# Statistics Program at MSC: 1900-1918

**Summary**

A young man, William Duane Tallman, hired to be head of the newly-formed Department
of Mathematics arrived in Bozeman on New Years Day, 1901. At that time, no degree
was offered in Mathematics. He had received a B.S. degree in mathematics and physics
with honors from the University of Wisconsin in 1896 and had taught at a high school
for four years. He then returned to the University as an instructor and to became
a candidate for the doctorate. He felt he could easily complete the remaining requirement
for his advanced degree while fulfilling the duties for his new headship. To the contrary,
he literally invested his life into the affairs of MSC to such depth for the next
45 years that he was never able complete that degree.

The Department offered bachelor of science degrees from 1902 to 1914. In 1906,
the courses in mathematics and physics were combined into one degree program, called
Mathematics-Physics, nevertheless there were still two separate departments and curricula.
In 1914, the Department was relegated to a service role at MSC (it would not again
offer degrees until the 1950s).

During this era, the scientific world saw rapid developments in statistical theory,
including: chi-squared test for independence, P-value, random sampling, principle
component analysis, and the t-test. The first statistics journal and first academic
statistics department were founded in the UK.

MSC began to offer statistics in its courses, all taught by Tallman. A course
titled “Method of Least Squares” entered the curriculum in 1901. At that time, the
least squares method was used to improve the precision of measurements and this course
probably was a service course for students in physics or civil engineering.

The 1910 catalog offered the first genuine “Statistics” course, which included
these topics: theory of probability, general methods of statistical investigation,
application of the theory of probability to statistical data, fitting curves to observations,
interpolation, theory of errors, mathematical theory of variation & correlation, and
application of the principles developed to problems in biology, sociology and economics.
Tallman must have acquired statistical expertise during the first decade of the 1900s
in order to teach this course, making him MSC’s first statistician.

The First World War concluded in 1918, the final year of this era. MSC had enrolled
519 students in its degree curricula and 359 in short courses and special music programs.
Employment stood at 74 resident staff, 25 county agents, and 10 home demonstration
agents. Also, 1918 marked MSC's 25^{th} anniversary and the final full year of James Hamilton's service as the 3^{rd} MSC President.

**Detailed Chronicle of the Statistics Program: 1900-1918**

A young man, ** William Duane Tallman (MSC, 1901-1945)**, and his new wife arrived in Bozeman by train on New Years Day, 1901.

**He had been**

^{3}*.*

**hired at full-professor rank to be head of the newly-formed Department of Mathematics***At that time, no degree was offered in Mathematics.*William D.Tallman received a B.S. degree in mathematics and physics with honors from the University of Wisconsin in 1896. He had taught at a high school for four years. He then returned to the University as an instructor and to became a candidate for the doctorate. Having a new wife to support, he felt he could easily complete the remaining requirement for his advanced degree while fulfilling the duties for his new headship. To the contrary, he literally invested his life into the affairs of MSC to such depth for the next 45 years that he was never able complete that degree.

The young couple surely were surprised by how modern this little western city appeared.
Electric lighting had been installed three years before Montana had become a state
in 1889. And too, for much of the past decade, the little city had offered an electric
trolley service. They rode the trolley up the hill in a howling blizzard to look over
the new place where Tallman would be working. The Agricultural Experiment Station
building (now Taylor Hall) had been completed six years earlier. Classes had moved
into Main Hall (now Montana Hall) from its temporary downtown quarters just two years
earlier. It is not clear where the Mathematics Department was located initially. However,
beginning in 1914,** “ the stone structure just SE of Montana Hall was used to house mathematics **

*and secretarial departments*The entire dilapidated structure was removed from the center of the campus in 1949.”

**until 1947.**

^{6}The * 1900-1901 Catalog* listed eleven courses in mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, analytical
geometry, calculus, and differential equations at levels appropriate for science and
engineering students. May Travis, Prof. of Mathematics, taught through 1900. In 1901,
W. D. Tallman was the only mathematics faculty member. There were other instructors
teaching preparatory (high-school level) courses and likely some of the introductory
college-level courses. He apparently was in the classroom up to 26 hours per week
at times and was fond of recalling such in his senior years. The six-day work week
at that time included Saturdays too, a convention that lasted until 1968!

It is of particular interest to us that Tallman added a * new course, 5: Method of Least Squares *in the 1901-1902 Catalog. It was offered for 3 credits (semester credits) but varied
between 2 and 3 credits in later years. No course description was provided. Tallman
possibly used the most popular least squares book at that time,

*A Text Book on the Method of Least Squares*by Mansfield Merriman.

**The statistics historian Stephen Stigler wrote that, with this book, Merriman became “the first American statistician to capture the market for elementary statistics textbooks.”**

^{9}

^{12}The main applications of the least squares method in the 1800s were in astronomy and land surveying, where least squares was used to improve the precision of measurements. The least squares course probably was a service course for students in physics or civil engineering, not a statistics course. Consequently, we are undecided as to whether Tallman’s Method of Least Squares was the first statistics course taught at MSC. Was Tallman the first MSC statistician? Probably not at this point in his career, but probably so later on.

The **1****902-1903 Catalog ****was the ***f*irst to offer a degree in Mathematics *within a General Science Group of disciplines*. The “Group” was a precursor of the modern “College” as a major administrative unit
at MSC. Students in the mathematics program were *required to present a thesis* on some chosen subject. The subject was chosen and approved not later than Nov. 15th
of the senior year. A great deal of work on this requirement was desired as it was
believed there was “no better way of developing a habit of independent thought.” Also,
during the year students and members of the faculty especially interested in mathematical
subjects, met once a week to review articles of interest in the current magazines
or to present results of original research being carried on. *Students in the mathematical group were required to attend*, and they could receive credits by registering for *course 16: Mathematico–Physical Seminary*. Also, a *reading knowledge of German and French was required for graduation* from this group; language studies were recommended during the first two years, “as
these languages will be very useful for the work of the later years.”

In June * 1903*,

*received the*

**Edna Lewis***. However, that degree title was modified three years later. “A major theme of the President Hamilton’s administration was preventing wasteful duplication with other university units, and ...*

**first ever Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics***in the autumn of*

**1906 ... the courses in mathematics and physics were ... combined into one degree,” called Mathematics-Physics**, but there were still two separate departments and curricula.^{15}Because Bozeman was geographically isolated and all communications were slow or expensive, one wonders how the faculty and students maintained knowledge of advancements in the field. This concern is partially addressed in the 1906-1907 catalog where, in the Mathematics Department section, this paragraph appears,

“The students of this department have access to the following journals. *American Journal of Mathematics* (complete set), *Annals of Mathematics* (from 1900), *Bulletin of American Mathematical Society* (1898 to date) and *Transactions of American Mathematical Society* (1898 to date), also about 200 volumes of recent treatises on mathematics. It may
also be mentioned that our library is especially well equipped in treatises and journals
of applied mathematics found in the libraries of the engineering and physics departments.”

The* Journal of the American Statistical Association* was not mentioned and probably was not available at MSC.^{18}

In the * 1910-1911 Catalog*, the title of the Least Squares course (#12) was expanded to include Probable Error
and

**The course descriptions were:**

*the first Statistics course (#13) was added.***3 Q. Autumn, winter and Spring. Continuous 9 cr. Mr. Tallman. Prerequisite Mathematics 4.**

*13. Statistics.**Theory of probability, general methods of statistical investigation, application of the theory of probability to statistical data, fitting curves to observations, interpolation, theory of errors, mathematical theory of variation and correlation and application of the principles developed to problems in biology, sociology and economics.*

In order to teach the new course, ** Tallman must have trained himself in statistics. In any case, he was the first person
to teach a statistics course at MSC**. The department head J. W. Hurst, in his 1961 announcement of the newly established
Tallman Scholarship Fund, said of Tallman,

“... he felt a student of mathematics should be constantly alert to correlate his
work with applied fields. In later life he became interested in Statistics. His contribution
to the present testing and counseling program was sound and far ahead of its time.”
Hurst also wrote, “His papers cover work in Geometry, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics.
... A prime service he rendered the college was the starting of a combined testing
program complete with the necessary statistical study showing its validity.”^{21}

The ** 1911-1912 MSC Catalog** published the following announcement pertaining to the

**Division of Science**,

“*... offers six separate courses leading to the degree of bachelor of science in mathematics–physics *, [as well as B.S. degrees in]

*biology, chemistry, home science, history–literature, and secretarial.*

*Candidates for the B.S. in science must complete satisfactorily not less than 130 credits, including the prescribed work in military drill*

*or physical training; and including also a thesis*.”

^{24}*The 1913-1914 MSC catalog shows that the "Division of Science" became the “College
of Science."*

Beginning with the** 1914-1915 Catalog, the B.S. and MS degrees in Mathematics-Physics were discontinued. The Mathematics Department
became a service department, the status it held for 34+ years.** (Finally, in 1948, the department was authorized to grant MS degrees and, in 1955,
to grant B.S. in Mathematics degrees, including an Option in Statistics.) The service
department decision followed a duplication review induced by the legislature. The
chancellor’s office judged that the Mathematics-Physics degrees at the College duplicated
degrees otherwise available in the state. The duplication review led the legislator
to demand for consolidating higher education into one campus, which would have required
closing either the university in Missoula or the college in Bozeman. Withdrawing degree-granting
authority from the Mathematics Department was the result of a last-ditch compromise
suggested by President Hamilton as a campus-saving alternative.

**When Edwin Craighead, President of the University in Missoula, “refused the State Board of Education’s request to cease campaigning for consolidation, the Board fired him outright.”**

^{27}

^{30}*For the fall of 1917, MSC switched from the semester system to the quarter system. That decision was to be reversed 74 years later, in the fall of 1991.*

Tallman’s Statistics course was offered every year until the 1921-1922 catalog. It
was initially listed as course #13, then became #5, then #8, and finally #13 again,
but kept the same title and course description throughout. Similarly, the Method of
Least Squares course experienced some number changes but it was taught only by W.
D. Tallman through 1919-1920. The 1917-1918 catalog shows that *special mathematics courses, but not statistics courses, were offered in the Agriculture
Division* by Professors, W. D. Tallman, J. H. Holst, and Instructor Annie Breneman.

##### Stat Prog at MSC during Era 3

Next topic (Advances in Statistics) during Era 2

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(Last revised: 2021-04-17)