Philip J. Davis, 95


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Philip Davis passed away March 14. He was the husband of the late Hadassah Davis. He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1923, a son of Frank and Annie (Shrager) Davis. 

He received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University in the field of pure mathematics. He was chief of numerical analysis, National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. for five years. In 1963, Davis joined the faculty in the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University in Providence. 

Davis was a prolific writer. His work in numerical analysis and approximation theory included many research papers and technical books such as “Interpolation and Approximation” (1963), “Numerical Integration” (with Philip Rabinowitz, 1967), “The Schwarz Function” (1974) and “Circulant Matrices” (1979). 

His books, “The Mathematical Experience” and “Descartes’ Dream,” written jointly with Reuben Hersh of the University of New Mexico, explored questions in the philosophy of mathematics, and the role of mathematics in society. The Mathematical Experience received the American Book Award for 1983. “Mathematics and Common Sense: A Case of Creative Tension” appeared in 2006. 

Other works included the book, “No Way: The Nature of the Impossible,” with David Park, appeared in 1987. In a lighter vein, Davis wrote: “The Thread: a Mathematical Yarn” (1983), and “Thomas Gray: Philosopher Cat” (1988). “Thomas Gray in Copenhagen,” a sequel, appeared in 1995. A unique blend of biography and autobiography appeared in his work, “Mathematical Encounters of the Second Kind” (1996). “The Education of a Mathematician” (2000) embraced both biography and educational philosophy. 

Davis received a Guggenheim Award in 1956. He received the Chauvenet Prize of the Mathematical Association in 1963. In 1997, he was a doctoral lecturer for Roskilde University in Denmark and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa. 

He is survived by his daughter Abby; sons Frank, Ernest and Joseph; and grandchildren Leon, Miranda and Ruthie. 

Contributions in his memory may be made to the charity of your choice.