Philip J. Davis

Philip J. Davis




Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics
Applied Mathematics

Ph.D., Harvard University, 1950



Philip J. Davis was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA in 1923. He received both his undergraduate degrees from Harvard University in the field of pure mathematics. He was Chief for Numerical Analysis National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. for five years. In 1963, Professor Davis joined the faculty in the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is now Professor Emeritus.


Professor Davis has been and remains a prolific writer. As part of his work at the National Bureau of Statistics took a prominent role in the writing and planning of the "Handbook of Mathematical Functions," a.k.a., Abramowitz and Stegun. This reference work sold hundreds of thousands of copies. His work in numerical analysis and approximation theory includes many research papers and the technical books such as Interpolation and Approximation (1963), "Numerical Integration" (with Philip Rabinowitz, 1967), "The Schwarz Function" and "Circulant Matrices" (1979).

His books, "The Mathematical Experience and Descartes' Dream," written jointly with Reuben Hersh of the University of New Mexico, explore certain questions in the philosophy of mathematics, and the role of mathematics in society. They have been translated into practically all major European and Oriental languages. His important writings in the philosophy of mathematics have been widely anthologized. The Mathematical Experience received the American Book Award for 1983. "Mathematics and Common Sense: A Case of Creative Tension" appeared in 2006.

Other works include his book, "No Way: The Nature of the Impossible," with David Park, appeared in 1987. In a lighter vein, Davis has written: "The Thread: a Mathematical Yarn" (1983), "Thomas Gray: Philosopher Cat" (1988). "Thomas Gray in Copenhagen," a sequel to the first Thomas Gray book, appeared in 1995. These have also appeared in numerous foreign language editions. A unique blend of biography and autobiography appeared in his work entitled, "Mathematical Encounters of the Second Kind" (1996), and his book entitled "The Education of a Mathematician," (2000) embraces both biography and educational philosophy. Professor Davis has been a columnist for the SIAM NEWS (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) for the past fifteen years.

A article by Professor Davis, entitled, "Bridging the Two Cultures: Paul Valéry," was newly reprinted and published in the book, "The Best writing on Mathematics," 2010 (Mircea Pitici, Editor, Princeton University Press).

Professor Davis runs an ongoing Discussion Group on the Philosophy of Mathematics. In recent months, these sessions have led to his articles on the mathematics of Oswald Spengler, the mathematics of Paul Valery, the validity of entropy as a social index, and a joint artlcle with David Mumford on the predictions of Henri Poincare. 

 Professor Davis is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and is on the Editorial Board of the Royal Society and received a Guggenheim Award in 1956. Dr. Davis is also a member of the advisory Board for Studies in the History of Mathematics (Springer-Verlag). He has received the Award in Mathematics of the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the Chauvent Prize of the Mathematical Association in 1963. Professor Davis also received the Lester R. Ford Award in 1982, the George Polya Award Award in 1987. He received the Hedrick Award in 1990, and in 1997, he won the Communications Award of the Joint Policy Board for the Mathematical Sciences. In 1997 he was a Doctoral Lecturer for Roskilde University in Denmark and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.

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