The Program
in the History of Mathematics
at the University of Virginia*

Karen Parshall directs a small, highly selective graduate program in the history of mathematics within the Department of Mathematics that includes a component in the history of science taken within the Department of History. Students in the program must satisfy all of the requirements for the Ph.D. in Mathematics. In particular, they must complete the coursework in mathematics and perform satisfactorily on the General Examinations before they are permitted to proceed toward the doctorate. Strong reading competency in either French or German is required for admission into the program, with strong reading competency required in the other language by the time dissertation research begins. Depending on a particular student's interests, other languages may be required.

Before beginning research on the disseration, students in the program also write and defend a thesis proposal in which they:

The thesis proposal also includes a preliminary bibliography of their dissertation.

Graduate students at the University of Virginia typically have a four-hour per week teaching load (one course and one discussion section) and take twelve graded hours of course work per semester. The following is a typical program for a student in the graduate program in the history of mathematics:

First Year: First Semester: MATH 7340 (analysis), MATH 7751 (algebra), one additional mathematics course (to be determined depending on the student's future historical interests), MATH 7000 (one-hour teaching seminar), and MATH 9010 (history of mathematics seminar). Second Semester: MATH 7340 (complex analysis), MATH 7520 (algebra), one additional mathematics course (ditto), MATH 700, and MATH 9010.

Second Year: First Semester: MATH 7752 (algebra), HIEU 3321 (The Scientific Revolution, taken as MATH 999), MATH 5770 (general topology), and MATH 9010. Second Semester: MATH 5010 or MATH 5030 (The History of the Calculus or The History of Mathematics, depending on the year), HIUS 3401 (The Development of American Science, taken as MATH 9999), MATH 7800 (algebraic topology), and MATH 9010.

Third Year: Additional mathematics courses to complete the number of hours required for the degree, together with MATH 9010 in both semesters, and any additional courses as needed (in, for example, language(s), history, or philosophy).

Fourth Year +: Dissertation research and writing, MATH 9010 in both the Fall and Spring Semesters, and additional courses as needed (in, for example, foreign language(s), history, or philosophy).

Students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics with an emphasis on the history of mathematics should contact Karen Parshall prior to submitting their application to the University of Virginia. All applicants should submit a carefully considered and argued personal statement of their potential research interests in the history of mathematics and their preparation for a career as an historian of science. A writing sample is also a required part of the application.

The following students have successfully completed the graduate program in the history of mathematics:

  • Della Dumbaugh (Ph.D., 1994), Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Richmond (e-mail:
    Dissertation title: "Leonard Eugene Dickson and His Work in the Theory of Algebras"
  • Patti Wilger Hunter (Ph.D., 1997), Professor of Mathematics at Westmont College (e-mail:
    Dissertation title: "The Formation of a Discipline: Mathematical Statistics in the United States in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"
  • Sloan Despeaux (Ph.D., 2002), Associate Professor of Mathematics at Western Carolina University (e-mail:
    Dissertation title: "The Development of a Publication Community: Nineteenth-Century Mathematics in British Scientific Journals"
  • Deborah Kent (Ph.D., 2005), Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Drake University (e-mail:
    Dissertation title: "Benjamin Peirce and the Promotion of Research-Level Mathematics in America: 1830–1880"
  • Laura Martini (Ph.D., 2005) Academic Coordinator, Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies, Siena, Italy
    Dissertation title: "Political and Mathematical Unification: Algebraic Research in Italy, 1850–1914"

    *The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at