Department of Mathematical Sciences

History of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University

Dawson Clement Sheldon

Sheldon

Dawson Sheldon was a graduate of Washington State University (Washington State College at that time) and received a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1931 in Physics. He was employed by the Mathematics Department at Clemson College in the fall of 1931--the first PhD employed by this department. He soon introduced a course in differential equations and later a course in advanced calculus. He taught a variety of courses over the next seventeen years, including a course in Industrial Mathematics and rose to the rank of Professor. In 1948 he was appointed as Head of the Department and remained in this capacity until his retirement in 1965.

In the late 1950s under his leadership, the department introduced an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics, which enrolled more than 50 students in 1962. The curriculum featured computer courses, linear programming, statistics, advanced courses in physics and the mathematics courses needed to enter top graduate schools. In 1958, the department launched a master's degree in applied mathematics. There were graduate courses in the theory of complex variables, intermediate ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, Fourier series, and operational mathematics. These courses could be supplemented by advanced courses in physics to form an area of application.

Dr. Sheldon helped in the establishment of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma scholarly honor societies on campus and was a member of Blue Key. Additionally he served a term as vice president of the Mathematical Association of America. Many of the 25 faculty members of the department were members of this professional organization.

In 1962, the Mathematics Department faculty taught 12,214 credit hours, more than three entire schools at Clemson College. (More than half of the Clemson students were enrolled in some mathematics course.) At this time, there were seven graduate assistants. The faculty taught in five different buildings on campus with Tillman Hall as the primary area of activity. Most of the faculty did not have private offices but taught primarily in one building so that they did not have to transport material across campus.

In 1964, almost none of the faculty were actively involved in publishable research so some major changes were required to bring the department up to University standards. Since Dr. Sheldon was approaching retirement, a search was begun to replace him. He retired at the end of the academic year 1964-1965.

Dr. Sheldon was an important factor in the growth of the Department from the 1930s until the College became a University. After retirement, he became Department Head at Western Carolina College. After a short time there, he returned to Clemson. During his entire life in Clemson he was active in the Clemson Masonic Lodge and was a past Master of the Lodge. He was a charter member of the Fellowship Club, a member of the Diaconate at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson, and a former elder of a Presbyterian Church in Cullowee, NC. He was married to Edith Lowery Sheldon and had a daughter--Mrs. Anita Barton of Marietta, Georgia.


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