Earle Raymond Hedrick

Born: 27 September 1876 in Union City, Randolph, Indiana, USA
Died: 3 February 1943 in Los Angeles, California, USA

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Earle Raymond Hedrick's parents were Simon Peter Hedrick (1835-1923) and Amy Isabella Vail (1838-1923). Simon Hedrick was born in Violet, Fairfield county, Ohio and came from a Dutch family who had emigrated to Pennsylvania around 1670. The name seems to have originally been Hetrig but was later changed to Hedrick. After attending Liber College and Lebanon Normal School, Lebanon, Ohio, Simon became a school teacher and taught in Mercer and Darke Counties, Ohio, and in Randolph county, Indiana. Several of these years were spent teaching in schools in Union City, Ohio, and Indiana. He gave up teaching for health reasons and became a carpenter, then a lumber dealer before becoming a grain dealer. He married Amy Isabella Vail, the daughter of William Vail and Lydia Vorhees, on 3 May 1860 in Portland, Indiana. Simon and Amy Hedrick had four children: Aurie Hedrick (1864-1938), Blanche Estella Hedrick (1868-1941), Simon Clyde Hedrick (born 1874) and Earle Raymond Hedrick, the subject of this biography. Let us record here that Aurie Hedrick graduated from Union City High School in 1880, studied at the University of Michigan and continued her studies of mathematics at Leipzig. She also studied music at Frankfurt an Main. She married professor Ernst Voss and taught mathematics in high schools in Union City, Indiana, Oak Park, Illinois, Saginaw, Michigan, and Madison for 42 years.

The Hedrick family moved to Ann Arbor and Earle attended High School there from 1891 to 1892 preparing to enter the University of Michigan. He studied at the University from 1892 to 1896, graduating with an A.B. He then spent a year as a teacher of mathematics at the High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, before beginning graduate studies at Harvard University in 1897. W B Ford writes that at Harvard [8]:-

... his talents were soon recognized by both faculty and students. It was my fortune to have been one of these fellow students at the time and I can testify that Hedrick's keen mind was quite the envy of the aspiring young group of that period. While most of us followed the customary practice of taking notes during a lecture and felt obliged to work over them ponderously later, Hedrick seemed to grasp all instantly. He would ply the lecturer from time to time with inquiries indicating fine discriminations of thought such as arise from possible exceptional cases or bearings in related fields. To me at least his performance was little less then phenomenal.

At Harvard his studies were directed by Maxime Bôcher and William Osgood among others and he was awarded his Master's degree in 1898. While at Harvard he wrote his first paper On three dimensional determinants (1899/1900) which was published in the Annals of Mathematics. In this paper Hedrick write:-

A considerable portion of the material for this paper was prepared in collaboration with Mr W D Cairns, now of Oberlin College, 0hio; but he should not be held responsible for any statements made in it.

The W D Cairns who Hedrick mentions in this quote is William DeWeese Cairns (1871-1955). Cairns was a graduate student at Harvard from 1896 to 1898 so overlapped with Hedrick for two years. He later worked closely with Hedrick on projects that we will mention below.

Osgood had studied at Göttingen undertaking research for two years there advised by Felix Klein. He had received a Parker fellowship from Harvard to study abroad and it is likely that he advised Hedrick to follow the same course. Hedrick was awarded the Parker fellowship and he spent the sessions 1899-00 and 1900-01 at the University of Göttingen in Germany. There he profited greatly by attending lectures by David Hilbert, Felix Klein and other exceptional mathematicians. He was awarded a doctorate by Göttingen in February 1901 for a dissertation, supervised by Hilbert, Über den analytischen Charakter der Lösungen von Differentialgleichungen (On the analytic character of solutions of differential equations). Harvard awarded Hedrick a scholarship for a third year to study at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and there he spent part of 1901 in contact with Edouard Goursat, Émile Picard, Jacques Hadamard, Paul Appell and Jules Tannery. This strengthen his interests in differential equations, the calculus of variations, and functions of a real variable which he would work on for the rest of his life. It also led to Hedrick translating Goursat's Cours d'Analyse into English which provided an important text for American students. His time in Göttingen also led to his next two mathematical papers. He published On the Sufficient Conditions in the Calculus of Variations (1902) in which he writes:-

The sufficient conditions in the calculus of variations have recently received a great deal of attention; and it would seem fitting that attempts be made to simplify their discussion whenever possible, and to render the agreement more exact between the known necessary and the known sufficient conditions. Such is the purpose of this paper, which also seeks to present the sufficient conditions in compact form. The work will to a large extent follow lectures delivered at Göttingen by Professor Hilbert, 1899-1901.

The second of these two papers is the two-part paper On the characteristics of differential equations both parts of which appeared in the Annals of Mathematics in 1903. He writes:-

The importance of the theory of characteristics in the study of differential equations is well known to all who are interested in that subject. The ordinary developments are, however, somewhat lacking in rigour. It is the purpose of this paper to present, in somewhat altered form, a new method for the introduction and treatment of characteristics, devised by Hilbert and given by him in lectures at Göttingen 1900-1901.

After returning to the United States, Hedrick married Helen Breedon Seidenstricker on 21 October 1901. They had nine children of their own and one adopted girl. The children are: Edith Vail Hedrick (born 1903), Helen B Hedrick (born 1904), Dorothy Jane Hedrick (born 1906), Earl Raymond Hedrick (born 1907), Amy Isabella Hedrick (born 1909), Rachel Esther Hedrick (born 1910), Clyde Lewis Hedrick (born 1911), Frank J Hedrick (born 1913), Margaret Hedrick (born 1913, died aged 2 months), and Elizabeth B Hedrick (born 1915). [We note that the years of birth are only approximate and are worked out from their given age at the time of a Census. Also note that Dorothy, Amy, Clyde and Frank went on to attend the University of California at Los Angeles.] Hedrick was appointed an instructor in mathematics in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University, a post he held from 1901 to 1903. In 1903 he was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Missouri and remained there until 1920. During World War I he served as director of mathematics to the army Educational Corps in the American Expeditionary Force. In 1920 he was appointed professor of mathematics, and head of department, at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1937 he became the Vice-president and Provost of the University of California. The Academic Senate Committee consisting of William M Whyburn, Bennet M Allen and Waldemar Westergaard write [20]:-

As a member of the University of California faculty, Dr Hedrick exhibited qualities of leadership which resulted in his participation in almost every major activity or development that occurred during his period of service. This was especially true on the Los Angeles campus where he had a vital, consuming interest and where he visualized unlimited possibilities for growth. From the outset he urged that faculty and students strive constantly toward the development of a major university atmosphere, and he insisted that the high standards of a great university be maintained - both by the students in their classroom work and by the faculty in their research and teaching. Although he subscribed fully to the principle that the true growth of the University would be insured only if carefully chosen scholars were added to the faculty when and where needed to stimulate continued growth on the part of the staff, he recognized the fact that the real reputation and standing of the University would be determined by the combined scholarly activities of an inspired faculty constantly striving toward a single goal of high intellectual achievement. Through his research, editorial work, and regular attendance at scientific meetings, he did much to focus attention on the Los Angeles campus as a growing centre of research. As a high administrative officer, he directed his full energies to actions which would enhance the reputation of the University in all of its fields of activity. By performing his manifold duties on the Los Angeles campus with wisdom and foresight, Dr Hedrick exercised a great influence throughout the University, and this influence extended to other universities of the country through his expert analysis of complex administrative matters. Wherever he went, his counsel was diligently sought on problems spread over a wide range. He quickly focused his keen mind on any problem and invariably contributed much toward a complete solution.

In addition to his research in pure mathematics, Hedrick was also interested in applications of mathematics and he wrote papers on a generalised form of Hooke's law and the transmission of heat in boilers. He became an active member of the Society for the Promotion of Electrical Engineering, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Hedrick's editorial work, however, was extraordinary. He was editor of the American Mathematical Monthly from 1913 to 1915, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society from 1921 to 1937, he was editor of 34 volumes in the Engineering Science Series and 35 volumes in the Series of Mathematical Texts. In addition to his editorial work for the American Mathematical Society he was vice-president in 1916 and president in 1929-30. He was also president of the Mathematical Association of America in 1916. This came about is a slightly strange way. While he was editor of the American Mathematical Monthly, there was a suggestion that the American Mathematical Society should extend its interests to college mathematics and take over running the Monthly. Others suggested the creation of a new organisation to cover this area and to run the Monthly. Hedrick favoured the American Mathematical Society option and wrote on 28 April 1914:-

I am firmly opposed to the creation of an organization other than the Society which should undertake to support the 'Monthly' and ask the support as members of these people. Indeed, unless absolutely forced, I would refuse to join in the formation of such an organization other than the Society.

However in 1915 the American Mathematical Society decided that it did not want to run the Monthly and pushed for the creation of a new organisation. Despite saying that he would refuse to join such an organisation, nevertheless Hedrick, as editor of the Monthly, presided over the founding meeting of the Mathematical Association of America on 30-31 December 1915 at Columbus. At this meeting Hedrick was elected as the first president of the Mathematical Association of America. He wrote [15]:-

No man can speak with authority concerning the future of this new Association which was created by those who met at Columbus last December. Its future lies with those who constitute its membership. ... The great fact which we cannot overlook is that we now have a large and representative body of men and women interested in mathematics joined together in this association to foster whatever they believe to be worthy and beneficial.

The Association did indeed flourish and 27 years later Hedrick wrote [10]:-

Twenty-seven years have now passed since the Mathematical Association of America was founded. During this time its membership has increased to considerably more than twice the eleven hundred charter members; meetings are held in twenty-two different sections throughout the country; and an ambitious program of periodical and book publication, and of sponsorship of other periodicals and of prize competitions, has come to fruition.

For further quotes by Hedrick on mathematics, the American Mathematical Monthly and the Mathematical Association of America, see THIS LINK.

We noted above that W D Cairns and Hedrick were friends from their time as graduate students at Harvard. Cairns served on the editorial board of the American Mathematical Monthly, beginning in 1913, and was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Mathematical Association of America at its founding meeting. Cairns and Hedrick were therefore close colleagues over many years.

Hedrick had only one Ph.D. student, Eula Adeline Weeks. She graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 1915. Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke write in [9]:-

Eula Weeks (King), who earned her Ph.D. in 1915, was vice president of the National Council of teachers of Mathematics 1922-23 and was a member of the board of directors 1923-26 while teaching in a high school in St Louis. She also served on the National Committee on Mathematical Requirements. This committee, chaired by Dartmouth's J W Young, "included mathematicians E H Moore, Oswald Veblen, and David E Smith in addition to several prominent teachers and administrators from the secondary school system." The 1923 report of the committee was published by the Mathematical Association of America.

Archibald relates that his main hobby is carrying out [2]:-

... long-continued experiments in crossing varieties of flowers to produce new types.

He was described in [5] as:-

A tall, courtly man with a delightful sense of humour, Dr Hedrick jokingly referred to his appointment as Vice President and Provost as "The Accident," telling friends that "I no longer have any intellectual interests - I just sit and talk to people."

Hedrick is buried in Glendale City, Los Angeles county, California in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park which is a cemetery famous for its elaborate statues and reproductions of famous shrines and works of art. W B Ford writes [8]:-

Those who knew Hedrick best will miss most his genial companionship and sincere spirit of friendship.

Virgil Snyder writes [17]:-

In all his numerous and exacting duties, each performed with great patience and consummate skill, the main characteristic of this man was his consideration of human attributes. He was always interested, he was always sympathetic and he was always helpful.

Among the honours given to Hedrick after his death we mention Hedrick Hall at the University of California at Los Angeles [5]:-

The fourth of the residence halls on the west side of the campus was named Hedrick Hall in 1963 (completed in 1964) in honour of Earle Raymond Hedrick, Vice President and Provost of UCLA from 1937 until his retirement in 1942. Prior to his elevation he had been a member of the mathematics department for 13 years.

Also, the Earle Raymond Hedrick lectures were established by the Mathematical Association of America in his honour. The first Earle Raymond Hedrick lecturers were Tibor Radó in 1952 and Paul Halmos in 1953.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

List of References (20 books/articles)

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

  1. Extracts from Earle Raymond Hedrick's papers

Honours awarded to Earle Raymond Hedrick
(Click below for those honoured in this way)
American Maths Society President1929 - 1930

Other Web sites
  1. AMS
  2. Mathematical Genealogy Project

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