Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Richardson, Roland G. D.

Roland George Dwight Richardson (1878-1949), professor of mathematics and dean of the Graduate School, was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on May 14, 1878. He graduated from Acadia College in 1898 and received a bachelor’s degree in 1903, a master’s in 1904, and a Ph.D. in 1906, all from Yale. He taught at two schools in Nova Scotia, Margaretsville School in 1895-96 and 1898-99 and Westport High School from 1899 to 1902. He was instructor in mathematics at Yale from 1904 to 1907, when he came to Brown as assistant professor of pure mathematics. He studied at Göttingen in 1908-1909. He was promoted to associate professor in 1912 and professor in 1915. His title became professor of mathematics in 1928. He was head of the Department of Mathematics from 1915 to 1942. He was vice-president of the American Mathematical Society in 1920 and secretary of the society from 1921 to 1940. He was dean of the Graduate Department in 1926-27, and dean of the Graduate School which succeeded the department from 1927 until his retirement in 1948. He was also acting vice-president of the University in 1928-29. It was through his efforts that the Program of Advanced Instruction and Research in Mechanics was established at Brown in 1941, and became the Graduate Division of Applied Mathematics in 1946. Professor R. Bruce Lindsay wrote of him:

“Richardson was a competent mathematician in the field of analysis, but decided to devote the final 25 years of his professional life to administration and to the development of a genuine graduate school in this university. ... Richardson did not give up entirely his association with mathematics. As long-time secretary of the American Mathematical Society he knew practically every important mathematician in the country and a lot of those in Europe. When the great troubles of the 1930’s hit the continental mathematical scientists, he became instrumental in encouraging the move of many of them to the United States and hence contributed greatly to the building up of applied mathematics in this country.”
Richardson died of pneumonia on July 17, 1949, while on a vacation fishing trip to Nova Scotia. President Henry Wriston recalled his last interview with Richardson:
“He came in to ask whether I would object to his declining an honorary degree in order to go fishing. It was on the one hand an indication of the regard he had for the University – he would suffer personal inconvenience rather than in any way deprive Brown of recognition. On the other hand it showed that beneath the occasionally austere exterior of a man single-minded in his purpose was a warm and human enjoyment of such things as fishing. I told him then that he had earned the right to follow his taste without regard to any other consideration whatever.”