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Philip J. Davis

Philip J. Davis
Born (1923-01-02) January 2, 1923
Lawrence, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Brown University
Alma mater Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Ralph Philip Boas, Jr.
Doctoral students Frank Deutsch
James Lewis
Jeffery J. Leader
Notable awards Chauvenet Prize (1963)
Lester R. Ford Award (1982)[1][2]

Philip J. Davis (born January 2, 1923)[3] is an American academic applied mathematician.

Davis was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is known for his work in numerical analysis and approximation theory, as well as his investigations in the history and philosophy of mathematics. Currently a Professor Emeritus from the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, he earned his degrees in mathematics from Harvard University (SB, 1943; PhD, 1950, advisor Ralph P. Boas, Jr.).

He served briefly in an aerodynamics research position in the Air Force in World War II before joining the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). He became Chief of Numerical Analysis there and worked on the well-known Abramowitz and Stegun Handbook of Mathematical Functions before joining Brown in 1963.

He was awarded the Chauvenet Prize for mathematical writing in 1963 for an article on the gamma function,[4] and has won numerous other prizes, including being chosen to deliver the 1991 Hendrick Lectures of the MAA (which became the basis for his book Spirals: From Theodorus to Chaos). He has also been a frequent invited lecturer. In addition, he has authored several books. Among the best known are The Mathematical Experience (with Reuben Hersh), a popular survey of modern mathematics and its history and philosophy; Methods of Numerical Integration (with Philip Rabinowitz),[5] long the standard work on the subject of quadrature; and Interpolation and Approximation, still an important reference in this area.

For The Mathematical Experience (1981), Davis and Hersh won a National Book Award in Science.[6][1]

Davis has also written an autobiography, The Education of a Mathematician; some of his other books include autobiographical sections as well. In addition, he has published works of fiction. His best-known book outside the field of mathematics is The Thread: A Mathematical Yarn (1983, 2nd ed. 1989), which "has raised Digression into a literary form" (Gerard Piel); it takes off from the name of the Russian mathematician Tschebyscheff, and in the course of explaining why he insists on that "barbaric, Teutonic, non-standard orthography" (in the words of a reader of Interpolation and Approximation who wrote him to complain) he digresses in many amusing directions.


  • Publications 1
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


  • Unity and Disunity and Other Mathematical Essays, American Math Society, (2015)


  1. ^ This was the 1983 award for paperback Science.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual hardcover and paperback awards in most categories, and several nonfiction subcategories including General Nonfiction. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including this one.


  1. ^ Paul R. Halmos – Lester R. Ford Awards, Mathematical Association of America
  2. ^ "Are There Coincidences in Mathematics?" by Philip Davis
  3. ^ Gazette - Australian Mathematical Society, Vols. 25-26 (1998), p. 141.
  4. ^ Davis, Philip J. (1959). "Leonhard Euler's Integral: An Historical Profile of the Gamma Function". Amer. Math. Monthly 66: 849–869. 
  5. ^ Barnhill, Robert E. (1976). , by Philip J. Davis and Philip Rabinowitz Methods of numerical integrationReview: (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 82 (4). pp. 538–539.  
  6. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-07.

External links

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