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MAA Invited Paper Session: Generations of Monthly Gems Abstracts

Wednesday, August 5, 1:00 PM - 3:50 PM, Marriott Wardman Park, Salon 1

The session is designed to help celebrate the MAA's Centennial. With thousands of papers to draw on, 6 speakers will give 25-minute talks on papers chosen from throughout the Monthly's history. Speakers will highlight the significance of these papers and remark on their impact on mathematics and science in general.

Scott Chapman, Sam Houston State University
Dan Velleman, Amherst College
Bruce Palka, National Science Foundation
Roger Horn, University of Utah
John Ewing, Math for America

1894 - 1919

1:00 PM - 1:20 PM
Karen Parshall, University of Virginia

In 1894, Benjamin Finkel, former secondary school mathematics teacher and then Professor of Mathematics at Drury College in Kidder, Missouri, began the publication of The American Mathematical Monthly to fill what he saw as the need to stimulate and encourage mathematics teachers in both the high schools and the normal schools. His thinking went that the teachers, and by association their students, would benefit from the challenges presented by a problems-and-solutions department as well as by articles of both a mathematical and an historical nature dealing with the subject matter presented in their classrooms. This defined the Monthly’s mission until 1913, when Herbert Slaught of the University of Chicago, George A. Miller of the University of Illinois, and Earle R. Hedrick then of the University of Missouri, officially took over the journal’s editorship. They saw the Monthly more explicitly as a vehicle for the professionalization and more formally the legitimization of the teaching of collegiate mathematics. This was also the goal of the Mathematical Association of America, formed two years later in 1915 with the Monthly as its official publication. This talk will examine the first twenty-five years of publication—1894-1919—of the Monthly in the context of the evolving American mathematical community.

1920 - 1939

1:30 PM - 1:50 PM
John Stillwell, University of San Francisco

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of ferment in the disciplines close to mathematics, with the development of relativity and quantum theory in physics and the discovery of Gödel's theorem in logic and Turing's definition of computation. These developments were reflected in the Monthly, sometimes in unexpected ways. The Monthly also reported some interesting developments in pure mathematics, such as the publication of Ramanujan's collected works, in articles that were to have a lasting impact.

1940 - 1959

2:00 PM - 2:20 PM
Ron Graham, University of California at San Diego

In some ways, the period 1940-1959 was one of the golden eras in the history of the Monthly. We will examine several papers from this period and examine their impact on mathematics today.

1960 - 1979

2:30 PM - 2:50 PM
Bob Devaney, Boston University

In this talk I will give a brief overview of the history of "chaos" in the area of mathematics known as dynamical systems. Chaos had been observed by many mathematicians, including Poincare in the late 19th century, Julia and Fatou in the 1920's, and Smale and Lorenz in the 1960's, though none of these mathematicians called the crazy things they were seeing "chaos." This changed dramatically when the pioneering article by Li and Yorke called Period Three Implies Chaos appeared in the Monthly in 1975. This very short article has had a major impact on the field of dynamical systems. First, it introduced the term "chaos," which had never been used before in science, and, suddenly, mathematicians (and other scientists) realized that this phenomenon was commonplace. Consequently, the area now known as "chaos theory" exploded. Second, it showed that even the iteration of a quadratic function on the real line could be chaotic. And, finally, it proved a remarkable result that, if a continuous real function had a periodic point of period three, it necessarily had periodic points of all periods as well as a chaotic regime.

1980 - 1999

3:00 PM - 3:20 PM
Paul Zorn, St. Olaf College

I will speak about mathematical ideas explored in papers published in the Monthly during the years 1980-1999. This is a rich period in the history of the Monthly and several classic papers will be mentioned and discussed.

2000 - 2015

3:30 PM - 3:50 PM
Rebecca Goldin, George Mason University

I will speak about mathematical ideas explored in papers published during the years 2000-2015. While these papers haven’t acquired the dusty grandeur of “historical” yet, many of them speak to themes throughout the century. We will touch the joy and complexity of mathematics posed in simple questions, viewed through the lens of Monthly publications in this time period.