Agnes Scott College

Roxana Hayward Vivian

December 9, 1871 - May 31, 1961

Roxana Hayward Vivian was born in Hyde Park, Boston, Massachusetts on December 9, 1871. She entered Wellesley College in 1890, graduating in 1894 with a B.A. degree after majoring in Greek and Mathematics. She then taught for one year at the Stoughton, Massachusetts, Public High School and for three years at Walnut Hill, a private preparatory school in Natick, Massachusetts. In 1898, Vivian began graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania as a holder of the Alumnae Fellowship for Women. In 1901 she became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was entitled "Poles of a Right Line with Respect to a Curve of Order n" [Summary].

Vivian returned to Wellesley College in 1901 as an instructor in mathematics to take the place of Helen Merrill, who was on leave to continue her graduate studies. Vivian was the first member of the Wellesley mathematics department to have a doctorate. She was promoted to associate professor in 1908 and to full professor in 1918. During her twenty-six year career at Wellesley, Vivian had several leaves of absence. From 1906 to 1909 she taught at the American College for Girls, part of Constantinople College in Turkey, serving as acting president for her last two years there. She went to Constantinople in part because of her interest in philanthropic efforts in the United States and abroad, and her interest in education for women and girls in the Near East. Ater her return from Turkey she often gave lectures on life in Constantinople and Turkish problems.

From 1913-1914 she was a lecturer in statistics for the University Extension in Boston. During 1913-1915 she also served as the financial secretary for the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston while teaching only one course at Wellesley. In addition to her teaching in the mathematics department, Vivian served as the director of the Graduate Department of Hygiene and Physical Education at Wellesley from 1918 to 1921. During that time she published an article in the American Mathematical Monthly about "Statistics in Relation to the War" [Vol. 26 (1919), JStor]. She had one last leave of absence during 1925-1926 as a visiting professor at Cornell University, then left Wellesley in 1927. This may have been due to the decrease in need of mathematics instructors after Wellesley dropped the requirement in mathematics several years earlier. In a letter to Professor Helen Owens in 1937, however, Vivian wrote:

"Taught for one year at Wellesley after my delightful year at Cornell, and then was practically forced to resign from my full professorship in mathematics after twenty-six years of teaching at Wellesley. It was, as happens so often, a case of academic jealousy and politics."

The year after leaving Wellesley, Vivian held a temporary position in mathematics at a private school in Vassalboro, Maine. She then became professor of mathematics and Dean of Women at Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York, from 1929 to 1931. From 1931-1935 Vivian served as an instructor in mathematics and Dean of Girls at the Rye Public High School, Rye, New York.


  1. Helen Brewster Owens Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Library.
  2. Merrill, Helen A. Department of Mathematics Scrapbook of the History of the Department, Wellesley College Archives.
  3. Woman's Who's Who of America: A biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canade, 1914-1915. Edited by John William Leonard, American Commonwealth, 1914.
  4. "Presentation before the Faculty of Candidates for the Doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania," Science, New Series, Vol. 14, No. 348. (Aug. 30, 1901), pp. 333-338. [Brief biography and description of her thesis. ]
  5. Vivian's PhD Thesis, University of Michigan Historical Math Collection
  6. Author Profile at zbMath
  7. Mathematics Genealogy Project