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Math Department Split on Proposal To Establish Doctor of Arts Degree


A recent proposal to establish a new Doctor of Arts in Mathematics degree has met with varying reactions from members of the Math Department.

The new degree would involve a "scholarly and analytical" thesis instead of the specialized, orgiginal contribution required for the present Ph.D. It would give doctoral recognition to men who have enough of an understanding of math to teach it, but who have no inclination toward research.

Recommended by the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society, the proposal is the latest attempt to do something about the shortage of college mathematicians who have Ph.D.'s. If adopted, the plan is expected to more than double the present yield of about 280 doctors a year.

John T. Tate, Jr. '46, professor of Mathematics, opposed the plan. "I can't get excited about it," he remarked. "I'd prefer to give the present Ph.D. more freely." The new degree would eventually become as meaningless as the M.A., he explained.

"Cheapen Ph.D."

"Liberalizing would only tend to cheapen the present Ph.D.," countered Lars V. Ahlfors, professor of Mathematics. "I like this proposal; it offers many possibilities without lowering our standards. The department should consider it very seriously."

Less enthusiastic about the new degree was Raoul Bott, professor of Mathematics, who said, "I would rather see the M.A. given more recognition." But he favored the plan, acknowledging that the Ph.D. has become a sort of mathematician's union card and that at present too many competent men are denied a chance for a successful teaching career.

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