Evelyn Boyd Granville

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Evelyn Boyd Granville
Born(1924-05-01)May 1, 1924
DiedJune 27, 2023(2023-06-27) (aged 99)
Nationality (legal)American
Alma materSmith College, Yale University[1]
Awardshonorary doctorate: Smith College

honorary doctorate: Spelman College

Sam A. Lindsey Chair of the University of Texas at Tyler
Scientific career
FieldsMathematics and Education
ThesisOn Laguerre Series in the Complex Domain (1949)
Doctoral advisorEinar Hille

Evelyn Boyd Granville (May 1, 1924 – June 27, 2023) was the second African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from an American university;[2] she earned it in 1949 from Yale University. She graduated from Smith College in 1945.[3][4][5] She performed pioneering work in the field of computing.[1][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]


Evelyn Boyd was born in Washington, D.C.; her father worked odd jobs due to the Great Depression but separated from her mother when Boyd was young. Boyd and her older sister were raised by her mother and aunt, who both worked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. She was valedictorian at Dunbar High School, which at that time was a segregated but academically competitive school for black students in Washington.[3][4]

With financial support from her aunt and a small partial scholarship from Phi Delta Kappa, Boyd entered Smith College in the fall of 1941. She majored in mathematics and physics, but also took a keen interest in astronomy. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and to Sigma Xi and graduated summa cum laude in 1945. Encouraged by a graduate scholarship from the Smith Student Aid Society of Smith College, she applied to graduate programs in mathematics and was accepted by both Yale University and the University of Michigan; she chose Yale because of the financial aid they offered. There she studied functional analysis under the supervision of Einar Hille, finishing her doctorate in 1949. Her dissertation was "On Laguerre Series in the Complex Domain".[3][4][14]


Following graduate school, Boyd went to New York University Institute for Mathematics and performed research and teaching there.[15] After, in 1950, she took a teaching position at Fisk University, a college for black students in Nashville, Tennessee (more prestigious postings being unavailable to black women). Two of her students there, Vivienne Malone-Mayes and Etta Zuber Falconer, went on to earn doctorates in mathematics of their own. But by 1952 she left academia and returned to Washington with a position at the Diamond Ordnance Fuze Laboratories. In January 1956, she moved to IBM as a computer programmer; when IBM received a NASA contract, she moved to Vanguard Computing Center in Washington, D.C.[16]

Boyd moved from Washington to New York City in 1957. In 1960, after marrying Reverend G. Mansfield Collins, Boyd moved to Los Angeles. There she worked for the U.S. Space Technology Laboratories, which became the North American Aviation Space and Information Systems Division in 1962.[16] She worked on various projects for the Apollo program, including celestial mechanics, trajectory computation, and "digital computer techniques".[17]

Forced to move because of a restructuring at IBM,[4] she took a position at California State University, Los Angeles in 1967 as a full professor of mathematics.[16] After retiring from CSULA in 1984 she taught at Texas College in Tyler, Texas for four years, and then in 1990 joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Tyler as the Sam A. Lindsey Professor of mathematics. There she developed elementary school math enrichment programs. Since 1967, Granville was a strong advocate for women's education in tech.[3][4]

Experience of discrimination[edit]

In 1951 there was a south-eastern sectional meeting of the Mathematical Association of America in Nashville.[18][19][20] The citation delivered at the 2007 MAA awards presentation, where Lee Lorch received a standing ovation, recorded that:

"Lee Lorch, the chair of the mathematics department at Fisk University, and three Black colleagues, Evelyn Boyd (now Granville), Walter Brown, and H. M. Holloway came to the meeting and were able to attend the scientific sessions. However, the organizer for the closing banquet refused to honor the reservations of these four mathematicians. (Letters in Science, August 10, 1951, pp. 161–162 spell out the details). Lorch and his colleagues wrote to the governing bodies of the AMS and MAA seeking bylaws against discrimination. Bylaws were not changed, but non-discriminatory policies were established and have been strictly observed since then."[21][22][23]

Personal life[edit]

Boyd married Reverend Gamaliele Mansifeld Collins in 1961. In 1967, Boyd and Collins divorced. She married realtor Edward V. Granville in 1970.[3][4][16] The two moved to Tyler, Texas in 1983.[24] After Edward passed, she returned to Washington, D.C. in 2010 and settled into retirement, "where she regularly bristled when she heard anyone say that "women can't do math"."[25]

Granville died at her apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland on June 27, 2023, at the age of 99.[25][26]

The Evelyn Boyd Granville papers are located in Smith College's Special Collections, and were donated by Granville in 2015.[27]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1989, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Smith College, the first one given by an American institution to an African-American woman mathematician.[4][28][29]

Granville was appointed to the Sam A. Lindsey Chair of the University of Texas at Tyler (1990-1991).[30]

In 1998, Granville was honoured by the National Academy of Engineering.[31]

In 1999, the United States National Academy of Sciences inducted her into its Portrait Collection of African-Americans in Science.[32]

In 2000, she was awarded the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association's highest honour.[33]

In 2001, she was cited in the Virginia state senate's Joint Resolution No. 377, Designating February 25 as "African-American Scientist and Inventor Day."[34]

In 2006 she was awarded an honorary degree by Spelman College.[35]

In 2016, technology firm New Relic's Mount Codemore initiative named her as one of "four giants of women's contributions to science and technology".[36]

In 2019, she was recognized by Mathematically Gifted & Black as a Black History Month Honoree.[37]

See also[edit]

  • Euphemia Haynes, another African-American woman who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics even earlier, in 1943.


  1. ^ a b Hicks, Mar (17 August 2023). "Obituary. 11 August 2023 Evelyn Boyd Granville, space-flight trailblazer (1924—2023) Mathematician and programmer who transcended barriers of race and gender / (Title in print issue:) Obituary. Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924–2023)". Nature. 620 (7974). Springer Nature: 487. doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02556-y. PMID 37567962. S2CID 260812574. Granville shared her expertise and her love of maths far and wide. She did so while being aware that many of her white, and male, contemporaries found it difficult to accept that a Black woman could be so successful and have such authority in the field. "I always smile when I hear that women cannot excel in mathematics," she once remarked.
  2. ^ "10 Famous Women in Tech History". Dice Insights. 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Evelyn Boyd Granville", MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, University of St Andrews
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Williams, Scott W. "Evelyn Boyd Granville". Black Women in Mathematics. Mathematics Department, State University of New York at Buffalo. Retrieved 2014-06-21..
  5. ^ Schlager, Neil; Lauer, Josh (2001). "Evelyn Boyd Granville". Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Gale Group. ISBN 9780787639334.
  6. ^ Nowlan, Robert A. (2017). Masters of Mathematics: The Problems They Solved, Why These Are Important, and What You Should Know about Them. Springer. p. 453. ISBN 9789463008938. Granville [contributed] her expertise in the field of computer science during its pioneer years.
  7. ^ Inventors and Inventions, Volume 2. Marshall Cavendish. 2008. p. 343. ISBN 9780761477648. During the 1960s, perhaps the greatest achievement in computing was guiding Apollo space rockets to the moon. Some of the important Apollo programs were written by Elizabeth Boyd Granville (1924-).
  8. ^ "Smith E-News 2006". Smith College. 2006. Retrieved 2017-10-29. [Granville has] long been a pioneer in applied mathematics and computer technology, having joined the staff of IBM in 1956 to work on projects for NASA.
  9. ^ Kessler, James H. (1996). Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 130. ISBN 9780897749558. [At] the Space Technology Laboratories in Los Angeles, [Granville] continued her pioneering work on orbit computations for manned space vehicles.
  10. ^ Beckenham, Annabel (January 2001). A Woman's Place in Cyberspace: critical analysis of discourse, purpose and practice with regard to women and new communication technologies (PDF) (MA). University of Canberra. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-10-29. [The Ada Project,] originally developed at Yale University, is designed to serve as a clearing house for information and resources related to women and computing. Given its aim and its authority, it is telling that the site lists precisely twelve women as 'pioneering women of computing'. They are, in order of appearance; Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), Edith Clarke (1883-1959), Rosa Peter (1905-1977), Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992), Alexandra Illmer Forsythe (1918-1980), Evelyn Boyd Granville, Margaret R. Fox, Erna Schneider Hoover, Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Alice Burks, Adele Goldstine, and Joan Margaret Winters.
  11. ^ "Newsletter of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Michigan Summer 2001" (PDF). University of Michigan. 2001. At IBM, Dr. Granville played an exciting and fundamental role in the dawn of the computer age, especially as it was being applied to celestial mechanics. For example, she was part of the team of scientists responsible for writing the computer programs that tracked the paths of vehicles in space on NASA's Project Vanguard and Project Mercury.
  12. ^ Collins, Sibrina (2016-06-13). "Unsung: Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville". Undark.org. Another groundbreaker is Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, a mathematician who worked on orbit computations and computer procedures for three space-related projects — Project Vanguard (originally managed by the Naval Research Laboratory and later transferred to NASA); Project Mercury (the nation's first effort to put a man in space); and the program that eventually put a man on the moon, Project Apollo.
  13. ^ Mirjana, Ivanović; Zoran, Putnik; Anja, Šišarica; Zoran, Budimac (2010). "A Note on Performance and Satisfaction of Female Students Studying Computer Science". Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences. 9 (1): 32–41. doi:10.11120/ital.2010.09010032. Another important figure of that time was Evelyn Granville, a pioneer in information technology who began her career in academia, went on to programming challenges at IBM and ultimately worked on the NASA space programme before returning to teach others.
  14. ^ Evelyn Boyd Granville at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  15. ^ Boyd Granville, Evelyn (Fall 1989). "My Life as a Mathematician". Biographies of Women Mathematicians.
  16. ^ a b c d Collins, Sibrina Nichelle (February 7, 2017). "Unsung: Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville". UnDark. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  17. ^ Ray Spangenburg; Diane Moser; Douglas Long (1 January 2003). African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention. Infobase Publishing. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-1-4381-0774-5.
  18. ^ Lorch, Lee (1994). "The Painful Path Toward Inclusivity". Archived from the original on September 6, 2008.
  19. ^ Hamilton, Richard (2007). "MAA Prizes and Awards at the 2007 Joint Mathematics Meetings". MAA Online. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2022-04-20. (includes citation for Lee Lorch)
  20. ^ Jackson, Allyn (2007). "MAA Prizes Presented in New Orleans" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society. 54: 641–642.
  21. ^ Hamilton, Richard (2007). "MAA Prizes and Awards at the 2007 Joint Mathematics Meetings". MAA Online. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2022-04-20. (includes citation for Lee Lorch)
  22. ^ MAA citation Archived 2007-02-09 at the Wayback Machine for Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award.
  23. ^ "Media Highlights". The College Mathematics Journal. 42 (2): 163–172. March 2011. doi:10.4169/college.math.j.42.2.163. JSTOR 10.4169/college.math.j.42.2.163. S2CID 218549669.
  24. ^ "Granville, Evelyn Boyd (1924- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". blackpast.org. 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  25. ^ a b "Evelyn Granville Obituary (2023) - Washington, DC - The Washington Post". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  26. ^ Dinner, Josh (2023-07-24). "Pioneering NASA 'Hidden Figure' Evelyn Boyd Granville dies at age 99". Space.com.
  27. ^ "Collection: Evelyn Boyd Granville papers | Smith College Finding Aids". findingaids.smith.edu. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  28. ^ Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville '45 Archived 2014-11-01 at the Wayback Machine, Smith College, retrieved 2014-06-21.
  29. ^ Smith History: Honorary Degrees Archived March 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Smith College, retrieved 2014-06-21.
  30. ^ Ray Spangenburg; Diane Moser; Douglas Long (1 January 2003). African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention. Infobase Publishing. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-1-4381-0774-5.
  31. ^ "Academy Honors Three During African American History Month". NAE Website.
  32. ^ "Pioneer in science: Evelyn Granville". New Pittsburgh Courier. March 27, 1999. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016..
  33. ^ "Yale Bulletin and Calendar - News". Archives.news.yale.edu. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  34. ^ "2001 SESSION SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 377 : Designating February 25 as "African-American Scientist and Inventor Day."". Lis.virginia.gov. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  35. ^ "Spelman College: Honorary Degree Recipients, 1977–Present" (PDF). Spelman.edu. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  36. ^ Jordan, Robyn (2016-04-26). "'Mount Codemore' Honors Four Women Technology Titans". blog.newrelic.com. Archived from the original on 2018-03-30. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  37. ^ "Evelyn Boyd Granville". Mathematically Gifted & Black.

Further reading[edit]

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