This era represents the second quarter century since MSC was founded. It begins at the end of World War I and ends in the middle of World War II. It includes the tragedy of a flu pandemic of the late 1910s, the turbulence and hardships of the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and WWII in the 1940s. Republican Warren G. Harding was elected President in 1920, but died in office in 1923. Vice President Calvin Coolidge served as the 30th U.S. President for the next six years. America's experiment with the legal prohibition of alcohol lasted from 1919 to 1933. In 1920, women won the right to vote. The 1920s brought the adoption of automobiles, telephones, “talking” motion pictures, radio, and household electricity.
      Herbert Hoover was elected President in 1928, just in time to face the Great Depression. Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Hoover in the 1932 election. FDR held the office of President until his death in 1945. His New Deal package to recover from the Depression created the National Labor Relations Act, the Works Project Administration, the Social Security Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities Exchange Commission, the Public Works Administration, the Federal Writers’ Project, the Federal Theater Project, and the Farm Security Administration, among other agencies and acts. Important projects in Montana included the Ft. Peck Dam and infrastructure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
      Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, World War II began in Europe. The Battle of Britain, a sustained aerial bombardment of the U.K. by Germany, began in 1940. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Japan's ally Germany declared war against the U.S. In an unreasonable act of paranoia, the U.S. government imprisoned in camps, that were located well away from the Pacific coast, 112,000 Japanese, including 79,000 U.S. citizens. Americans quickly engaged in fighting wars in the Pacific, Africa, and Europe. In 1943, Montana and MSC were focused primarily on winning the war. By the time the war ended in 1945, 57,000 Montana men and women (approximately 10% of the population) served in the military; almost 1,900 Montana servicemen were killed or missing-in-action.

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Montana Hall 1933

     The government contracted with MSC for the delivery of short courses on technical subjects, including mathematics. Military trainees were sent to MSC for 5-week courses. An extensive nurses training program was also in operation during WWII; by 1944, 30% of MSC's 1155 students were in nurses training.
      World-wide, the theory and methods of statistics proved successful in advancing knowledge in a broad variety of subject areas. Prior to WWII, R. A. Fisher published two ground-breaking statistics books. Concepts he introduced include: analysis of variance, the F-distribution, sufficiency, efficiency, consistency, maximum likelihood, null hypothesis, permutation tests, and discriminant analysis. Other researchers produced control charts, regression analysis of binary responses, and major advances in the theory of probability. Jerzy Neyman and collaborators introduced modern sampling strategies, the Neyman-Pearson Lemma, errors of Type I and Type II, and confidence intervals.
      WWII created a need for advances in statistical thinking and for people who could apply the new ideas. Statistical theory and methods expanded rapidly, creating new specialties including: statistical decision theory, statistical quality control, operations research, and sequential analysis. The need for more statisticians became apparent and universities responded by expanding their statistics programs.
      At MSC, some moderate changes occurred in statistics instruction. The Mathematics Department offered five statistics courses in 1921. It hired its first doctorate-trained statistician, Dr. Frank Mark Weida in 1923. However, the statistical offerings represented only a small fraction of the existing theory, methods, and applications. Moreover, Weida left in 1924 for a position at another university, and it appears that Tallman again became the sole statistics instructor of two or three statistics courses until the end of WWII. The course, Theory of Least Squares and Probable Error, was discontinued in the Fall of 1931 because the main concepts were covered in other statistics courses. At MSC, this era ends with the appointment of R. R. Renne as the new MSC President. His predecessors between 1919 and 1943 were Alfred Atkinson (4th MSC president, 1919–1937), A. L. Strand (5th MSC president, 1937–1942), and William Cobleigh (Acting President, 1942-1943).

Detailed Chronicle of the Statistics Program: 1919-1943

1921-1922 catalog

The Mathematics faculty consisted of two professors – Prof. W. D. Tallman and Assistant Prof. A. A. McSweeny. Also teaching mathematics were instructors F. M. Bull and B. H. Lowe. Only Tallman taught the statistics courses:

307-308-309. Statistics. Autumn, winter and spring. Continuous. 9 cr. Prerequisite Mathematics 201 to 206, inclusive. Mr. Tallman. 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 and correlation, and application of principles developed in selected problems.

313. Theory of Least Squares and Probable Error. Spring. 3 cr. Prerequisites Mathematics 201, 202, 203. Mr. Tallman.

In the 1922-23 Catalog the faculty and statistics courses were unchanged. However A. A. McSweeny left MSC in 1923 to become Head, Department of Mathematics, at John Tarleton Agricultural College in Stephensville, TX. In the 1923-24 Catalog, Assistant Prof. G. van Fleet replaced McSweeny on the faculty. Also, Tallman added a new statistics course, Biometry, but it was offered for only a couple of years.

322. Biometry. Winter. 3 cr. Prerequisite, Mathematics 109, or equivalent. Mr. Tallman
A course designed to give students with a limited mathematical preparation a knowledge of the fundamental principles used in modern statistical reduction.3


1924-1925 Catalog

The faculty list shows that, by 1924, Frank Weida had joined the MSC faculty.

Dr. Frank Mark Weida (MSC, 1923-1924) received a PhD from the University of Iowa in 1923. His dissertation "The Valuation of Life Annuities with Refund of an Arbitrarily Assigned Part of the Purchase Price" was supervised by the renowned statistician Dr. Henry Lewis Rietz. Frank Weida was the first doctorate-trained statistician to serve on the faculty at MSC.

The least squares course was accompanied by a descriptive list of topics. Also the Statistics course was renumbered, renamed, given stronger prerequisites, and a slightly modified description.

313. Theory of Least Squares and Probable Error. Spring. 3 cr. Prerequisites, Mathematics 201, 202, 203. Mr. Weida.
Measure; error; law of probability of error; the adjustment observations; error functions in general; the precision of observations, observations on one or more quantities with critical discussion; solution of normal equations; errors found in various averages.6

407-408-409. Theory of Statistics. Autumn, winter and spring. Continuous. 9 cr. Prerequisites, Mathematics 201 to 203 and 313. Mr. Weida.
Application of the theory of probability to statistical problems; curve fitting by the method of least squares and the method of moments; frequency distributions, averages, and measures of dispersion; fluctuations in random sampling; Bernoulli, Poisson, and Lexis distributions; frequency curves; simple, partial, and multiple correlation; actual practice with data from physics, chemistry, biology, economics, agriculture, and education.

Note that Weida was the instructor for course 313 and the 407-408-409 sequence. Tallman continued to teach the Biometry course. This is the first time that someone other than Tallman taught a statistics course at MSC. Tallman may have recruited Weida via communications with Dr. Rietz. Our motivation for this idea is as follows. The 407-408-409 course description in the MSC catalog is identical to a contemporary course taught by Rietz for many years at the University of Iowa, and perhaps previously by Rietz at the University of Illinois. The Rietz 1924-25 course is essentially identical to the Statistics course Tallman taught at MSC since 1910. We searched for a textbook with a table of contents matching the 1910 Statistics course description, but could find none that were available at that time.9 

It was unfortunate for MSC that statistician Wieda soon left MSC to join the faculty at Lehigh University. A few years later, after he was promoted to Assoc. Professor, he was recruited by George Washington University where he had a distinguished career, serving as mathematics department head for 22 years.

1925-1926 Catalog

Mathematician Dr. John Wildeboor Hurst (MSC 1925-1961) , PhD 1925, Univ. of Illinois, took the assistant professor position vacated by statistician Weida. In the 1940s, Dr. Hurst will become a long-serving and effective head of the Mathematics Department.

The Biometry course was dropped from the curriculum and Tallman returned to teaching the least squares and the theory of statistics courses.

From the Fall of 1925 to the spring of 1941 the same three professors, Tallman, Bull, and Hurst, were the Mathematics Department faculty, the only exception being that H. S. Mendenhall (astronomy) was an Assistant Professor during academic year 1936-37. Among instructors who taught during those 15 years were B. H. Lowe, Samuel Thompson, Joseph Livers, Harrison Mendenhall, Nathan Schwid, and C. H. Frick.12

Over this same time period, there were a couple of changes to the statistical offerings, the main one being that the course 313. Theory of Least Squares and Probable Error was discontinued in the Fall of 1931. Mendenhall taught 313 during its last two years of existence. Least squares estimation had long been covered also in the sequence 407-408-409 Theory of Statistics. In the Fall of 1932, Tallman’s theory of statistics course was renamed Mathematical Theory of Statistics and the catalog ceased printing course descriptions.

In 1941, Joseph Livers was appointed Assistant Professor, joining Tallman, Bull, and Hurst on the mathematics faculty. He had been a mathematics instructor for many years and held an MS degree in mathematics since 1933. Dr. Joseph James Livers (MSC, 1941-1951) was awarded a PhD degree by the University of Michigan in 1945. His dissertation "Use of Partitions in Multivariate Moment Sampling Theory" was supervised by Dr. Paul S. Dwyer.

Through the years that the U.S. was engaged in WWII, 407-408-409 were the only statistics courses at MSC, probably taught by Tallman.

Stat Prog at MSC during Era 4
Next topic (Advances in Statistics) during Era 3 
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Last updated: 2021-04-17