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Derrick Norman Lehmer | D.H. and Emma Lehmer

Derrick N. Lehmer (1867-1938)
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D. N. Lehmer, ca. 1915
3.5 x 4.5 inches
Private collection

Derrick N. Lehmer was born in Somerset, Indiana, in 1867. He earned the B.S. degree at the University of Nebraska in 1893, was headmaster of Worthington Military Academy, and received the Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1900. That same year he was appointed to the Department of Mathematics at UC Berkeley, which he later served as chair. He retired from the Department in 1937.



Autograph letter, 8 pp., 2 September 1900.
6.8 x 10.4 inches
Private collection


"I would rather teach than do anything else on earth and the more I teach the better I like it..."

Lehmer penned this letter to his sister-in-law Daisy Lehmer just after he and his bride Eunice Mitchell Lehmer arrived in Berkeley to begin his teaching career. 



President Wheeler and Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst at 
La Hacienda, Mrs. Hearst's Pleasanton estate, ca. 1900. 
4.4 x 6.0 inches

"We went to a big reception Friday evening and met a great many of the great men of the University.  Mrs. Hearst was there - a quiet, dignified woman...the first millionairess I ever shook hands with.  President Wheeler is a handsome man with fine presence and a great knack for remembering faces and names ..."

Lehmer's accomplishments in mathematics included his inspired teaching and research in the field of prime numbers, and the development of mechanical devices for their calculation. 

In his Introduction to Factor Tables, Lehmer records that Schootin published a list of primes to 10,000 (1657); Chernac published the first table to 1,020,000 (1811); Burckhardt published a table for the second million (1814); Crelle completed the third, fourth, and fifth millions (but the tables were discovered to be too inaccurate to publish). 

Glaisher supplied the fourth, fifth, and sixth millions (1879, 1880, 1883); Dase (at the instigation of Gauss) began the seventh, eighth, and ninth millions, but died in the process. His work was completed (with many errors) by Rosenberg (1862, 1865).

Factor Table for the First Ten Millions...
Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1909
18.0 x 13.0 inches

"From the days of Eratosthenes, the inventor of factor tables, to the present time the interest in the problem has never flagged.... The history of factor tables really begins in the seventeenth century, starting perhaps with a table by Cataldi (Bologna, 1603), which gave all of the factors of all the numbers up to 750...."

An Elementary Course in Synthetic Projective Geometry
Boston: Ginn and Company, 1917
5.0 x 7.5 inches

Lehmer at Wheeler Hall on the Berkeley campus, ca.1917.
2.7 x 4.0 inches
Private collection

"Machine Solves Intricate Tasks of Mathematics" 
Herald Tribune, 12 July 1931, New York.
2.0 x 13.5 inches
Private collection

Lehmer also contributed significantly to his son's brilliant career, enlisting his assistance to develop the electric factoring machine and introducing him to a student assistant, Emma Trotskaia, who became his son's spouse and lifelong collaborator.

This piece describes the first electric factoring machine to be constructed for the father and son (aided by a Carnegie Institution grant of $1,000), and demonstrated to the public at the 1932 Chicago World's Fair. 

"Machine Performs Difficult Mathematical Calculations,"
News Service Bulletin, Vol. 3(3)
Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1933
7.75 x 10.5 inches

Pictured are the Lehmers and their machine, with Dr. R. C. Burt 
(at left). 
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