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The CMS is Celebrating Black Excellence in Mathematics
Dr. Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969)
The first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics was Dr. Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969). He earned his degree from Cornell University in 1925, under the supervision of Dr. William Lloyd Garrison Williams, an American mathematician who is known to have been a co-founder of the Canadian Mathematical Society!
Cox was awarded a music scholarship which would have enabled him to travel to Europe to study at the Prague Conservatory of Music. His love of mathematics won and he entered Indiana University, receiving an A.B. in 1917 having majored in mathematics and scored an “A” in every mathematics examination he took.
He received a scholarship to pursue his doctoral studies at Cornell in September 1922 under the supervision of CMS co-founder, William Lloyd Garrison Williams. In 1924 he was awarded a Erastus Brooks Fellowship and he spent some time in McGill University in Montreal in that year since his supervisor was working there.
As a Black mathematician, Dr. Cox endured numerous difficulties throughout his trajectory. America produced a total of only 28 Ph.D.’s in mathematics in 1925 (one of whom was Cox), while this was the era of the Ku Klux Klan with 31 African-Americans being murdered by lynching in 1926.
Indeed, Dr. Cox’s accomplishment “helped to make it possible for other black[sic] mathematicians, such as Dudley Welcon Woodard, William Waldron Shiefflin Claytor, Marjorie Lee Browne, Evelyn Boyd Granville and David Blackwell, to receive their doctorates from American universities.”
 Information taken from Elbert Cox’s biography.
C. W. Carey Jr, Elbert Frank Cox, American National Biography 5 (Oxford, 1999), 621–622.
Dr. Lucy Campbell
Lucy Campbell is a Canadian mathematician of Barbadian and Ghanaian descent. She obtained her PhD in Applied Mathematics from McGill University and is an Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at Carleton University in Ottawa. Her research interests are in differential equations and numerical analysis with applications in geophysical fluid dynamics. She uses mathematical models to study the interactions of the different types of waves that occur in the atmosphere and their effects on weather and climate. Dr. Campbell is active in the atmospheric science and applied mathematics communities in Canada; she served on the Board of Directors and was the Treasurer of the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society and received the CAIMS 2019 Arthur Beaumont Distinguished Service Award. At present she is on the Editorial Board of the Canadian Journal of Mathematics and the Canadian Mathematical Bulletin.
Dr. Campbell is from a mathematical family; her father Merville O’Neale Campbell was a Barbadian mathematician who did research in group theory and taught at the University of the West Indies for many years. Her mother, a teacher, recognized and encouraged her interest in mathematics from a very early age.
Closing the Gap – CMS Inclusion Initiative
CMS has vowed to reaffirm its commitment to a future for the mathematical community where the voices of Black and Indigenous mathematicians and STEM professionals are better reflected. As part of CMS Inclusion Initiative, the Society will invite 400 Black and Indigenous students to participate in the Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge (COMC) and the Canadian Mathematical Gray Jay Competition (CMGC) at no cost. This is an opportunity for students to engage with mathematics and STEM activities and have their mathematical talent recognized.
For more information on this initiative visite the CMS Closing the Gap page.
CMS Webinar Series
Starting in 2020, the CMS offered free webinars to Black and Indigenous students and their educators and caregivers. Some of these webinars are preparatory courses for students taking part in the competitions, others discuss ways of engaging with mathematics that takes account of different knowledge systems, and some are aimed at educators and caregivers and discuss equity in mathematics and unconscious biases in education system.
For a list of Closing the Gap webinars see the Closing the Gap Page.