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Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman in the U.S. to receive a PhD in mathematics. (The first was Euphemia Haynes who was awarded her PhD from Catholic University in 1943.)

Evelyn Boyd Granville was born on May 1, 1924 in Washington D.C. Her parents were William and Julia Boyd, and she had one older sister, Doris. Though she grew up in the midst of the Great Depression, Granville claims she “was not aware of [her] family ever being without the necessities of life.”[1] Granville excelled in the segregated school system of Washington D.C. Liking mathematics best of all, she dreamed of one day being a mathematics teacher. She was the salutatorian of her junior high school class and graduated as one of five valedictorians of Dunbar High School.

With financial support from her aunt and a small partial scholarship from Phi Delta Kappa, Granville entered Smith College in the fall of 1941. She majored in mathematics and physics, but also took a keen interest in astronomy. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and to Sigma Xi and graduated summa cum laude in 1945. Granville then began graduate studies at Yale University, where she was awarded several scholarships and fellowships, including the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship and the Atomic Energy Commission Predoctoral Fellowship. Her doctoral dissertation concentrated on functional analysis and was titled On Laguerre Series in the Complex Domain. Granville was awarded a Ph. D. in mathematics in 1949, making her one of the first African-American women to earn this degree.

Granville then began to look for a full-time teaching position. She applied for a position in New York City, but was apparently rejected because of her gender and/or race.[2] Instead, she accepted an associate professor position at Fisk University, a noted black college in Nashville, Tennessee. There she taught Vivienne Malone Mayes and Etta Zuber Falconer, who would go on to become the seventh and eleventh African-American women to earn Ph.D.’s in mathematics.

After two years of teaching, Granville went to work as an applied mathematician for the Diamond Ordnance Fuse Laboratories. She worked there for four years, consulting with scientists and engineers about the development of missile fuses. At DOFL, Granville met many other mathematicians, and developed an interest in applications of computer programming. From 1956 to 1960, she worked for IBM on the Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs, analyzing orbits and developing computer procedures. She later reflected that it was “the most interesting job of [her] lifetime.”

In 1960, Granville married the Reverend Gamaliel Mansfield Collins and moved to Los Angeles. In L.A., Granville accepted the position of Research Specialist with the Space and Information Systems Division of the North American Aviation Company, but returned to IBM the following year. Both positions involved trajectory analysis and orbit computation. In 1967, Granville’s marriage ended in divorce. At the same time, IBM was cutting staff in Los Angeles, so Granville applied for a teaching position at California State University in Los Angeles.

She moved to California State University at Los Angeles in 1967 as a full professor of mathematics and married Edward V. Granville in 1970. After retiring from California State in 1984 she joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Tyler as professor and chair of mathematics. There she developed elementary school math enrichment programs. One of three African American women honored by the National Academy of Science in 1999, she has been awarded honorary degrees by Smith College and Lincoln University.

External links

* "Evelyn Boyd Granville", Biographies of Women Mathematicians, Agnes Scott College, (My Life as a Mathematician, by Evelyn Boyd Granville)
* Evelyn Boyd Granville, second African American woman mathematician
* O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Evelyn Boyd Granville", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Granville.html .
* Evelyn Boyd Granville at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
* Evelyn Granville's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project


Mathematics Encyclopedia

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