About

The department

Pillars

The Mathematics Department has 27 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 6 postdoctoral instructors, 3 lecturers, a variety of visitors, 50 graduate students, and over 230 undergraduate majors. Courses are taught in a variety of mathematical areas, and research is done in many diverse fields.

All permanent mathematics faculty are internationally prominent in their research specialties. The faculty are often invited as visitors overseas, are involved in organizing major conferences, and serve on the editorial boards of many journals. Most of our faculty have been recipients of prestigious awards including NSF CAREER awards, and Sloan, AMS, Guggenheim, and Fulbright Fellowships. Two of our faculty were invited speakers at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians.

The Department has had a significant presence in the American mathematical community since the 19th century. In the 2010 ratings by the National Research Council, the Department had an S-rating of between 24 and 56, and a students rating of between 2 and 33, out of 126 departments assessed.

The Department is housed in Kerchof Hall on the central grounds of the University.

The university

The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, who established the curriculum and designed the buildings which still provide a focus for the University, allowing close contact between the students and faculty, and promoting Jefferson’s ideal of an “academical village” for the free exchange of ideas between fields.

Today the University has grown to a community of 20,000 students, including 6,300 graduate and professional students, and nearly 2,000 faculty in ten schools. The College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with undergraduate and graduate programs in 24 departments, defines, as it has from Jefferson’s day, the core of the University.

The University is located in Charlottesville near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The region is unmatched in the richness of historic sites, museums, and landmarks, and is known for its fine restaurants and local wineries. Charlottesville is 110 miles from Washington, D.C, 70 miles from the state capital, Richmond, and a 20-minute drive from Shenandoah National Park.


History

Jefferson and Mathematics

A lecture given by Professor John Fauvel at the University of Virginia on April 15, 1999.

Professor Fauvel, who died in 2001, was a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England. A former president of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, he was a noted authority on the history of mathematics.

Professors (1825 through 1900)

From the History of Mathematics Seminar 1998-1999: Sloan E. Despeaux, Laura Martini, Karen Hunger Parshall, and Adrian C. Rice.

From the beginning, Thomas Jefferson planned for his new University of Virginia to have a School of Mathematics. Thus, Thomas Key, the first Professor of Mathematics, was one of the faculty’s original members at its opening in 1825. The mathematics chair was then occupied continuously until October of 1840 when the second incumbent, Charles Bonnycastle, died in mid term. By November of 1841, James Joseph Sylvester had arrived to take up the mathematical duties, but he vacated the chair in March of 1842 and was replaced by Edward Courtenay in the fall. Courtenay’s death in 1853 resulted in another gap, filled by Alfred Bledsoe in 1854. Although the University was closed during the Civil War, mathematics has been taught here without interruption since Charles Venable joined the faculty in 1865.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, the School of Mathematics consisted of only one professor. By the 1890s, however, enrollments had increased sufficiently to warrant the addition of new professorial lines, and so first William Echols and then James Page were hired. In some sense, this marked the beginning of the modern Department of Mathematics as opposed to the Jeffersonian School of Mathematics.

This article provides a glimpse at the lives and careers of the University of Virginia’s nineteenth-century mathematicians.