visit the History of Vanderbilt University webpage. Vanderbilt is located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee.

The Department of Mathematics was established in 1875. The department is in the College of Arts and Science, one of ten Vanderbilt colleges and professional schools. Following is a list of some important historical milestones of the department:

  • The first Ph.D. degree in mathematics awarded by Vanderbilt was in 1953 to James Robert Wesson. The title of his dissertation was “Finite Plane Projective Geometries.” His advisor was Eugene Baylis Shanks.
  • Vanderbilt’s first distinguished professor of mathematics, Bjarni Jónsson, was hired in 1966.
  • In 1970, the Department of Applied Mathematics (housed in Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering) merged into the Department of Mathematics.
  • In 1971, the department moved to its current location in Stevenson Center 1 (depicted in the artwork above).

More about the history of the Department of Mathematics is available from the following links:

Past Issues of the Department Newsletter

Past Department Chairs

In Memoriam