You are here:


The Department of Mathematics at the University of Utah is committed to excellence in research and teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Its mission is:

  • To provide each student at the University of Utah with a rigorous and effective mathematical education, be he or she the general student, the professional for whom mathematics is a tool, the future engineer or scientist, or the future mathematician.
  • To contribute significantly to the creation and development of mathematical ideas and techniques, both within the discipline and for users of mathematics in other disciplines or in industry.
  • To increase the public understanding of mathematics and of the central role it plays in science and technology.


*The following list contains the names of men who functioned as "head" of the Mathematics Department from the University's inception. In the early years, only one man taught math and there was no actual "department", but that rapidly changed as the University grew.





 The University was established and named the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, and Orson Spencer was appointed as the first chancellor of the University. Orson Pratt and others were appointed to teach mathematics, but only taught for a couple of winters before  (for variety of reasons) the University's doors were closed in 1853.




The University was re-established in 1867 under direction of David O. Calder, and in 1969 John R. Park was appointed president. Park enlisted Orson Pratt's services to aid in teaching the mathematics courses.





 Joseph L. Rawlins was placed in charge of mathematics instruction at Orson Pratt's recommendation. Rawlins left to further his education at Indiana University, but later returned in 1873 to the University to teach mathematics and Latin. In 1875 he resigned in favor to pursue studies in the law; he was admitted to the bar in 1875. Rawlins later was elected as a Democrat as Utah Territory's delegate to the 53rd Congress (1893-1895) and Democrat to the United States Senate (1886-1903) after Utah achieved statehood in 1896.





When Joseph L. Rawlins resigned Joseph B. Toronto was his replacement. Toronto served with John R. Park and Jospeh T. Kingsbury as the only faculty at the University for many years. Toronto taught calculus like his predecessors, but he also taught history and languages. Due to the lack of faculty math courses were limited. After 1876 only algebra, geometry, and trigonometry were taught up to 1888. In 1888-89 school year, Toronto commenced teaching analytic geometry and calculus again.





 Joseph B. Toronto was replaced by Charles Veneziani. Veneziani outlined courses for a bachelors degree, which would be the first time the University offered courses in mathematics for four full years of study. He also outlined the first graduate courses for the University, which included subjects like Higher Plane Curves, Three Dimensional Geometry, Theory of Numbers, Theory of Probability, Celestial Mechanics, Reimann Surfaces, Advanced Quaternions, Advanced Elliptic Functions, Hyperelliptic Functions, Abelian Functions, Fourier Series, Potential Theory and Calculus of Variations. Enrollments in mathematics increased due to the changes put in place by Veneziani. To aid in the increased work load the University enlisted the aid of Lieutenant Walter K. Wright.





The University's name was changed to the University of Utah, and John R. Park began to obtain land belonging to the U.S. Army's Fort Douglas on the east bench of the Salt Lake Valley.

William J. Kerr stepped in after Charles Veneziani left. He continued on Veneziani's work with the four year bachelors degree program and made significant contribution of his own. Kerr organized The Utah Mathematical Society (1893-1898) with the purpose awaken interest in mathematics and aiding in its advancement. In 1894 he accepted an offer to become the next president of Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah. He served as president until 1907, and then he moved on to become the president of University of Oregon.

 In 1893, Joseph L. Rawlins secured a title to sixty acres of the Fort Douglas military reservation land for the University.





Joseph B. Toronto returns for a second term as chair of the department (during the years of 1897-1904, Toronto was also listed as the Vice President of the University).

The University moved to the new location Fort Douglas Reservation permanently in 1900. Buildings are constructed on the Fort Douglas property, specifically on the president's circle.





Joseph B. Toronto retires and James Lambert Gibson is appointed chairman of the Mathematics Department in the fall of 1904. There were only three mathematics faculty at this time, and this was including Gibson.

Gibson later went on to become the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences  in 1915 (while still teaching math and remained Dean until his retirement  in 1941). As Dean, Gibson was able to obtain national accreditation for his school.

In 1917 the Mathematics Department produced its first graduate degree. Samuel S. Smith received an M.S. degree for his work on the development of statics. Smith later was hired by Gibson to teach math temporarily in 1917-1919, but then in 1922 he became a permanent member of the mathematics faculty.

The first women faculty, Dr. Anna A. Stafford and Dr. Harriet Rees, were hired in 1938. Gibson appointed six faculty during his time as chair.





Ernest W. Pehrson steps in as chairman in 1941. As the chairman, Pehrson's greatest obstacle was enrollment. World War II had decreased enrollment slightly, but by 1946 with the war ending in 1945, enrollment doubled. The increase reflected the amount of faculty appointed to the Mathematics Department. Pehrson hired seven additional faculty. Faculty members hired increased from three in 1905 to five in 1941 then to eleven in 1948.  

In 1946 Dr. A. Ray Olpin was elected President of the University.





Clarence R. Wylie becomes chairman. During Wylie's time curriculum was radically changed and increased. Twice as many courses were offered, and as a result the first two doctoral degrees in mathematics were awarded in 1954. Even though the Ph.D. program developed slowly, significant progress was made in the graduate program leading to a masters program.

When Wylie stepped down as chairman in 1967 the Mathematics Department had granted 36 Ph.D's, 168 masters degrees, and 446 bachelors degrees during his 19 year administration.





C. Edmund Burgess was appointed chairman upon Wylie's resignation. One of the first and most important item Burgess developed was the organization of a mathematics research library, separate and distinct from the main campus library. It was opened in 1969 at which time it possessed about 1700 books and 3300 volumes of journals. The library became an important tool in recruiting new faculty and students. 

Burgess's second accomplishment was the relocation of the John A. Widstoe Building for mathematics faculty offices. These changes came as the enrollment increased sharply and were very important for a well organized functioning of a growing faculty and staff.

The expansion in Burgess's years as Department Chairman required a considerable amount of funding. Burgess fought long and hard to obtain funds for this growth in faculty and facilities. He built significantly on the foundation laid by Wylie and gave Utah a world wide reputation as having a great mathematics department. The following table gives some comparisons of the department growth from 1904 to 1977:

No. of Bachelors Degrees
No. of Master Degrees
No. of Ph.D's
No. of Faculty Appointed

Gibson (1904-41)





Pehrson (1941-48)





Wylie (1948-67)





Burgess (1967-77)















As Burgess retired, Hugo Rossi stepped in as chair. Rossi began to think about the inadequate amount of women in science. Influences like Lenore Blum (mathematician, co-founder of Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)) and Michèle Vergne (French mathematician, specializing in analysis and representation theory) were a motive force to start the ACCESS Program for Women in Science & Mathematics. 





 Joseph L. Taylor, Chair of the Department of Mathematics.





Frank C. Hoppensteadt, Chair of the Department of Mathematics.






During T. Benny Rushing's time as chair the department continued to grow and was ranked as the most improved mathematics department in the United States. The computing  facilities moved from poor to one of the best of any mathematics department in the country, with VAX 8600 supermini, 13 Sun workstations (with fileserver, ect.), a graphic lab (with a mini computer), an instructional computing lab (which included 20 Macintosh Pluses networked to a DEC 20, etc.

At the time the department taught over 7% of the student credit hours of the entire University including the Medical School. 

Nineteen members of the faculty held research grants with the National Science Foundation and other research agencies, with a total annual dollar amount of $1,303,946.





Klaus Schmitt as chair also saw many changes within the department. While the eighties were the decade of declining enrollments in mathematics, science, and engineering degree programs, the trend appeared to reverse. There was a 6.7% increase in student credit hours just within a year.

Advancements being made in technology also called for change within the department once again. The department started to incorporate computing into much of the curriculum, which began a degree emphasis in scientific computing. The computing facilities also saw changes. Graduate students' offices were being filled with MAC PCs and the DEC 20 and VAX 8600 were being shut down





T. Benny Rushing, Chair of the Department of Mathematics.





Paul C. Fife, Chair of the Department of Mathematics.





During the 1960's the University enjoyed a period of legislative funding and expansion, which resulted in new buildings for biology, chemistry, and physics. Math was also promised a new building, but by 1970 the funds had been exhausted. The department was asked to settle for a remodeled Widstoe building, but the department agreed on that the administration adopt a plan to meet the needs of math into the tewnty-first century. Finally, the long-range plan called for the construction of a new structure which would connect the Cowles and Widstoe buildings.

At this time James Carlson was chair and over saw the LeRoy E. Cowles Building (LCB) renovations and construction of the T. Benny Rushing Mathematics Student Center in April 2000. In December 2001 everything was completed, and after nearly 30 years of building and classroom maneuvering, the Department of Mathematics was finally housed in a single complex. This was all made possible by the generosity of the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation.

The department was awarded the National Science Foundation's Vertical Integration of Research and Education (VIGRE) grantThe C. Bryant and Clara C. Copley Scholarship Fund was established to benefit students in mathematics at the University.





Following James Carlson, Graeme Milton became chair in June of 2002. Only having been chair for two weeks, the president of the University called to say there had been a major flood in the LeRoy E. Cowles Building (LCB). The entire computer system (and internet) was out, as was heating/air-conditioning, and the elevator shaft was warped. A major pipe into the building had broken. Fortunalty, everyone rallied to help keep things flowing, but it was a shocking introduction to becoming chairman.

During his time as chair the department received an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant for the Mathematics Biology Research Program to train a new generation of Mathematical Biologists. Many of the programs under the VIGRE grant were enacted under Graeme's tenure. Many of theses programs include, ACCESS, Math Circle, MESA/STEP, Summer High School Program, etc. Also, with left over money from the renovation of LCB, the Nadahoo'ah program at Monument Valley High School (intiated by Herb Clemens and Kelly MacArthur) was supported.

The loft on the top floor of LCB was redesigned to incorporate a space for graduate students. The Dumke Family donated a total of $125,000 to make the project a reality. On February 23, 2004 the loft was dedicated and given a new name, Dumke Loft.






Aaron Bertram became chair in 2005. During his time the department received a continuation of the VIGRE grant, extending its support until 2013.

One of Bertram's most notable achievements was holding the department together during the Great Recession and during many budgetary cuts that followed. During this time the department did not have to scale back our graduate or postdoc programs, and were able to continue hiring at the tenure-track level.





During Peter E. Trapa's term as chair, the Department hired ten outstanding faculty members in a wide spectrum of pure and applied mathematics; grew annual research expenditures to about $4M; secured new departmental endowments of about $1.8M; and implemented a number of student-centered initiatives (like enhanced advising and extra lab sections for many lower-division classes) aimed at improving student success in critical gateway courses.





Davar Khoshnevisan, Chair of the Department of Mathematics.


Phone: (801) 581-6851

Fax: (801) 581-4148

John A. Widtsoe Building

155 South 1400 East, Rm 233

Salt Lake City, UT 84112



8:00AM - 5:00PM






Last Updated: 10/31/17