It might seem improbable but the first man to receive a Rice doctorate appears in the very same 1926 photograph as the first woman to earn one. Hubert Bray ’18 is right over Miss Hickey’s shoulder towards our left:
It’s not as unlikely as it seems, though, as Edgar Odell Lovett, a mathematician himself, had gathered an unusually strong group to staff that department. (More about this later.)
Bray, an Englishman, was finishing a masters degree at Harvard in 1916 when he was visited by Lovett, who sought to recruit him as a teaching fellow and doctoral student. (I sometimes stop in wonder at what a salesman EOL must have been.) He came, of course, and did his degree with Griffith Evans (who stands over Miss Hickey’s other shoulder in the photo). His dissertation is here if you’re into that sort of thing.
Aside from his scholarly work Bray soon became fully engaged in the life of the university. He married a Rice student, Gertrude Boxley ’21, and stayed on the faculty, becoming head of the department in 1935. He remained in this position until he retired at the age of 70 in 1959, but continued to teach as a Trustee Distinguished Professor until 1970. He died in Houston in 1978.
During the Institute’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1962 the Thresher ran a series of articles about the longest serving faculty members still on campus. The piece about Bray is exceptionally interesting for the light it shone on the early development of the school:
Bonus: The Brays at one of the big Cohen House New Year’s Eve bashes, 1967.
Warning: I’ve now become interested in how many blog posts I can generate from that 1926 Math Department picture. Three to four more, is my best guess, without stretching too much. Hold on to your hats.
Freshman Science-Engineering majors in the 1950s were in four days/week Math 100 sections. I was one of them, assigned to one taught by Dr. Ulrich, who unfortunately was ill for most of the year. I do not remember who subbed for him on the first three days, but I vividly remember Dr. Bray on Saturdays. He was still very energetic, and he would pace up and down the aisles saying “Is that clear? Is that clear”. Do you understand? Do you understand?” Few did, as the attrition rate for Math 100 students back then confirmed. I escaped with a 3 and did not do much better in the future math courses required for my M. E. degree. Ironically, I was admitted in 1956 as a math major. That lasted only about one day.
Melissa: I find the scan of the first part of the Thresher article too small & blurry to read.
Try clicking on it–it should get bigger.
Pingback: I Made A Mistake In One of Those Math Department Posts | Rice History Corner