Evelyn Boyd Granville

Women in STEM
Evelyn Boyd Granville

Birth: May 1, 1924

Death: June 27, 2023

Specialty:  Mathematics, Education

Major Contributions:

One of the first African American Women to earn a PhD in Mathematics

Developed early intervention curriculum for mathematics

Worked on various parts of the Apollo missions

Image Courtesy of the Smith College Yearbook

A native of Washington DC, Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville was one of the first African American women to earn a doctorate in mathematics and was a practicing mathematician and teacher for most of her life.

Attending Smith College, she graduated with honors in 1945 and continued her studies at Yale University earning a master’s in mathematics and physics in one year. She earned her PhD in 1949 with her work focusing on functional analysis. While completing her post-doctoral work at New York University she was unable to find a teaching position due to both gender and racial discrimination.

Accepting a teaching position at Fisk University, she taught in Nashville, Tennessee for two years before returning to DC to work as a mathematician with the National Bureau of Standards, where she became interested in computer programming. 

In 1956 she began working at IBM as a programmer including contracted work for NASA in which she created computer software that analyzed satellite orbits for Projects Vanguard and Mercury. She moved to Los Angeles four years later to work with computing orbits, including work with the Apollo Program.

In 1967 she returned to teaching at the college level and found herself frustrated with the lack of mathematics skills in her students. She and a colleague began looking into ways to improve elementary math education as a way of addressing this issue.  In 1968 she was part of the Miller Mathematics Improvement Program where she taught at a Los Angeles elementary school after which she co-authored a book entitled Theory and Applications of Mathematics for Teachers

She retired in 1984 but went back to teaching, this time at Texas College until 1988. After taking a few years to travel she started teaching at University of Texas at Tyler, retiring again in 1998. Not ready to settle down into retirement, she and her husband hit the road visiting middle schools in Texas and Lousisana to talk about the importance of studying mathematics.

Granville returned to Washington DC after the death of her husband and continued to sharpen her mind with Scrabble games played three times a week, being involved in many committees, and even teaching a course she titled “Math for Fun with Evelyn” at her retirement community until her death in 2023.

Written by Angela Goad


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See Also:

The Lives We Lead: Evelyn Boyd Granville ’45 (Smith College Alumnae Relations)

Infinite Possibilities Conference