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Theophil Henry Hildebrandt
LSA Minutes

1888 - 1980

Theophil Henry Hildebrandt, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Departmental Chairman from 1934 to 1957, died in the Ann Arbor area on October 9, 1980.

Professor Hildebrandt was born in Dover, Ohio in 1888. He was only 14 years old when he graduated from LaSalle-Peru Township High School (Illinois) and only 17 when he received the bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois in 1905. He received a master's degree in 1906 and a Ph.D. in 1910 from the University of Chicago.

He joined the University of Michigan as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics of the College of Engineering in 1909 and became a full professor in 1923. In 1928, the mathematics units in Engineering and in Literature, Science and the Arts were united into a single department, and in 1934 Professor Hildebrandt was named department chairman. He held this post until his retirement furlough in 1957 after 48 years of service with the University. During his career the mathematics program at Michigan grew greatly in prestige.

Professor Hildebrandt's professional interests were in the theory of integration, integral equations and linear spaces. He was the author of many articles and one book in his mathematical fields of interest. In 1929, he received the Chauvenet Prize, awarded every three years by the Mathematical Association of America for an outstanding expository article appearing in an American mathematical publication.

Professor Hildebrandt was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as vice president and chairman of Section A (mathematics) of the Association in 1935. He was vice president of the Mathematical Association of America in 1936 and was president of the American Mathematical Society in 1945-46. For many years he was associated with Michigan's Engineering Research Institute as supervisor of projects dealing with research in mathematics sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. In 1946-48, he served in the division of the mathematical and physical sciences of the National Research Council. He also carried a number of mathematical editorial responsibilities.

In honor of his mathematical service to the University and the nation, the Department of Mathematics in 1962 established the T. H. Hildebrandt Research Instructorships. In 1974, these were changed to assistant professorships.

One of the remarkable aspects of Professor Hildebrandt's career was the fact that during his first few years on the Michigan faculty he found time to enroll in the School of Music and earn a degree in 1912 with a major in organ. He was organist of the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor from 1913 to 1917. For many years thereafter he was organist and choirmaster of Bethlehem United Church of Christ. Fittingly, at his funeral service in that church, many of his favorite hymns were played on its organ.

Professor Hildebrandt married Dora E. Ware in 1921. They had four children, Theodore Ware, Paul Robert, Henry Mark, and Lisbeth Louise, all of whom graduated from the University of Michigan. Dora Hildebrandt died in 1967, and in gratitude for her life, Theophil led the group at her graveside in singing "Praise God from whom all blessings flow".

T. H., as he was known among colleagues and former students, was one of the truly great men who have served in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Michigan. He was rich in mathematical and musical abilities. He had a strength of purpose and scientific spirit which enabled him to build the Department into a leading center for mathematics. During World War II, the University called upon the Department for a number of special services to meet national needs and Professor Hildebrandt responded most effectively. But he was more than an outstanding scientist and enthusiastic expositor of mathematics; he was a leader who took a deep interest in the personal as well as the mathematical growth of his students and colleagues. The lasting effects of his influence were indicated by the many mathematical friends who visited him at the Saline Evangelical Home during the 1980 Summer Meetings of the national mathematical organiza¬tions held in Ann Arbor. This was shortly before he died but he was able to talk enthusiastically to them.

He will long be remembered with respect, admiration and affection by all who knew him.

George E. Hay
Cecil J. Nesbitt