Mathematics was one of the four subjects taught at Corvallis College when it was founded in 1868. As the College’s curriculum grew to include agriculture and engineering, mathematics expanded from its role as an element of traditional higher learning into a necessary tool for understanding science and technology. While the subject matter itself changed little, the focus of mathematics was now targeted to serve engineering. This remained its function until 1932 when the School of Science was established and William E. Milne arrived as chair of the Mathematics Department, a position he held until his retirement in 1955.
Professor Milne was the first Department chairman to hold a Ph.D. During the years that Milne was chair, 1932-1955, the department had its first major growth including additional staff, courses, and students as well as offering undergraduate and gradaute degrees in mathematics.
After 1932, the Mathematics Department's instructional service reached into nearly every academic discipline at Oregon State. The department's research focus during these years emphasized applied analysis and statistics. In 1955, a separate Statistics Department was formed and Arvid T. Lonseth became Mathematics Department chairman. Under Lonseth’s leadership, the department focused heavily on computers, which continued until a separate Computer Science Department was formed in 1972. In 1957, Oregon State College became the first educational institution in Oregon to acquire an electronic computer; it was operated by Mathematics and maintained by Electrical Engineering. By the end of Lonseth’s tenure the department had acquired expertise in all major areas of mathematics.
As the department expanded, Mathematics became a primary area of study. This lead to an undergraduate major designed to train high school teachers as well as prepare students for graduate level studies. The first masters degree in mathematics was awarded in 1933 and the first doctorate in 1948.
Department heads for the period documented by these records include W.E. (Ted) Milne (1932-1955); Arvid T. Lonseth (1955-1968); William J. Firey (1968-1970 and 1978-1979); James R. Brown (1970-1978); Richard M. Schori (1979-1984); Philip M. Anselone (1984-1990); and Francis (Frank) Flaherty (1990-1998).
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