The founding fathers of Davidson College strongly believed that mathematics was central to a student’s education. With this in mind, the original curriculum called for students to take algebra in their first year. In their second year, students enrolled in a geometery course that focused on solid geometry and trigonomety. Calculus courses were offered to all junior year students.
In 1883, bookkeeping was taught for the first time. This course, designed for students who “intended to engage in business immediately after graduating,” was offered only to upper level students (1899-1900 college catalogue). It was an extremely popular course, and the faculty soon faced student demands for additional sections of the course. When Davidson first opened its doors in 1837, the faculty included one mathematics professor, Mortimer Davidson Johnston, a young man from the Bethany Church area of Iredell County. In August 1853, Major Daniel Harvey Hill was elected to replace Johnston. Previously, Hill had taught mathematics at Washington College and his reputation as a rigid disciplinarian was well known. He had been colonel of a regiment in Sumter’s Brigade, served in the battle of King’s Mountain, and fought in the war with Mexico in 1845. His inaugural speech at Davidson College was titled “College Discipline,” in full support of his reputation as disciplinarian. During his connection with the college, Hill published a mathematics textbook, “Hill’s Algebra.” This textbook was used by Hill at the North Carolina Military Institute, a school that he founded after leaving Davidson College in 1859. In the 1930’s, the administration decided to shift the mathematics department’s emphasis from the algebra-geometry-calculus curriculum to preparing students for graduate engineering schools. They created a new professorship of applied mathematics, and offered an applied course for students interested in surveying. Today, the mathematics department offers courses from as different as finite mathematics with computer programming to vector calculus and partial differential equations.
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Author: Molly Gillespie
Cite as: Gillespie, Molly. “Mathematics Department ” Davidson
Encyclopedia 1998. https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/encyclopedia/page/mathematics-department