Dudley Weldon Woodard

born: October 3, 1881 Galveston, Texas.
died: July 1, 1965

A.B. (1903) Wilberforce University; B.S. (1906) University of Chicago; M.S. (1907) University of Chicago

Ph.D. Mathematics (1928) University of Pennsylvania
thesis: On Two-Dimensional Analysis Situs with Special Reference to the Jordan Curve Theorem ; advisor John R. Kline

There is little or no information about Dudley Weldon Woodard's early childhood. That period was very difficult for Blacks who were seeking an education (see Plessy vs Ferguson). However, there are quotes attributed to Woodard himself that stated "I do not recall feeling disadvantaged while growing up." This can possibly be attributed to the fact that Woodard's father had a good job that was considered prestigious at the time; a job with the U.S. Postal Service.

Woodard, from all indications, was a brilliant individual and his intellectual curiosity was probably supported by his family. Upon completing his early education in Texas, Woodard attended Wilberforce College in Ohio, receiving a bachelor degree (A.B.) in mathematics in 1903. Woodard then attended the University of Chicago where he received a B.S. degree and an M.S. degree in mathematics in the years 1906 and 1907 respectively. After receiving his M..S., Woodard taught mathematics at Tuskegee Institute (now University) for seven (7) years [1907 - 1914] and on Wilberforce faculty for six (6) years [1914-1920] after which he joined the mathematics faculty at Howard University in 1920. At Howard, he was not only a professor of mathematics but was selected Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1920-1929). Woodard devoted his entire professional life to the promotion of excellence in mathematics through the advancement of his students, teaching and research.

In the early 1920s, Woodard began taking advanced mathematics courses during the summer sessions at Columbia University. It was during this period that he became recognized as one of the gifted mathematicians in the nation. In 1927, Woodard took scholarly leave from Howard and spent a year at Penn, working under the direction of John R. Kline. Woodard received the Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania on June 28, 1928, becoming the thirty-eighth (38th ) person to receive a Ph.D. degree from from the University of Pennsylvania; more significantly, Woodard became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics.(the first was Elbert Cox in 1925) Woodard, and his wife had a son who joined the faculty at Howard .

In the area of research, Dr. Woodard published three papers; his masters' thesis, "Loci connected with the Problem of Two Bodies" "On Two Dimensional Analysis Situs with Special Reference to the Jordan Curve Theorem" [Fundamenta Mathematicae, 13 (1929), 121-145], and "The Characterization of the Closed N-Cell" [Transactions of the American Mathethematics Society 42 (1937), No. 3, 396 - 415]. His second publication appears to be the first research paper published in an accredited mathematics journal by an African American.

Dr. Woodard established the M.S. degree program in mathematics in 1929, guaranteeing Howard's mathematical program as the pinacle for studying mathematics among the Historically Black Universities and Colleges. He was the thesis supervisor for many of Howard's M.S. degree students. He also established a mathematics library at Howard. He attracted Elbert Cox to join him in 1929 and he established and sponsored several other professorships and many scholarly seminars in mathematics. Dr. Woodard's students included W.W.S. Claytor, George Butcher, Marjorie Lee Browne, Eleanor Green Jones, Jesse P. Clay, and Orville Keane.

W.W.S. Claytor was the most promising student in the inaugural year of Prof. Woodard's new graduate program at Howard in 1929. Both Claytor and Butcher also went to the University of Pennsylvania and earned the Ph.D. degree in mathematics under Prof. J. R. Kline. Among his colleagues and students, Woodard excelled and was very popular as professor and as an administrator. Additionally, he was apparently highly respected by those who knew him in the mathematical sciences community. Deane Montgomery, former president of the American Mathematical Society and the International Mathematical Union described Woodard as, "an extremely nice man, well-balanced personally." Leo Zippin, who was an internationally known specialist in Woodard's field, said that he was "one of the noblest men I've ever known." Dr. Woodard was not only a brilliant mathematician, but a man of high intelligence and dignity; he enjoyed life in spite of his racial environment. He used the phrase, "black is beautiful" in the 1930s; he often ignored the "colored" signs and visited any men's room of his choice. He also ate at many "nice" restaurants and enjoyed the theaters of his choice in New York. He and his family once moved in what had been an all-white neighborhood because it was aesthetically nice and it was near Howard.

Woodard retired in 1947 and died July 1, 1965 in his home in Cleveland Ohio.

The first research paper published in an acredited mathematics journal by an african american is the first of two papers by Dudley Weldon Woodard, On two dimensional analysis situs with special reference to the Jordan Curve Theorem.

Woodard, D. W., Loci Connected with the Problem of Two Bodies.

Woodard, D. W., On two dimensional analysis situs with special reference to the Jordan Curve Theorem, Fundamenta Mathematicae 13 (1929), 121-145.

Woodard, D. W., The characterization of the closed N-cell, Transactions of the American Mathematics Society 42 (1937), no. 3, 396--415.

For other details on Woodard see the University of Pennsylvania's excellent Claytor and Woodard Website.

references: [Houston 2001], [Kenschaft 1987] [Newel et, al], [Taylor], [Donaldson], [Donaldson & Fleming]


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