Mathematics & Computer Science

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Email William Dunham

Dr. William Dunham


Truman Koehler Professor of Mathematics

William Dunham

Education

B.S., University of Pittsburgh
M.S., Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Teaching Interests

At Muhlenberg, I have taught mathematics courses of all kinds, from the elementary to the advanced.

My favorites, I suppose, involve the history of mathematics. I offer a pair of half-credit courses on this topic: Landmarks of Greek Mathematics (MTH 251), featuring selections from Euclid, Archimedes, and their compatriots, and Landmarks of Modern Mathematics (MTH 252), featuring the equally impressive work of Newton, Euler, Gauss, et. al. These courses provide a glimpse of history's greatest mathematicians and the theorems that made them famous.

Scholarly Interests

Over the past two decades, I have written four books and edited one on the history of mathematics. The first two, Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics (Wiley, 1990) and The Mathematical Universe (Wiley, 1994), were alternate selections for Book-of-the-Month Club and one or both of them have subsequently been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. The latter received the Association of American Publishers Award as the Best Mathematics Book of 1994. My third book was Euler: The Master of Us All (Mathematical Association of America, 1999). This received the MAA's Beckenbach Prize in 2008. It was followed by The Calculus Gallery: Masterpieces from Newton to Lebesgue (Princeton University Press, 2005), which surveys landmarks from the calculus, stretching from the late 17th century up to the dawn of the 20th. Finally, my edited volume The Genius of Euler: Selections from His Life and Work (MAA, 2007) was published as part of the celebration of Euler's 300th birthday.

 

The Mathematical Universe
The Mathematical Universe
Euler: The Master of Us All

 

I have also written a number of articles on historical topics. One of these, "Euler and the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra," received the 1992 George Polya Award from the MAA; another, "1996: A Triple Anniversary," won the 1997 Trevor Evans Award from the MAA; and a third, "Touring the Calculus Gallery," received the 2006 Lester R. Ford Award from the MAA. And, just for fun, my publication lists contains two (lame) mathematical cartoons and three (lamer) mathematical poems.

 

Euler and the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra
Touring the Calculus Gallery

 

In the wake of these publications, I have been invited to speak on the history of mathematics at a number of U.S. colleges and universities, before the Australian Mathematical Society, at the Smithsonian Institution, on NPR's "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday," and at the Swiss Embassy in Washington in recognition of Euler's Swiss heritage.