Episodes in the American History of Applied Mathematics
Tim Reluga, Penn State University
Applied mathematics is the broad field subsuming all uses of mathematical language to answer practical questions in engineering, science, economics, and many other fields. Though largely invisible, applied mathematics is ubiquitous today, touching on almost every aspect of modern life thanks to the computing revolution. But this has not always been the case -- the modern ubiquity of applied mathematics largely grew out of the challenges the United States and other countries faced during World War II. On the other hand, the standard undergraduate curriculum largely credits the creation of applied mathematics to the European Age of Enlightenment, from Huygens to Fourier. The gap between the start of the Age of Enlightenment and the WWII is more than 200 years -- what happened to applied mathematics in the United States during that time? In this talk, I'll present some often over-looked stories on the application of mathematics throughout the history of the United States, spanning from colonial times to the space race. Charles Mason, William Chauvenet, and Theodore von Karman will be featured, among others.