Past Member

# David H. Blackwell

Affiliation

Mathematics

In 1941, David Blackwell became the seventh African American to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. He spent the following year at the Institute as a Member in the School of Mathematics, where he developed his doctoral thesis into his first published paper, about Markov chains in probability. This work later grew into a series of papers that provided a rigorous mathematical basis for the theory of dynamic programming. Blackwell’s work in probability, statistics, game theory, and dynamic programming came to have wide-ranging influence, but he recalled in a 1984 interview that he didn’t choose problems to work on because of their potential applicability. “I just picked directions that interested me and worked in them. And I have had fun,” he said. “I guess that’s the way scholars should work. Don’t worry about the overall importance of the problem; work on it if it looks interesting. I think there’s probably a sufficient correlation between interest and importance.”

Dates at IAS

*Member*

- Mathematics

Degrees

University of Illinois

*Ph.D.,**1941*Honors

Fellow, Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Member, American Philosophical Society

Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Von Neumann Theory Prize, Operations Research & Society

Appointments

Institute of Mathematics Statistics
1995

*President*