Ruben R. McDaniel

Please note: Some of the material below is contrary to that which has been provided by the early articles ([Newell et al], [Houston]) as well as provided by Dr. McDaniel's son (Ruben R. McDaniel, jr.). For our original web page, please go here.


adapted from the paper:

A Glimpse at the Life of Reuben Roosevelt McDaniel

by Carla El (Virginia State University student under Professor Christopher E. Barat)

Born: July 27, 1902; Died: July 4, 1974

place: Fairfax County, Virginia

BS Mathematics (1928) Rutgers University; MS Mathematics (1931) Cornell Univerity

Ph.D. Mathematics (1938) Cornell University
thesis: Approximation to Algebraic Numbers by Means of Periodic Sequences of Transformations on Quadratic Forms; Advisor:

Last place of employment: Virginiaa State College (now University)

Reuben Roosevelt McDaniel was the son of Birl McDaniel and Annie Turner McDaniel. The first five grades of his elementary education were completed at Hughesville grade school in Fairfax County, Virginia. [During that time in Virgina, African Americans were only required school to the fifth grade] The school was set up by a member of the community that had studied abroad and returned to teach. After McDaniel left the Hughesville grade school, and at the age of twelve worked his father's 75 acre farm.

Reuben read an article and uggested to his father that rotating crops would produce a better harvest. His fahter took offense to his son providing advice on farming and a feud began which reslted in Reuben leaving [Phillips].

Around 1917 or 1918, Reuben went to live with his sister in Washington where a placement test put him in the 9th grade. He complete that it in night school at Garnet elementary school. During the day he delivered mail.

One of Reuben's mail stops was the US. Navy Department where Reuben made friends with a white man named Franklin Delano Roosevelt (later President of the United States), who suggested Reuben attend high school. But high school was only for the day time,.so Roosevelt found a night job for Reuben and registered Reuben into Dunbar High School. [Phillips]

McDaniel's high school work was spectacular and resulted in a scholarship to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1928, McDaniel became a member of the famous ohnor society Phi Beta Kappa. In June 1928 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science, and went to work at Virginia State College (now University) as an Instructor.

However, McDaniel was still hungry for more mathematics and he soon entered the graduate program at Cornell Univeristy. Cornell was an obvious choice as in 1925 it had been the first American unversity to award the Ph.D. to Black man [Elbert Frank Cox]. In 1931 he completed his Masters degree in Mathematics. His 27 page thesis, On Certain Definitions of the Defnite Integral, focused on Riemann's interest in finding under a curve. The Riemann integral is a subject now taught in high schools and in freshman Calculus.

Reuben McDaniel now returned to Virginia State College where is rank became Associate Professor of Mathematics. In 1934 he married Nannie Deliliah another Assistant Prodessor at Virginia State. The had a daughter [_ Phillips first name? where?] and a son [Reuben R. McDaniel Jr has been at the University of Texas since 1972 and is now the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Regents Chair in Health Care Management in the Department of Management Science and Information Systems].

But he was hungry for mathematics and in 1936 he returned to Cornell for doctoral studies. His studies were partially financed by fellowships:a John D. Rockefeller Fellowship (for African Americans) 1936-37 and the Cornell University Erastus Brooks Mathematics Fellowship (1937-38). In 1938 he obtained his PhD. in Mathematics from Cornell. His thesis was : Approximation to Algebraic Numbers by Means of Periodic Sequences of Transformations on Quadratic Forms [advisor ?]

Dr. McDaniel now returned to Virginia State College where he nourished mathematics affecting its majors as well as students in Military Sceince and Psychology. Soon he was chair and Professor of Mathematics much later he took a broader role as Director of the School of Arts and Sciences

Reuben McDaniel died on July 1, 1974. He lived a meaningful life in a time when even acolege education was near impossiblility for persons of color in this country. He earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics against all odds.


References include those from the paper:

  1. Virginia State College Retirement Program Pamphlet 1967;
  2. Virginia State Newsletter December 1967 article by Samuel Madden;
  3. Dr. McDaniel's daughter Mrs Phillips;
  4. Dr. McDaniel's son Dr. Ruben R. McDaniel, jr. <>
  5. Funeral Eulogy pamphlet January 1975;
  6. A Modern History of Blacks in Mathematics;
  7. Elbert Cox, first African American Ph.D. in Mathematics;
  8. The Early History of the Cornell Math Department by G. Cochell;




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