Philip J. Davis was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA in 1923. He received both of his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Harvard in the field of pure mathematics. He was Chief, Numerical Analysis, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C., for five years. He joined the faculty of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, in 1963 and is now Professor Emeritus.
His extensive work in numerical analysis and approximation theory include many research papers and the technical books Interpolation and Approximation (1963), Numerical Integration (with Philip Rabinowitz, 1967), The Schwarz Function (1974), Circulant Matrices (1979), No Way: The Nature of the Impossible (with David Park, 1988).
He is currently working on a book entitled Mathematics and Common Sense.
Two books, The Mathematical Experience and Descartes' Dream, written jointely with Reuben Hersh of the University of New Mexico, explore certain questions in the philosophy of mathematics, and the role of mathematics in society. These ton books have been translated into practically all major European and Oriental languages.
The Mathematical Experience won an American Book Award for 1983.
His occasional writings in the philosophy of mathematics have been widely anthologized.
In a lighter vein, Davis has written a number of books of satire: The Thread: a Mathematcial Yarn (1983), Thomas Gray: Philosopher Cat, (1988). Thomas Gray in Copenhagen, a sequel to the first Thomas Gray book, appeared in 1995. These have appeared in numerous foreign language editions.
In 1996, a book entitled: Mathematical Encounters of the Second Kind, a blend of biography and autobiography appeared.
In 2000, a book entitled: The Education of a Mathematician, a blend of biography and educational philosophy appeared.
Davis is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He received a Guggenheim Award in 1956, the Award in Mathematics of the Washington Academy of Sciences in 1960, the Chauvent Prize of the Mathematical Association in 1963, the Lester R. Ford Award in 1982, the George Polya Award in 1987, and the Hedrick Award in 1990. In 1997, he won the Communications Award of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics.
In 1997, also, he was Doctoral Lecturer, Roskilde University, Denmark; during which he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.
Davis has been a free-lance columnist for the SIAM NEWS (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) for the past fifteen years.
He has delivered many "name" lectures. In 1991, he delivered the Hendrick Lectures of the Mathematical Association of America. These lectures have been elaborated in a book entitled Spirals: From Theodorus to Chaos.
In Spring, 1992, he presented a series of eight lectures on the topic "Mathematics, Society, and Education" at the Roskilde, Denmark, University Center and at the Technische Universitaet, Berlin, Germany.