In 1859, William Chauvenet became chairman of the mathematics department at Washington University in St. Louis. Three years later, he was appointed chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. Our department's William Chauvenet post-doctoral lecturer positions are named after him.
William Chauvenet (1820-1870) was one of the finest mathematical minds produced in the United States prior to the Civil War. He was instrumental in the founding of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.
The following link on William Chauvenet was kindly sent to us by the mathematics department of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis that was founded by Chauvenet and is housed in Chauvenet Hall: http://www.usna.edu/MathDept/website/William_Chauvenet.pdf.
Later, Chauvenet came to Washington University as Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy (1859-1869) and served as the second Chancellor of Washington University (1862-1869). Recently recovered letters of William Chauvenet shed new light on his life and tenure at the university; see article in Washington Magazine (June 2011).
As Chancellor, Chauvenet addressed the graduating class at the University's first commencement ceremony, held on June 20, 1862. (Until approximately 1880, the tradition was that every graduating class member should also give an address, usually in Latin or Greek.)
On the wall of the arcade in front of our Danforth Campus's Ridgely Hall is a replica of a plaque commemorating his time at Annapolis, and a plaque honoring his service to Washington University in St. Louis.
Web links related to William Chauvenet include:
The Chauvenet Prize, consisting of a prize of $1,000 and a certificate is awarded at the Annual Meeting of the Association to the author of an outstanding expository article on a mathematical topic by a member of the Association. First awarded in 1925, the Prize is named for William Chauvenet. It was established through a gift in 1925 from J.L. Coolidge, then MAA President. Winners of the Chauvenet Prize are among the most distinguished of mathematical expositors. The winners include two current members of the W.U. Math Department (Professors Guido Weiss and Steve Krantz), as well as a some former members: Ken Gross (now of the University of Vermont), Carolyn Gordon and David Webb (both of Dartmouth College).
The Mathematics Department at the United States Naval Academy is housed in Chauvenet Hall. When it was renovated a few years ago, a permanent display about William Chauvenet was created. This site captures part of that display.