Evelyn Boyd Granville

The second black woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, Evelyn Boyd Granville worked on important NASA space programs and became a longtime professor.


Born on May 1, 1924, in Washington, D.C., Evelyn Boyd Granville became only the second black woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. After joining IBM in 1956, she created computer software for NASA's Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs. Granville embarked on a 30-year career as a professor in 1967, and continued to encourage mathematical studies after retiring from the classroom.

Early Life and Teaching Experience

African-American mathematician and educator Evelyn Boyd Granville was born on May 1, 1924, in Washington, D.C. Her father, William, held a variety of jobs, including custodian, chauffeur and messenger for the FBI; her mother, Julia, became a currency inspector for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing after splitting from her husband.

One of five valedictorians of her Dunbar High School senior class, Granville enrolled at Smith College in 1941 with a partial scholarship from Phi Delta Kappa, a national sorority of African-American educators. She graduated summa cum laude from Smith in 1945 with honors in mathematics, and went on to become only the second black woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, from Yale University in 1949 (after Euphemia Lofton Haynes, who earned a mathematics Ph.D. in 1943).

After graduation, Granville spent a year as a research assistant and part-time instructor at New York University Institute of Mathematics. Determining that she enjoyed teaching, she became an associate professor of mathematics at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Prominent Mathematician

In 1952, Granville temporarily abandoned teaching to become a mathematician for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., her work centering on the analyzation and application of mathematics toward the development of missile fuses.

In 1956, Granville took a job with the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contracted with IBM, she created computer software that analyzed satellite orbits for the Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs.

Her skills in high demand, Granville moved to Los Angeles in 1960 to perform research on computing orbits for the Computation and Data Reduction Center of Space Technology. In 1962, Granville accepted work on the Apollo Project at North American Aviation. She returned to IBM a year later, when the company offered her a senior mathematician position with its Federal Systems Division.

Back to the Classroom

Granville returned to academia in 1967, teaching computer programming and numerical analysis at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). During her time at CSULA, Granville also co-wrote a college textbook and participated in the Miller Mathematics Improvement Program, a supplemental math program for select California elementary schools.

Granville retired from teaching and moved from Los Angeles to Texas in 1984, but her retirement didn't last long. She taught basic computer skills to eighth-grade students in the Van Independent School District later that year, and from 1985 to 1988 she was a professor of computer science and mathematics at Texas College.

After taking time off to travel, Granville joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Tyler as a mathematics professor in 1990. She finally retired from the classroom in 1997, but continued to promote the importance of mathematics in academics and inspire others as a public speaker.

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