Young, John Wesley

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(b. Columbus, Ohio, 17 November 1879; d. Hanover, New Hampshire, 17 February 1932);

mathematics, education.

Young’s father, William Henry Young, a lieutenant colonel during the Civil War and professor of ancient languages at Ohio University, served as United States consul in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 1869 to 1876. His mother was Marie Widdenhorn.

After graduating from the Gymnasium in BadenBaden, Young entered Ohio State University and earned a Ph. B. there in 1899. He received the A.M (1901) and the married Mary Louise Aston of Columbus. After teaching at Northwestern University (1903-1905), Princeton (preceptor, 1905-1908), the University of Illinois (1908-1910), the University of Kansas (head of the mathematics department, 1910-1911), and the University of Chicago (summer of 1911), he settled for the rest of his life at Dartmouth College, where he modernized and humanized the mathematics curriculum.

Young was influential in many learned societies, both in the United States and in Europe. He served as an editor of Mathematics Teacher; Bulletin and Colloquium Publications, American Mathematical Society; and Caurs Mathematical Monographs. His active participation in the American Mathematical Society included membership on its Council (1907-1925) and vice presidency (1928-1930). He was also instrumental in the founding of the Mathematical Association of American, of which he was vice president in 1918 and president in 1929-1931. As chairman of its Committee on Mathematical Requirements (1916-1924), he edited a 652 page report, The Reorganization of Mathematics in Secondary Education (1923), which circulated widely and profoundly influenced educational thought and practice.

Throughout his professional career three themes dominated Young’s publications: the concept of generalization, the presentation of advanced mathematics from an elementary viewpoint, and, in conjunction with these, the “popularization” of mathematics. His Lectures on the Fundamental Concepts of Algebra and G eontetty (1911) is excellently written and is still highly regarded. At Dartmouth his synoptic course gave the nonspecialist an understanding of topics in advanced mathematices.

In 1908, Young, with Oswald Veblen, created a set of postulates for projective geometry that embodied the first fully independent set of assumptions for that branch of geometry. This formulation served as the basis for the first volume of the classic Projective Gemerty (1910), written with Veblen.


I. Oringinal Works. young’s A. M. thesis, “On the Homomorphisms of a Group” in Transactions of the American Mathematical Society,3 (1902) 186–191’ and “On a Certain Group of Isomorphisms” in American Journal of Mathematics,25 (1902), 206–212, were written under the direction of G. A. Miller. His Ph. D. dissertation, “On the Group of Sign (0, 3; 2,4,c) and the Functions Belonging to It,” in Transactions of the American Mathematical Society,5 (1904 81–104, used methods Other papers are “The Use of Hypercomplex Numbers in Certain Problem of the Modular Group,” in Bulletin of the A merican Mathematical Society,11 (1905), 363–367 : “A Class of Discontinuous ζ Groups Defined by the Normal Curves of the Fourth Order in a Space of four Dimensions,” in Rendiconti del Circulo matematico di Palermo,23 (1907), 97–106; “A Fundamental Invariant of the Discontinuous ζ Groups Defined by Rational Normal Curves in a of Order n in a Space of n Dimensions, “in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society,14 (1908) 347–380 written with O. Veblen; “The Discontionus Groups Defined by Rational Normal Curves in a Space of n Dimenstions, “in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Soci–etv, 16 (1910), 363-368; “The Geometries Associated With a Certain System of Cremona Groups,” in Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, 17 (1916), 233,–244, written with F. M. Morgan: and “A New Formulation for General Algebra,” in Annals of Mathematics, 2nd ser. , 29 (1921), 47,–60 .

Lectures on the Fundamental Concepts of Algebra and Geometry (New York, 1911) was translated into Italian by L. Pierro (Naples, 1919). Projectire Geometry (Boston, 1910) consisted of 2 vols: vol. I written with O. Veblen and vol. 11, published under the names of Veblen and Young, but written by Veblen alone. Projective Geometry was Carus Mathematical Monograph no. 4 (Chicago, 1930). Young wrote a number of elementary mathematical textbooks, of which Elementary Mathematical Analysis (New York, 1918). written with F. M. Morgan, a pioneer text in the reorganization of freshman college courses, is structured around the unifying concept of function.

Other works are The Reorganization of Mathematics in Secondary Education (Oberlin, Ohio, 1923): “The Organization of College Courses in Mathematics for Freshmen,” in American Mathematical Monthly, 30 (1923), 6,–14: “Geometry” (in part) in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed. (1929), X. 174,– 178: and “The Adjustment Between Secondary School and College Work,” in Journal of Engineering Education, 22 (1932),586,–595. his last paper, which is typical of a number of papers on collegiate mathematical teaching. Young’s retiring presidential address, “Functions of the Mathematical Association of America,” in American Mathematical Monthly, 39 (1932), 6,–15, is an excellent example of the range of his interests and involvement in mathematics.

II. Secondary Literature. K. D. Beetle and C. E. Wilder, “John Wesley Young: In Memoriam,” in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 38 (1932), 603,–610, is a good biography complete with bibliography. Another, by E. M. Hopkins, L. L. Silverman. and H. E. Slaught, is in American Mathematical Monthly, 39 (1932). 309,–314. For additional material on Young’s role in American mathematics and the work and impact of the National Committee on Mathematical Requirements, see K. O. May, ed. . The Mathematical Association of American: Its First Fi/h Years (1972). 26,–30, 39,–40, 44: and the American Mathennatical Monthly, 23 (1916). 226, 283: 24 (1917), 463,–464: 25 (1918). 56,–59: 26 (1919), 223,–234, 279,–280, 439,–440, 462,–463: 27 (1920), 101,–104, 145,–146, 194, 341,–342, 441,–442 28: (1921), 357,–358: 29 (1922),46: and 32 (1925), 157.

Henry S. Tropp

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