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Thomas A. Scott Professorship in Mathematics

Letter that Thomas A.Scott sent to Mr. John Welsh, chairman of the Trustee Committee on Ways and Means on March 19, 1881, just two months before his death. The letter was recorded in the minutes of the Trustees on March 24, 1881.

That letter says:

Philadelphia, March 19, 1881

My dear Sir:

I want to present to the University of Pennsylvania fifty thousand dollars of 6% Bonds to endow a chair of Mathematics in the Arts Department as I understand help is needed for a chair of this character.

May you please deliver the Bonds to the proper authorities of the University to be used as indicated. If you will call or send to this office, Mr. Barclay will hand the bonds to you or your representative.

Trusting my action in this premises may be of use to the coming young men of the University,

I am

Very truly yours

Thomas A. Scott

The Thomas A. Scott Professorship was established by the Trustees on June 7, 1881. The Scott Chair has the distinction of being one of the earliest endowed chairs at Penn. It was the fourth endowed professorship in the University and only the second in the Arts and Sciences. Earlier chairs were the John Rhea Barton Professorship of Surgery (1877), the Whitney Professorship of Dynamical Engineering (1877), and the John Welsh Centennial Professorship of History and English Literature (1878). Ezra Otis Kendall, LLD, the current Professor of Mathematics, became the first holder of the Scott Chair.

The Scott Chair was endowed by Thomas Alexander Scott who was born in Franklin County Pennsylvania on December 28, 1823. His father, Thomas Scott, ran a tavern at a stagecoach stop. At about seventeen, Thomas A. Scott became a clerk in the office of Major James Patton, his brother-in-law, who was collector of tolls in the state system of public roads and canals. In 1850, Scott became station agent for the railroad at Duncansville and by 1860 was first vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. At the outbreak of the Civil War hostilities, Scott was summoned to Washington by Simon Cameron, then secretary of war. On August 3, 1861, Scott was appointed assistant secretary of war to supervise all governmental railways and transportation lines, a position he resigned on June 1, 1862. Scott then played a key role in the expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad and became president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company on June 3, 1874. Scott suffered a paralytic stroke in 1878, but continued to work until June 1, 1880, about a year before his death on May 21, 1881. (From the Dictionary of American Biography, Volume VIII)

Holders of the Thomas A. Scott Professorship in Mathematics

1881 - 1899 Ezra Otis Kendall

1899 - 1933 Edwin Schofield Crawley

1933 - 1941 George Hervey Hallett

1941 - 1955 John Robert Kline

1956 - 1962 Hans A. Rademacher

1967 - 1993 Eugenio Calabi

1994 - 1996 Shmuel Weinberger

1998 - 2006 Herbert S. Wilf

2008 - 2021 Charles L. Epstein

2021 - present Ron Donagi