On “The Black Mathematician Chronicles: Our Quest to Update the MAD Pages”

On Friday, January 8, I attended this excellent talk by Edray Goins, a professor of mathematics at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. While I haven’t personally spoken with Goins before, I have read multiple media articles he has been quoted in, including the New York Times piece “For a Black Mathematician, What It’s Like to Be the ‘Only One’” and a profile of him published by Science News for Students. I had also visited the “Mathematicians of the African Diaspora” page but didn’t quite realize how much work had gone into creating the original site and recent efforts to update it.

The “MAD pages,” as they are known, were originally created by Scott Williams of SUNY Buffalo, but Goins said in the talk that after Williams retired, the pages languished. Since 2015, Goins has been working with collaborators to update the pages.

In the talk, Goins discussed the histories of some of the first African Americans to be awarded their PhDs in mathematics. Goins posted the slides for his talk on the JMM conference platform (to access those, just go to the page for his talk and look under “downloads”). On those slides, he describes a little bit more about those mathematicians. If you haven’t heard the talk, I recommend listening to it when the recording becomes available.

Goins also discussed how the National Association of Mathematicians was formed and shared more about the “Pomona Research in Mathematics Experience,” a 2020 NSF REU that had 8 participants. Those participants helped update the MAD pages database, wrote biographies of Black mathematicians and participated in virtual seminars (all of which except 2 are available on YouTube). Goins also spoke about efforts to create an oral history, which at least one audience member stated, would be a huge undertaking but also a tremendous asset to the mathematical and historical communities.

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