Philip J. Davis

Professor Emeritus
Division of Applied Mathematics
Brown University

Contact Information

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.

  • Invited Lecturer, Oesterreichische Gesellschaft Fuer Geschichte Der Naturwissenschaften, May, 2002 and May, 2004.
  • Panelist: History of Linear Algebra Courses, winter AMS meeting, 2003.
  • Invited Lecturer, International Conference on War and Mathematics, Karlskrona, Sweden, August, 2002.
  • Interview: "Math Medley", Whom and Network, 2000.
  • Invited Lecturer: University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece. October, 1999.
  • Invited Lecturer: University of Missouri, Rolla. April, 1999.
  • Urania Lecturer, International Congress of Mathematicians, Berlin. August, 1998.
  • Lecturer: University of Missouri, St. Louis, Spencer and Spencer Systems, Spirals. May, 1998.
  • Spencer Lecturer: University of Missouri, St. Louis. May, 1988.
  • Scripps College, "Math and God". May, 1998.
  • First Alfred North Whitehead Lecturer, Imperial College, London. January 1988.
  • Lecturer: December, 1997 NIST. Gaithersburg, Md.
  • Invited Lecturer: Oberlin College, Spring, 1997.
  • Invited Lecturer: University of South Carolina, Spring, 1997.
  • Invited Lecturer: University of Tasmania, David Elliott Celebration, February 1997.
  • Invited Lecturer: Australian Mathematical Society Summer Meeting, February, 1997.
  • Invited Lecturer: Technische Universitaet Vienna, December, 1996.
  • Invited Lecturer: Academy of Science, Czech Republic, Prague, Fall, 1996.
  • Invited Lecturer: Cambridge (Eng.) University, Michael Powell Fest, July, 1996.
  • Invited Lecturer: Hudson Valley Community College, Troy, NY, Spring, 1996.
  • Invited Lecturer: Austrian Society for the History of Science, November, 1995.
  • Plenary Lecturer: International Commission for the Study and Improvement of Mathematics Teaching. Berlin Germany, July, 1995.
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