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The David Blackwell Lecture

What is the "MAA-NAM David Blackwell Lecture" Series?

Each year the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) honors mathematicians with invitations to deliver a lecture or series of lectures at its MathFest. Examples include the AMS-MAA-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture, the AWM-MAA Falconer Lecture, the Hedrick Lectures, the James R. C. Leitzel Lecture, the MAA-NAM David Blackwell Lecture, and the Polya Lecture.

The MAA-NAM David Blackwell Lecture was officially started in 1994 with an inaugural address by Blackwell himself. David Harold Blackwell (April 24, 1919 -- July 8, 2010) is arguably the most decorated African-American mathematician. In 1935, at the age of sixteen, he entered the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938, his Master of Arts in 1939 and his Doctorate in 1941; all in mathematics. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1941-1942; mathematics department chair at Howard University from 1947-1954; and statistics department chair at the University of California at Berkeley from 1957-1961. He is best known for the Rao-Blackwell theorem in statistics which characterizes the transformation of an arbitrarily crude estimator into an estimator that is optimal by the mean-squared-error criterion.

Each year NAM invites a mathematical researcher who exemplifies the spirit of Blackwell in both personal achievement and service to the mathematical community. Blackwell first enrolled at the University of Illinois with the expectation to earn a degree in order to get a job as an elementary teacher. In an interview, Blackwell stated I'm not interested in doing research and I never have been.... I'm interested in understanding, which is quite a different thing. The Blackwell Lecturer gives an hour-long lecture, suitable for an audience of undergraduate students with a strong interest in conducting research in the mathematical sciences, which will promote an understanding of mathematics.

This Year:

Suggest the next MAA-NAM David Blackwell Lecturer!

We welcome nominations for future MAA-NAM David Blackwell Lecturers! Please consider the following criteria:

  • Blackwell Lecturers should be prepared to present a research talk to a general audience of undergraduates.
  • We prefer speakers who have not given a Blackwell Lecture in the past.
  • We seek a diversity of speakers. Please remember that our intended audience will feature a diversity of race/ethnicity, gender, age, and subject matter.

Fill out the nomination form here.

Archive of MAA-NAM Blackwell Lectures


2023: Tampa FL MathFest 

Ron Buckmire (Occidental College) Different Differences

2022: Philadelphia PA MathFest 

Tai-Danae Bradley (SandboxAQ) When Information Theory Meets Algebra and Topology

2021: virtual MathFest 

Tommy Wright (U.S. Bureau of the Census) 2020 Census, Lagrange's Identity, and Apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives
 2019 2019: Cincinnati OH MathFest #97 Johnny Houston (Elizabeth City State University) Dudeney’s No Three-In-Line Problem, Solutions, Conditions, Progress, and Conjectures
 2018 2018: Denver CO MathFest #96 Raegan Higgins (Texas Tech University) Continuous, Discrete, or Somewhere in Between: An Introduction to Time Scales with Applications
 2017 2017: Chicago IL MathFest #95 Rudy L. Horne (Morehouse College) Hidden Figures: My Role as a Math Consultant for this Film
 2016 2016: Columbus OH MathFest #94 Robert C. Hampshire (University of Michigan) Urban Analytics: The Case for Smart Parking
 2015 2015: Washington DC MathFest #93 Terrence Richard Blackman (University of Denver)  Mathematics, Mathematicians, Mathematics Education and Equity: Challenges and Opportunities
 2014 2014: Portland OR MathFest #92 Mark E. Lewis (Cornell University)

Markov Decision Processes, Turnpike Horizons and Blackwell Optimality

 2013 2013: Hartford CT MathFest #91 Karen Morgan Ivy (New Jersey City University) Bridging a Gap Between Creative Literacy and Quantitative Literacy: Using Poetry to Improve Quantitative Reasoning
 2012 2012: Madison WI MathFest #90 Carlos Castillo-Chavez (Arizona State University) The Marriage between Disease Dynamics and Mathematics: A History of Success
 2011 2011: Lexington KY MathFest #89 Farrah Jackson Chandler (Elizabeth City State University) Using e-Mentoring to Prepare the Next Generation of Mathematics Teachers
 2010 2010: Pittsburgh PA MathFest #88 Asamoah Nkwanta (Morgan State University) The Riordan Group Revisited: From Algebraic Structure to RNA
 2009 2009: Portland OR MathFest #87 Edray Herber Goins (Purdue University) Why Should I Care About Elliptic Curves?
 2008 2008: Madison WI MathFest #86 Salah-Eldin A. Mohammed (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale)

 Random Dynamics and Memory: Structure Within Chaos


2007: San Jose CA MathFest #85

Jack Alexander (Miami Dade College -- North Campus)

Puzzling Probabilities Featuring the Street Game of Craps


2006: Knoxville TN MathFest #84

Dominic P. Clemence (North Carolina A&T State University):

Public Health and Mathematics: Some Emerging Challenges and Paradigms at the Interface


2005: Albuquerque NM MathFest #83

Leona Harris Clark (Bennett College for Women)

Modeling the Pharmacokinetics of a Chemical Used in Household Consumer Products

2004: Providence RI MathFest #82

Dawn Alisha Lott (Delaware State University)

Mathematical Predictions and Aneurysm Treatment


2003: Boulder CO MathFest #81

James H. Curry (University of Colorado)

Cars, Faces, and Flowers 22.5 Degrees of Separation: What Can Matrix Factorization Tell You?

2002: Burlington VT MathFest #80

Isom Herron (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -- RPI)

Random Walks, Diffusion, and Energy Decay

2001: Madison WI MathFest #79

Carl Graham (Centre de Mathematiques Appliquees -- CMAP)

Limit Theorems for a Large Network in Which Customers Join the Shortest Queue Among Several


2000: Los Angeles CA MathFest #78

Arlie Oswald Petters (Duke University) 

Singularity Theory and Gravitational Lensing


1999: Providence RI MathFest #77

Melvin Robert Currie (National Security Agency)

Wide Open Spaces

1998: Toronto CA MathFest #76

Nathaniel Dean (Rice University)

Network Visualization

1997: Atlanta GA MathFest #75

Fern Y. Hunt (National Institute of Standards and Technology -- NIST)

Techniques for Visualizing Frequency Patterns in DNA

1996: Seattle WA MathFest #74 / AMS Meeting #913

Johnny L. Houston (Elizabeth City State University)

An Update on the No-Three-In Line Problem

1995: University of Vermont (Burlington VT) MathFest #73 / AMS Meeting #902

David F. St. Mary (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)

Computational Ocean Acoustics

1994: University of Minnesota (Minneapolis MN) MathFest #72 / AMS Meeting #894

David Harold Blackwell (University of California at Berkeley)

Large Derivations of Martingales


1993: University of British Columbia (Vancouver CA) Summer Meeting #71 / AMS Meeting #883AMS-CMS-MAA-NAM Invited Address

Aderemi Oluyomi Kuku (University of Ibadan in Nigeria)

Mathematical Research and Education in Africa -- Problems and Prospects

1990: Ohio State University (Columbus OH) Summer Meeting #69 / AMS Meeting #859MAA-NAM Invited Address

Carl Lindell Prather (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) Intriguing Problems about Zeros in Complex Analysis

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