Statistics Program at MSC: 1893–1899
Interest and activity in statistics in the western world sustained a great boost
in the 1800’s. There was enthusiasm for sound public policy and it needed certainty
in careful empirical observation. The profession of “statistician” was widely-recognized
by 1893. And, our Nation participated in growing that statistical enterprise. Such
enthusiasm centered in Montana, would over the next sixty years, culminate in a respected
statistical program at MSU.
The federal government was encouraging settlement in Montana. In 1862 the U.S. Congress passed the (first) Homestead Act that encouraged people to move West and the (first) Land Grant act that appropriated public lands to be managed for supporting public Colleges. The Territory of Montana was established in 1864 and admitted as the 41st state in 1889.
Bozeman had grown into a “modern” community by 1893 and the folks wanted a college! That would not be an easy task during the concurrent economic depression (Panic of 1893). Fortunately, federal funds were available through the second Land Grant Act of 1890 which provided up to $25,000 annually for fund instructional programs. The 1887 Hatch Act authorized further appropriation of public lands, and an additional $15,000 annually would be available through a second Land Grant Act. Montana Governor Rickards signed a bill in February, 1893, claiming these endowments. To secure all of this funding, the College had to begin formal instruction before July 1, 1893.
The Governor appointed some Bozeman-area leaders to be the local official College governing board. The board selected a permanent College site on a low hill south of town centered on 8th Avenue. Not there, but downtown, Bozeman’s College began instruction to eight surprised re-enrolled students in April, 1893, at a private prep school located on the SE corner of Main & S. 3rd. However, 139 students seized the opportunity to attend classes in the fall of 1893. Instruction moved to the permanent site on the hill after needed building construction. (The school in Missoula was authorized in 1893 also, but it did not open for classes until 1895!)
By the end of the decade, the College held a full contingent of students, faculty, administrators, and staff, working in several new buildings under leadership of second College President, James Reid (1894-1904). The 1900-1901 catalog noted a total of 246 students, of these there were 3 graduate, 71 in college degree curricula, and the remainder enrolled in preparatory, and in special business and agricultural courses.
Mathematics courses were taught within Mechanical Engineering. There were no statistics courses yet. In the world at large, statistical thinking had made some major advances by 1899. MSC needed time to bring that information to its students. During the next era, the Mathematics Department was created and a statistics course finally entered the curriculum.
The Statistics Program: 1893-1899
According to course catalogs, no statistical topics were included in the MSC curriculum in the 1890s. The Mathematics Department, established early in the next era, ultimately would offer statistics courses.
For the 1893-1894 academic year the mathematics curriculum resided within Mechanical Engineering. Mathematics was taught by R. E. Chandler, Mechanical Engineer. During the following year, some mathematics courses were taught by A. Ryon, the former MSC President. Chandler and Ryon both left MSC in 1896. W. H. Williams (B.E.E., University of Wisconsin) and Miss May Travis (A.B., University of North Dakota) became the mathematics instructors. During the 1897-1899 years, May Travis taught Higher Algebra and Trigonometry courses while W. H. Williams taught the Analytic Geometry, Calculus, and Differential Equations courses. May Travis taught all the mathematics – Higher Algebra, Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry, & Calculus – during 1899-1900.
(Last revised: 2020-06-09)