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Elbert Frank Cox Biography

Elbert F. Cox was born in the segregated school system and his father was and school principal and graduated from Evansville college and worked at Indiana University. The Cox family had great respect for learning, and when cox was outstanding at mathematics and physics and went to school to indiana university, And he was awarded an Erastus Brooks fellowship in september 1922 and he enrolled in Cornell University cox was one of the founders of Canadian Mathematical Society, And he realized that Cox had the chance to be recognized not only as the first Black in the United States but as the first Black in the world to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics, he urged his student to send his thesis to a university in another country so that Cox’s status in this regard would not be disputed. Universities in England and Germany turned Cox down (possible for reasons of race), but Japan’s Imperial University of San Dei accepted the dissertation.

He was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics (Cornell University, 1925), just 39 years after Cornell gave its first Ph.D. in Mathematics (1886).In September 1925, Cox became the head of the mathematics and physics department at West Virginia State College. He stayed there four years and in 1929 moved to Howard University. Cox remained at Howard until his retirement in 1965 and served as chairmen of the Mathematics Department from 1957-1961. In 1975 the Howard University Mathematics Department at the time of the inauguration of the Ph.D. program, established the Elbert F. Cox Scholarship Fund for undergraduate mathematics majors to encourage you, Black students, to study mathematics at the graduate level.

His Ph.D. at this time was remarkable, as no place or institution was a friend to Negroes. Indeed, there were just 28 Ph.D.’s in Mathematics awarded in all the country in 1925, but 31 black men were lynched that year. For many years Dr. Cox taught at Howard University (1929-1961) along with the second and third African American Mathematics Ph.D., Dudley Woodard and Walter Claytor, and later with mathematicians George Butcher and David Blackwell. Thus, Howard really leads the Historically Black Colleges and Universities as the principal place of learning. This strength readily incorporated a graduate mathematics program at Howard.Elbert Cox married Beulah P. Kaufman, an elementary school teacher, on September 14, 1927. They had three sons, James, Eugene, and Elbert. After a brief illness.

Cox died at Cafritz Memorial Hospital on November 28, 1969. In 1980, the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) honored Cox with the inauguration of the Cox-Talbot Address which is given annually at NAM’s National Meeting.

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