Archive for Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Retired KU math professor, 101, dies

G. Baley Price helped develop New Math in 1960s

November 8, 2006

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G. Baley Price, a retired Kansas University mathematician and a key figure in the development of New Math in the 1960s, died Tuesday. He was 101.

Price, a Lawrence resident and former Kansas University professor, helped raise the math department at KU to new heights while advancing the study of New Math, altering the way math was taught in public schools.

"He was a major figure in the history of mathematics at KU," said Jack Porter, chairman of the department. "He's somebody I admire deeply."

Price died Tuesday at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor.

He earned his doctorate in mathematics at Harvard University in 1932. He began teaching at KU in 1937.

In 1943, then-Chancellor Deane Malott told Price that his services were needed overseas to assist the war effort. Malott told Price that the U.S. Army Air Corps needed mathematicians and other scientists to help World War II bomber pilots improve their accuracy.

As Price said in 2002, "It didn't do much good to drop a bomb on a cabbage field."

Price was in England from 1943 to 1945, changing the way the military used math. It wouldn't be the last aspect of mathematics he'd help change.

"Wherever he looked, G. Baley Price saw potential," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said.

After his return to KU, Price looked toward the future of mathematics with a deep belief that a changing world would require new ways to look at numbers.

He was instrumental in the development of New Math, which in the 1960s emphasized the structure of mathematics as a way to help teach young children advanced math skills needed for rapidly changing technologies.

In 1956, he purchased the first computer at KU, an IBM 650.

He served as chairman of the math department from 1951 to 1970, and was named the first E.B. Stouffer distinguished professor of mathematics in 1974 before retiring in 1975.

In 1970, he received the Mathematical Association of America award for establishing the journal Mathematical Reviews, the NSF Summer Institutes for Mathematics Teachers Program and the School Mathematics Study Group.

He also served as president of the association.

After retirement, he stayed in close contact with KU, donating $100,000 in 2005 toward library studies and $500,000 in 2004 to start a humanities professorship honoring his late wife, Cora Lee Beers Price.

Porter, who was hired by Price in 1966, said the news of Price's death hurt. He recalled just last summer visiting Price, who Porter said was doing very well.

"He's a person who always took the high road, in mathematics and in his life," he said. "It'll be tough on a lot of us, and tough on me, too."

Services are pending and will be announced by Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.

Comments

bigdogks 8 years, 5 months ago

Dr. Price was a gentleman of the highest degree and an important mathematician and member of the KU community. All who knew him will mourn his passing.

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