As the Roaring Twenties lurched into the Great Depression, to be followed by the scourge of Nazi Germany and World War II, American mathematicians pursued their research, positioned themselves collectively within American science, and rose to global mathematical hegemony. How did they do it? The New Era in American Mathematics, 1920–1950 explores the institutional, financial, social, and political forces that shaped and supported this community in the first half of the twentieth century. In doing so, Karen Hunger Parshall debunks the widely held view that American mathematics only thrived after European émigrés fled to the shores of the United States.
Drawing from extensive archival and primary-source research, Parshall uncovers the key players in American mathematics who worked together to effect change and she looks at their research output over the course of three decades. She highlights the educational, professional, philanthropic, and governmental entities that bolstered progress. And she uncovers the strategies implemented by American mathematicians in their quest for the advancement of knowledge. Throughout, she considers how geopolitical circumstances shifted the course of the discipline.
Examining how the American mathematical community asserted itself on the international stage, The New Era in American Mathematics, 1920–1950 shows the way one nation became the focal point for the field.
Karen Hunger Parshall is the Commonwealth Professor of History and Mathematics at the University of Virginia. She is the author of James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World and the coauthor of Taming the Unknown: A History of Algebra from Antiquity to the Early Twentieth Century (Princeton).
"Clearly the definitive treatment of the ascendancy of the American research mathematics community to international prominence during the first half of the twentieth century. As such, it will serve as the point of departure for anyone wanting to delve further into the mathematics being produced in the United States in this time period."—Calvin Jongsma, MAA Reviews
"A reader cannot help but be impressed by such scholarly acumen and the care that went into this study . . . [It is] a work that will undoubtedly take its place as a standard account for decades to come."—David E. Rowe, Mathematische Semesterberichte
"Remarkable. . . . This book should be a model for scholarship in this field."—Athanase Papadopoulos, zbMATH Open
“The New Era in American Mathematics, 1920–1950 leaves no stone unturned in looking at the evolution of pure mathematics in the United States between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Cold War. By the 1950s, the United States dominated world mathematics, and this book successfully explains how this came to be. It will be the standard account of this history for the foreseeable future.”—Joseph W. Dauben, author of Georg Cantor and Abraham Robinson
“Exploring in depth the development of American mathematics in the first half of the twentieth century, this balanced and comprehensive book is the pinnacle of careful and precise research. Parshall sets the standard for work in the history of mathematics.”—Amy Shell-Gellasch, coauthor of Algebra in Context
“Drawing from previously unknown documents, this book debunks the widely held view that American mathematics only thrived following the arrival of émigrés fleeing Europe. Parshall also successfully explains mathematical disciplines such as topology, which were favored by Americans, to a wider readership.”—Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, author of Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany
“This richly documented and beautifully written account shows how American mathematics matured and became a genuine contender on the international stage. Seamlessly weaving advances in mathematics with individual trajectories and institutional developments, Parshall has produced an important and fascinating book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in modern mathematical heritage.”—June Barrow-Green, coauthor of The History of Mathematics