Photographic Mystery Update
By Kristy Sorensen
The following article, featured as part of the Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight, was published in the March 2006 issue of MAA FOCUS. The full issue is available here (pdf).
As you may remember, the December 2005 issue of MAA FOCUS featured two unidentified photographs from the Mathematical Association of America Records at the Archives of American Mathematics. Many of you were kind enough to write or call with information on these photos. While some questions remain, your responses have helped to flesh out the story behind these images.
These photographs appear to be from the production of the film "Mathematical Induction," shot in San Francisco and released in 1961. The film, part of the Committee on Educational Media's Mathematics Today series, was shown on public television in New York City and in high schools.
A contact sheet of photographs from the 1961 production of "Mathematical Induction," a film in the Mathematics Today series featuring Leon Henkin. (Click to enlarge.)
Source: The Mathematical Association of America Records at the Archives of American Mathematics.
The photo on the December 2005 cover of MAA FOCUSâ??also seen in the Archives Spotlight article hereâ??appears here as the second photo in the second row of the contact sheet. The man on the left, who was the featured mathematician in this film, is Leon Henkin.
A professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, Henkin lived in Oakland, California, with his wife, Ginette. Henkin also made the Mathematics Today film "Mr. Simplex Saves the Aspidistra" around 1962. Julian Henkin, Leon's son, notes that Henkin got involved in the film after meeting R.L. Wilder in the early 1950s at the University of Southern California.
Harold Kuhn, Henkin's brother-in-law, noted, "A major part of Leon's career has been spent in trying to increase the representation of minorities on the Berkeley campus. In his honor, the university has established a Leon Henkin Award for the faculty member who has shown outstanding activity in those areas. Aside from being a world-class symbolic logician, I know that Leon would like to be remembered for his efforts to increase the diversity of our universities."
The man on the right in the same photograph is Leon Cohen. Before moving to the University of Maryland in 1958, Cohen worked reviewing mathematics grant proposals for the National Science Foundation.
The identity of the man in the center of the cover photo is still uncertain, although it was suggested that he might be the film's director. Any information on his identity would be greatly appreciated.
A critical perspective on the film is provided by Professor Emerita Marcia Ascher (Ithaca College):
In the mid-60s, as a faculty member at Ithaca College, I was very enthusiastic when I read of the MAA film series. We rented the film "Mathematical Induction." My enthusiasm was based on the fact that the students would hear and see Dr. Henkin, renowned for his work in logic and foundations of mathematics. They would hear his perspective and presentation on mathematical induction, a topic that they encountered but which still seemed to puzzle them, and use of the film medium could do things we could not do in the classroom. We arranged for all of our College Algebra and Calculus I students to be at an auditorium showing of the film.
I was exceptionally disappointed. The reasons for my disappointment are captured in the photo on page nine, which seems to show the filming of the presentation. For most of the presentation, the speaker had his back to the audience and covered what he had just written on the board. No advantage was taken of the film medium, and the contents of the presentation were much the same as our usual presentation. And, notice in particular, an oversized eraser on the blackboard ledge. For some reason, perhaps due to the camera focus on it, each time the eraser was used, the audience broke into unrestrainable laughter.
Kristy Sorensen served as the archivist at the Archives of American Mathematics until November 2006.
The Archives of American Mathematics (AAM) is a unit of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Individuals interested in conducting research or donating materials or who have general questions about the AAM should contact Carol Mead, Archivist: email@example.com, (512) 495-4539.
Revised on July 12, 2010.