The Mathematical Association of America

Founded in 1916

The Mathematical Association of America was set up to manage publication of the American Mathematical Monthly which had begun publication in 1894. The Monthly was the brainchild of Benjamin Finkel who was a schoolteacher at the Kidder Institute in Missouri. Finkel set out his reasons in the first issue of the Monthly:-
Most of our existing journals deal almost exclusively with subjects beyond the reach of the average student or teacher of mathematics or at least with subjects with which they are familiar, and little, if any, space, is devoted to the solution of problems ... No pains will be spared on the part of the Editors to make this the most interesting and most popular journal published in America.
As this quote shows, Finkel wanted to publish a journal which would appeal to school teachers. He did not succeed in this aim, for few teachers read the early issues of the American Mathematical Monthly. He did, however, produce a publication which was greatly enjoyed by university teachers of mathematics.

Support from universities was going to be crucial to the success of the venture and Finkel had made sure that from the very beginning he had the support of leading university teachers such as Eliakim Moore. Herbert E Slaught who edited the Monthly from 1913 to 1916 approached the American Mathematical Society asking if it would take over support for the Monthly. The Council of the American Mathematical Society rejected the request at a meeting in April 1915. However they essentially proposed the creation of the Mathematical Association of America in their response:-
It is deemed unwise for the American Mathematical Society to enter into the activities of the special field now covered by the American Mathematical Monthly; but the Council desires to express its realization of the importance of the work in this field and its value to mathematical science, and to say that should an organization be formed to deal specifically with this work, the Society would entertain toward such an organization only feelings of hearty good will and encouragement.
H E Slaught reacted quickly, sending out a large number of requests for a response from anyone interested in forming a new Society to support publication of the Monthly. He received 450 positive responses, and on 30-31 December 1915 Earl R Hedrick chaired a founding meeting of 104 people. Hedrick was elected president, Huntington was elected vice president, and Council consisting of 12 members was appointed.

The task of choosing a name for the new society proved remarkably uncontroversial. Three committees were set up to each make recommendation and each proposed the name Mathematical Association of America. Straley writes in [1]:-
In those early days the structure of the Mathematical Association of America was more of a club. Its main function was the publication of the Monthly. There was one standing committee, the Committee on Sections. It is still the only committee mandated by our bylaws. The Mathematical Association of America has grown considerably in a little less than one hundred years to a complex organization. ...Today, Benjamin Finkel's dream has substantially come true, the American Mathematical Monthly is the most widely read mathematics journal in the world.

Mathematical Association of America Presidents

1916 Earl R Hedrick
1917 Florian Cajori
1918 Edward V Huntington
1919 Herbert E Slaught
1920 David E Smith
1921 George A Miller
1922 Raymond C Archibald
1923 Robert D Carmichael
1924 Harold L Reitz
1925 Julian L Coolidge
1926 Dunham Jackson
1927-28 Walter B Ford
1929-30 John W Young
1931-32 Eric T Bell
1933-34 Arnold Dresden
1935-36 David R Curtiss
1937-38 Aubrey J Kempner
1939-40 William B Carver
1941-42 Raymond W Brink
1943-44 William D Cairns
1945-46 Cyrus C MacDuffee
1947-48 Lester R Ford
1949-50 Rudolph E Langer
1951-52 Saunders Mac Lane
1953-54 Edward J McShane
1955-56 William L Duren, Jr
1957-58 G Bailey Price
1959-60 Carl B Allendoerfer
1961-62 Albert W Tucker
1963-64 R H Bing
1965-66 Raymond L Wilder
1967-68 Edwin E Moise
1969-70 Gail S Young
1971-72 Victor Klee
1973-74 Ralph P Boas
1975-76 Henry O Pollak
1977-78 Henry L Alder
1979-80 Dorothy L Bernstein
1981-82 Richard D Anderson
1983-84 Ivan Niven
1985-86 Lynn A Steen
1987-88 Leonard Gillman
1989-90 Lida K Barrett
1991-92 Deborah Tepper Haimo
1993-94 Donald L Kreider
1995-96 Kenneth A Ross
1997-98 Gerald L Alexanderson
1999-00 Thomas F Banchof
2001-02 Ann E Watkins
2003-04 Ronald L Graham
2005-06 C C Cowen
2007-08 J A Gallian
2009-10 D M Bressoud
2011-12 P M Zorn
2013-14 Bob Devaney
2015-16 Francis E Su
2017-18 Deanna Haunsperger
2019-20 Michael Dorff

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. T H Straley, A Brief History of the Mathematical Association of America.

Last Updated August 2004