Department of Mathematical Sciences

History of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University

Charlie Kirkwood

Kirkwood

As a boy Charles Kirkwood lived in Virginia, Nebraska, and Illinois. He earned an AB degree from Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia in Math-Physics in 1935, and a Master's degree from the University of Georgia in 1937.

He came to Clemson College in fall 1937 to teach Mathematics half-time and Physics half-time. The next year he taught full time in Mathematics. Even in later years, he also taught Physics when needed. One semester he taught one student in three classes--two in Mathematics and one in Physics. Charlie held a commission in the Army Reserve and was called to active duty in January 1942. He was assigned to the Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia where he taught courses in radar.

After four and a half years he returned to Clemson. He taught courses in Calculus and Differential Equations. He did some research in the newly created Department of Ceramic Engineering. In 1950-1951 he was loaned to the Department of Electrical Engineering to teach courses in AC and DC Circuits and Electronics. He also did research for the Textile School for about 4 years and published two papers in the Textile Journal on the "Dielectric Constant of Various Cottons" and "Triboelectric Effect of Cotton and Trash."

In 1961, the College purchased a RPC 4000 computer. Professor Merrill Palmer was selected as the Director of the Computer Center and took a course in Chicago to operate/program the machine. The computer was first located in a room in the P&A Building, then moved to Martin O-10. Input to this machine was paper tape. Later a keypunch machine was added which would also convert the punched cards to paper tape. Charlie was asked to teach programming along with Merrill and until he learned the ropes he would sit in Merrill's class, taking notes and then give the lecture later to his own class. Later he also taught a course in Numerical Analysis with the students using Monroe Calculators and the computer to write programs to solve the problems.

The first computer language used was machine language in hexadecimal format, then ROAR assembler language, PINT (an interpretive language which executed one statement at a time), and ACT4 (an Algol-type language).

In 1964 he became an Analyst in the Computer Center while still teaching Computer Science courses for the Mathematics Department. Later an IBM 360 Model 40 was purchased and more staff (mainly students) were added. The space in O-10 became too small so the Computer Center was moved to a newly created area in the basement of the P&A Building. In 1970 Charlie became Manager of Programming. He amused his students and fellow faculty by creating a program that caused the printer to play "Tiger Rag." He continued teaching one or more courses for the Mathematics Department (usually computer programming courses) since the Computer Sciences courses were part of the Mathematics curriculum.

In 1975 Charlie left the Computer Center and returned to teach full time in the Mathematical Sciences Department. After the Computer Science Department was established he taught only Mathematics Courses--Calculus and Differential Equations.

Charlie retired in 1979, but taught part time, first in the Mathematical Sciences Department and then in the Computer Science Department for the next seven years. Presently (2002) there is no one living in the Clemson area who began employment in the Mathematics Department before he did.

Charlie has been a ham radio operator since 1934 and before WWII had his station in the tower of Tillman Hall. He also has an interest in railroads and model trains.


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