13 Jan 2020

Meet Evelyn Granville

Mathematics Space

Evelyn Granville is an American mathematician who was the second African American woman to receive a doctoral degree in mathematics from an American university.

Evelyn received an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics from Smith College in 1945 and her PhD in mathematics from Yale University 4 years later.

In 1950, Granville accepted the position of Associate Professor of Mathematics at Fisk University, a noted black college in Nashville. At Fisk, Evelyn taught Vivienne Malone Mayes and Etta Zuber Falconer, who would become, respectively, the 7th and 11th African American women to receive PhDs in Mathematics.

After 2 years of teaching, Granville went to work for the Diamond Ordnance Fuze Laboratories as an applied mathematician.

Meet Evelyn Granville | Stemettes Zine
University at Buffalo

In 1962, she became a research specialist on the Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs, working on celestial mechanics, trajectory and orbit computation, numerical analysis, and digital computer techniques for the Apollo program. Her job included making “real-time” calculations during satellite launchings. In an interview in 1994, Graville told Loretta Hall…

“That was exciting, as I look back, to be a part of the space programs–a very small part–at the very beginning of U.S. involvement,”
– buffalo.edu

 

Granville applied for a teaching position at California State University in Los Angeles. She happily reentered the teaching profession, which she found enjoyable and rewarding. She was disappointed in the mathematics preparedness of her students, however, and she began working to improve mathematics education at all levels. She taught an elementary school supplemental mathematics program in 1968 and 1969 through the State of California Miller Mathematics Improvement Program.

The following year she directed a mathematics enrichment program that provided after-school classes for kindergarten through fifth-grade students, and she taught grades two through five herself.

When asked to summarize her major accomplishments, Granville told Loretta Hall…

“First of all, showing that women can do mathematics. Being an African American woman, letting people know that we have brains too.” – buffalo.edu

Last updated January 2020.

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