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By Peter L. Duren, Richard Askey, Uta C. Merzbach

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It may seem more surprising that the reports of the visiting committee of 1912 and 1913 took no note of this unique addition to Harvard's faculty, until one remembers that their main concern was with the mathematical education of typical undergraduates! 1912 as a milestone. By coincidence, 1912 also bisects the time interval from 1836 to 1988, and so is a half-way mark in this narrative. It can also be viewed as a milestone marking the transition from primary emphasis on mathematical education at Harvard to primary emphasis on research.

Vandiver [Van, p. 272] "he rediscovered the lunes of Hippocrates when he was ten years old". In this connection, I still recall him showing my sister and me how to draw them with a compass (see Fig. 1) when I was about nine, joining the tips of these lunes with a regular hexagon, and mentioning that with ingenuity, one could construct regular pentagons by analogous methods. By age 15, he had solved the problem (proposed in the Amer. Math. Monthly) of proving that any triangle with two equal angle bisectors is isosceles.

I believe that he wanted Harvard to train public-spirited leaders with clear vision, who could think hard, straight, and deep. During eleven academic years, 1927-38, I slept in a dormitory, ate most meals with students in dining halls (from 1936 to 1938 as a tutor), usually participated in athletics during the afternoon, and studied in the evening. From 1929 on, my primary aim was to achieve excellence as a mathematician, and I think the Harvard educational environment of those years was ideal for that purpose also.

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