The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ed Waymire Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 29, 2015


“Seeing the World in Mathematical Terms”  July 29, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

Waymire begins his interview with a lengthy and detailed recollection of his family background and upbringing in Illinois. In doing so, he discusses his parents' backgrounds, the major impact that his grandfather made on him as a youth, and his early interests in mathematics and weather. From there he recounts a series of adventures during the summer after his graduation from high school, a time period which saw him move to California with a friend and work as a door-to-door salesman. He then describes his return to Illinois, his academic progression at Southern Illinois University, and research on the properties of lightning that he conducted while an undergraduate.

Waymire next turns his attentions to his entry into graduate school at the University of Arizona, making particular mention of his serendipitous avoidance of military conscription through the U.S. government's declaration of a zero draft during the month that his draft number would have been called. In recalling his years as a graduate student, Waymire also describes the progression of his research on stochastic processes, the interplay between his mathematical work and concepts in physics, and his stint teaching courses at a university in Mexico.

The remainder of the interview concentrates on Waymire's life as an academic. He reflects on his first professional posting at Clarkson College of Technology, discusses the roots of his collaboration with Vijay Gupta on the mathematics of rain, summarizes the ways in which this research has progressed over time, and lends insight into his own mathematical perspective on the world. Waymire then shares his memories of coming to Oregon State University, characterizes the state of the Mathematics department at that time, and details the methods that he has used to improve his effectiveness as a teacher instructing students on topics that many find difficult to grasp.

As the interview nears its conclusion, Waymire provides his thoughts on the culture of mathematicians and expounds on his duties as an editor of mathematics journals. The session ends with Waymire's perspective on change in OSU's Mathematics department and his sense of the university's direction as it nears its sesquicentennial.