Famous Black Mathematicians – Lawrence Williams

I thought I might close this series with someone from Texas (the state in which I live).  Lawrence Williams graduated high school in Livingston, TX and obtained his B.S degree in Math (physics minor) in 1969 from Texas Southern University .  His Ph.D. was obtained at the University of Michigan, specializing in operator theory.   His disseratation was “On Quasisimilarity of Operators on Hilbert Space”.    You can read more about his background and publication list here.

I found his story to be particularly inspiring.  Following is an excerpt from his MAA Biography.

“Lawrence Ray Williams attended public school at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Livingston, Texas. He graduated from high school in 1965 and then matriculated at Texas Southern University. There he encountered many role models who gave him support and confidence. Williams had never heard of a graduate degree when he started attending Texas Southern. But thanks to these mentors, he was made aware of graduate study and encouraged to attend graduate school. Among his most influential mathematics professors at Texas Southern University were Dr. Llayron Clarkson and Professors Alvin Wardlaw, Herman Jenkins and Robinson J. Parsons. He was also greatly influenced by Dr. Duvvury A.A.S. Narayana Rao, Professor and Head of the Physics Department. Williams spent countless hours in Dr. Rao’s physics laboratory conducting cutting-edge research in physics.

A high point of Williams’ undergraduate years occurred during his sophomore year when he spent one semester at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, as a participant in an exchange program. He took fifteen hours of courses in mathematics, chemistry and physics during that semester and received a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Having attended a segregated high school and a predominantly black university, Williams gained confidence from this experience that he could compete with any students. Moreover the bitterly cold winter in Wisconsin was a different experience in itself because he was accustomed to mild Texas winters. Williams received his bachelor’s degree with a major in mathematics and a minor in physics from Texas Southern in 1969.

After completing his undergraduate work, Williams was drafted into the United States Army. He began his graduate studies at the University of Michigan in 1971 after spending two years in the army. He received a master’s degree from Michigan in 1972 and a Ph.D. in 1976, both in mathematics. At Michigan, Williams wrote his Ph.D. dissertation in the area of operator theory under the direction of Dr. Carl M. Pearcy.”

Give a good person good inspiration and great things can happen.  I hope this series serves to inspire great black  mathematicians of future generations.

Famous Black Mathematicians – Wilfrid Gangbo

Few accomplishments in academia top Wilfrid Gangbo’s move from Ph.D. to full professor in nine years.  Born in Benin, he earned his Ph.D. from the Swiss Federale Institute of Technology.  Dr. Gangbo is currently a professor at Georgia Tech.

Dr. Gangbo is also the founder of the EcoAfrica project, an association of scientists involved in projects supporting African countries.  The EcoAfrica project was founded in 1990 in Switzerland and has organized several workshops in applied mathematics.

You can read more about Dr. Gangbo here and check out his listing in the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

Famous Black Mathematicians – Donald Richards

I was familiar with Dr. Richards’ work from past web searches and from his talks on Genetic Algorithms in optimimization.  Dr. Richards obtained his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the Univ. of the West Indies and obtained his Ph.D. two years later in 1978.  That’s a pretty incredible achievement.

Dr. Richards currently serves on the faculty at Penn State University.  Visit this page for more on Dr. Richards, including a list of committee memberships and an impressive publication list.

Famous Black Mathematicians – Trachette Jackson

The field of mathematical Biology is concerned with the application of mathematics to the solution of numerous problems in the biological sciences.  One of many areas impacted by this reserch is improving the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy.  A noted researcher in this field is Dr. Trachette Jackson.

She obtained her undergraduate degree in math from Arizona State Univ. in Tempe.  Her Ph.D. was in mathematical Biology.  Five short years after obtaining that degree, she had a Sloan Fellowship and ten published articles.

Read more about Trachette Jackson here.  You can read a 2007 interview here.

Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

One of my favorite movies from the 70’s, the original was an adaptation from a novel by Morton Freedgood.  It kind of started the ‘hostage movie’ genre and was also the first time in film that the criminals used colors to direct conversation among themselves (i.e. Mr. Green, Mr. Gray) in order to not use identifiable names.  This convention was popularized in Reservoir Dogs.

Anyway, I just returned from watching The International as part of my wife’s day full of Valentine’s activities (which was a pretty decent flick).  I noticed the movie is being remade a third time (the second was a 1998 television remake), with Mr. Blue now played by John Travolta.  Looks really interesting, although Hollywood does have a propensity to screw up remakes.  I’m hoping that with Denzel Washington and Travolta, this one will be topnotch.  We’ll see on June 12.

Famous Black Mathematicians – Clifford Johnson

If you have watched any of the shows on the History or Discovery Channel on the history of physics, you probably know that one of the latest trends in theoretical physics is string theory.  In RIA terms, we might call string theory a mashup of quantum theory and general relativity.  The mathematics involved in string theory are quite advanced and an important researcher in this field is Dr. Clifford Johnson.

Dr. Johnson was born in London and obtained his undergraduate degree from the Imperial College of London.  He obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from Southampton University and did his post-doc work at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.

He is currently on the faculty of USC in the dept. of Physics and Astronomy.  For more information on Dr. Johnson, check out this page which includes a list of publications.