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History of Mathematics at WVU

The Department of Mathematics is committed to excellence in undergraduate and graduate training as well as in research and scholarships in pure and applied mathematics and in service to West Virginia. 

Instruction is provided by 43 faculty members, six Post-Docs, and 30 supported graduate students. Department faculty members have won College and University awards for teaching, research and service.

Our faculty conduct active research in a broad range of areas, including combinatorics, topology, algebra, mathematical biology, differential equations, numerical analysis, collegiate mathematics education, and scientific computing. The Department of Mathematics offers a Bachelor of Science with six areas of emphases and Bachelor of Arts in mathematics. At the graduate level, students can pursue a Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy in mathematics.

Existence and Influence

The Department of Mathematics has existed as a unit of WVU's College of Arts and Sciences since the late 1800s. The biggest influence in the early history of the department was Professor John Arndt Eiesland, for whom Eiesland Hall is named. He was chair from 1907 until he retired in 1938, and advised two PhD students, Joseph Stewart and Reginald Downing, who made contributions to the department into the 1960s and 1970s. The faculty member with the longest service has been Professor Henry Gould, who joined the WVU faculty as an instructor in 1958, rose to the rank of professor in 1969 and retired as professor emeritus in 2007 after 49 years. He continues his research, writing and working with faculty and students at WVU.

Military Involvement and Contribution

WVU is a land-grant institution. From 1867 until 1891, the federal government (War Department) assigned military officers on a rotating basis to such institutions to teach military science and tactics and be head of the cadet corps. Because of the lack of funds, WVU imposed on these officers to also teach undergraduate mathematics, such as calculus. Lt. Ingalls (1877-1878) was such a popular and effective teacher that the University tried to keep him here on a regular basis. West Virginia's Senator Waitman T. Willey (for whom Willey Street is named) wrote to U.S. President Rutherford Hayes, begging him to help. But President Hayes replied that he had no way to countermand the War Department. Ingalls left WVU and went to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he founded the U. S. Army Ballistics School. He wrote major papers and books in this area and was a major supporter of James Sylvester's American Journal of Mathematics at its inception in 1878.

Making a Mark

By 1906, it was decided that a major effort had to be launched to secure a distinguished mathematician to come to WVU to lead the Department of Mathematics. Some 40 candidates applied, and John Eiesland, a Norwegian with a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, was chosen. In his 31-year tenure, the first two PhD degrees in mathematics were granted at WVU in 1934. WVU did not offer doctoral work until 1930. Eiesland retired in 1938, and the PhD program folded due to lack of research and interest in classical geometry. Topology was gaining ascendancy among research workers. The Department continued its graduate program at the Masters level, providing opportunities for advanced training primarily to WVU and regional students. 

Becoming an R1 Department 

The 1980’s and 1990’s saw the University, and the Mathematics Department, grow in size and in its emphasis on research. The Carnegie “R1” designation denotes doctoral universities of very high research activity.  Our current doctoral program was initiated during the three year tenure of Al Baartmans, 1985-88, with our first new PhD degree being awarded in 1993 to Gary Seldomridge. Complementing existing faculty in pure and applied mathematics, new faculty were hired in areas of discrete mathematics (graph theory and combinatorics), giving the Department a research group in this area prominent among its peers. The arrival in 1999 of Sherm Riemenschneider as Chair ushered in a series of new faculty hires. Besides discrete mathematics, areas of applied analysis, differential equations, and applied mathematics were also strengthened. More recently the Department has opened up new research areas by hiring several faculty in commutative algebra and topology. Currently, more than 100 doctorates have now been awarded in these and other fields of research that have been added, and we now draw our student body from all over the world.

The Challenges of Growth 

Beginning in the late 1990’s the University undertook comprehensive efforts in recruiting and growth, with enrollment increasing about 40% from 1995 to 2010. Along with this came an increased Department’s role in teaching service courses from calculus and below. The Institute for Mathematics Learning (IML), was founded in 2000 as a unit within Mathematics to help meet these challenges, with a group of dedicated faculty hired to reorganize the curriculum and learning environment using evidence-based practices, and to conduct related research. Beginning with the appointment of Eddie Fuller as Chair in 2008, many of the Department’s teaching faculty were hired, many holding degrees from WVU, and they now work within the IML as a freestanding unit of the school. 

A New Structure for a New Era 

With the evolution and growth of the Mathematics Department’s mission and new opportunities growing at the intersections of the mathematical sciences and data, the College, under the leadership of Dean Gregory Dunaway, reorganized its efforts in these areas to create the School of Mathematical and Data Sciences, composed of independent units in Mathematics, Statistics, Data Science, and the IML, each led by its own Associate Director. A new bachelor's degree program was established in Data Science, and Statistics hopes to restart its own graduate program. Under the new structure, the Mathematics Department has refocused its efforts on its own undergraduate and graduate programs, recruiting new students, establishing a suite of emphasis areas in its undergraduate program, and planning to reorganize its graduate program around a streamlined Ph.D. degree. At the same time, opportunities for broad collaboration among faculty and students across the School, in courses, programs, and research, have never been greater. This is an exciting time to be a student in Mathematics at WVU! We welcome your comments and inquiries. 

Department Leadership


Adrian Tudorascu

Professor, Associate Director of Mathematics


Tudorascu Adrian Professor, Associate Director of Mathematics Mathematics

List of Past Chairs

  • 1867-1869 Col. J. R. Weaver, AM
  • 1869-1875 Bvt. Capt. H. H. Pierce, AM
  • 1875-1877 Lt. E. T. C. Richmond
  • 1877-1878 Lt. James M. Ingalls
  • 1878-1879 Maj. Thomas F. Snyder
  • 1879-1884 Daniel Boardman Purinton, AM
  • 1884-1888 Lt. James L. Wilson
  • 1888-1891 Lt. Edward S. Avis, PhD
  • 1891-1893 James Scott Stewart, MS
  • 1893-1894 Robert Allen Armstrong, AM
  • 1894-1907 James Scott Stewart, MS
  • 1907-1938 John Arndt Eiesland, PhD
  • 1938-1946 Clarence Newton Reynolds, Jr., PhD
  • 1946-1960 Hannibal Albert Davis. PhD
  • 1960-1965 Joseph Kyle Stewart, PhD
  • 1965-1967 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1967-1972 James Clifton Eaves, PhD
  • 1972-1973 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1973-1979 Iland Dee Peters, MS
  • 1979-1980 James E. Dowdy, PhD
  • 1980-1982 Vadim Komkov. PhD
  • 1982-1984 James E. Miller, PhD
  • 1984-1985 John W. Schleusner, PhD
  • 1985-88 Alphonse H. Baartmans, PhD
  • 1988-1990 James H. Lightbourne, PhD
  • 1990-1991 James H. Lightbourne, PhD
  • 1991-1992 Michael E. Mays, PhD
  • 1992-1996 Harvey Diamond, PhD
  • 1996-1999 Lawrence N. Mann, PhD
  • 1999-2008 Sherman D. Riemenschneider, PhD
  • 2008-2016 Edgar J. Fuller, Jr., PhD
  • 2016-2017 Hong-Jian Lai, PhD
  • 2017-2018 Edgar J. Fuller, Jr., PhD
  • 2018-2021 Marjorie Darrah, PhD
  • 2021-2023 Earl Scime, PhD
  • 2023-Present Jessica Deshler, PhD

Thanks, in part, to Emeritus Professor Henry Gould for providing this historical narrative of the Department of Mathematics.