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Donald Lester Kreider, 1993-1994 MAA President

Born: December 5, 1931, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Died: December 7, 2006, Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

Donald Lester Kreider was a professor of mathematics and computer science at Dartmouth College. He was active in calculus education reform and in the MAA.

Presidency: 1993-1994

Marcia Sward was executive director of the MAA when Kreider was president. She said,

We worked closely together for the two years of his term on issues of particular concern to us both—strengthening the relationships between the MAA and its sibling organizations, and establishing a more welcoming environment for women, particularly in the American Mathematics Competitions. Don led the MAA during those years with statesmanship and diplomacy, approaching issues with unfailing vision and patience.

The 100th birthday of the American Mathematical Monthly was celebrated at the annual meeting in San Antonio in January 1993 with talks by former editors and a banquet. In February 1993, the MAA published its "Guidelines for Programs and Departments in Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences." The MAA student magazine Math Horizons was started in 1993.

In May 1993, Kreider testified before a Senate panel on behalf of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. He advocated support for the National Science Foundation and especially its mathematical sciences and undergraduate education divisions. He spoke about the interplay between mathematical teaching and research at the hearing.

Andrew Wiles announced in June 1993 that he had proved Fermat's Last Theorem, which states that xn + yn = zn has no nonzero integer solutions if n > 2. Pierre de Fermat had written it in the margin of a book without proof, and it remained unproven for more than 350 years.

The world was abuzz with the news, and the MAA was no exception. The cover of the August 1993 issue of MAA FOCUS proclaimed, "Fermat's Last Theorem Proved!!!" In the December 1993 issue, MAA FOCUS editor Keith Devlin wrote,

In how many other areas of human activity can you find such a dramatic instance of a struggle toward a common goal that unites people across time and across continents? ... In what other walk of life can one be so sure of the absolute truth of a particular statement as happens with a mathematical proof?

At the January 1994 meeting, Kenneth Ribet, whose earlier work in relating Fermat's Last Theorem to the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture had made Wiles' approach possible, gave one of the four AMS-MAA invited addresses, on the claimed solution.

A flaw in the proof was uncovered, and Devlin wondered in the April 1994 issue whether mathematics would face an "image problem." The flaw was patched, and the theorem was proven, by the end of 1994.

Education and Career

Kreider graduated from Lebanon Valley College in 1953. As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Kreider earned the Goodwin Medal for "conspicuously effective" teaching in 1958. He completed his Ph.D., in mathematical logic, in 1959.

After a postdoctoral year at MIT, he joined Dartmouth College in 1960, where he remained for the rest of his academic career. At Dartmouth, Kreider taught mathematics and computer science courses and twice served as chair of the mathematics department. He also served as vice president and dean of student affairs.

In 1989, he received one of the first grants in the National Science Foundation's Calculus Initiative. He was a founding member of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board and chaired the College Board's Calculus Development Committee. Kreider retired from teaching in 1997 but continued working. He was collaborating on Principles of Calculus Modeling: An Interactive Approach at the time of his death.

Kreider was active in the MAA on the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics, as treasurer (1989-91), and on the board of governors (1995-99).

External Resources

MAA FOCUS obituary (pdf)

MAA obituary

Dartmouth College news obituary

Dartmouth student newspaper obituary

Oral history interview with Donald L. Kreider, 2002 April 10 - 2003 Feb. 25

The Mathematics Genealogy Project

"President's Message," MAA FOCUS, Volume 14, Number 4, pages 22-23

"President's Message," MAA FOCUS, Volume 13, Number 4, pages 14-15

"'Mathematicians Have Rediscovered Students'—An Interview with Donald L. Kreider," MAA FOCUS, Volume 13, Number 3, pages 5-9