Joel Evans Hendricks


Born: 10 March 1818 in Hilltown, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: 8 June 1893 in Des Moines, Iowa, USA


The first puzzle with Joel E Hendricks is his middle name. We note that some sources give Hendricks middle name as Emanuel but this must be an error since his middle name is given as Evans in the 1892 list of members of the American Mathematical Society [8], as the author of Problem 238 in the 1890 volume of the Mathematical Visitor [9], and in the autobiographical note in The Mathematical Messenger [7]. He seems to have almost always given his name as Joel E Hendricks. It is also somewhat unclear exactly where he was born with most sources giving Bucks county which does not pin it down very precisely (see for example [2]). We assume that he was actually born on a farm so there may be no town or village to give as a birthplace. However, Hendricks himself in his autobiography [7] gives his place of birth as Berks County. We note that Bucks Co. and Berks Co. are both in Pennsylvania (and relatively close) but we have been unable to determine which is correct. His parents were William King Hendricks (1791-1862), the son of Henry Hendricks and Elizabeth Konig, and Catherine Moyer Detweiler. Joel, writing about is ancestors, states that "his family immigrated from Holland to New Jersey" so it appears that he was of Dutch ancestry. Joel had five siblings, Jacob, John, John F, Maria Anne "Mary", and Henry.

When Joel was two years old, in 1820, the family moved to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Four years later, in 1824, when Joel was six years old, the Hendricks family moved from Westmoreland County to Columbiana county, Ohio, where they farmed the land. Joel lived on the Columbiana county farm until the autumn of 1836, by which time he was eighteen years old. During these years Joel and his brothers had worked alongside their father helping with the work on the farm. He had spent short periods of time at school but he reached the age of eighteen having received little more education than learning to read, write and count. Despite having little formal education, he showed himself quite expert in arithmetical calculations and developed a love of mathematics. In the autumn of 1836 he became a teacher and taught for a year in Ohio. In 1837 he obtained his father's permission to take on a two-year apprenticeship as a mill-wright in St Charles County, Missouri. However, he managed to agree a contract which allowed him not to work as an apprentice mill-wright during the winters so that he had time to be able to continue as a teacher.

The first winter of his apprenticeship, he was given time off as had been agreed to teach. It was on this occasion that luck played a part that led Hendricks to a different career. This luck was that, when teaching at this school, he came across two books that fascinated him. One was John Hamilton Moore's The New Practical Navigator and Daily Assistant and the other was Tobias Ostrander's The planetarium and astronomical calculator. John Hamilton Moore (1738-1807), born in Edinburgh, Scotland and educated in Ireland, had established a Nautical Academy in Brentford, Middlesex, England in 1770 and published his Practical Navigator two years later. The book, which was also published in the United States in 1799, ran to around 20 editions (the 20th being many years after Moore's death). The book contained many minor errors in the tables that it presented but, in many ways, this did not distract from its usefulness. Tobias Ostrander writes in the Preface of his book:-

In presenting the following pages to the public, I will briefly mark that the people generally are grossly ignorant in the important and engaging science of Astronomy. Scarcely one in a county is found capable of calculating with exactness and accuracy the time of an eclipse, or conjunction and opposition of the Sun and Moon. Is it for lack of abilities? No. - There are no people in the world who possess better natural faculties for acquiring knowledge of every description than those who inhabit the United States of America. ... I now present to this enlightened community a volume within the means of almost every person; containing all the essential parts of Astronomy ...
One can just imagine how Hendricks reacted to reading these words. Here was a young man, thirsty for knowledge, being told that all he needed to do was to study Ostrander's book and he could learn all these things. He began to devote all his spare time to reading the two books. From them he learnt trigonometry and, as Ostrander had claimed, he soon became expert enough to calculate "with exactness and accuracy the time of an eclipse, or conjunction and opposition of the Sun and Moon."

After completing his apprenticeship in St Charles County, Missouri, he returned to Ohio in the summer of 1839. He again taught during 1839-40 and again it was a book that he found which led him to further study of mathematics. This book was A treatise on the elements of algebra by Berwick Bridge. This book was first published in England, but an American edition (taken from the 6th London edition) was published in 1832. Bridge, who had studied at St Peter's College, Cambridge, writes:-

In this work the hitherto abstract and difficult science of Algebra is simplified and illustrated so as to be attainable by the younger class of learners, and by those who have not the aid of a teacher.
Again here was exactly the encouragement that Hendricks need to study the subject on his own. He devoted two hours each night for five weeks to reading this book and by the end of that time he had solved all the examples in the textbook.

Abijah McLean (1800-1870) was a Columbiana county official with responsibilities for surveying. McLean was interested in mathematics and had investigated the problem of finding all square numbers containing each of the nine digits 1, 2, ..., 9 exactly once in some order. For example, 152843769 = 123632. McLean found 27 such numbers and believed he had found them all but, in fact, he missed three. Hendricks visited McLean in the spring of 1840 and the two soon became close friends. McLean taught Hendricks some interesting mathematics but more than that, he had an excellent mathematics library from which Hendricks was able to borrow and read books such as Charles Hutton's A Course of Mathematics, Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, and Nathaniel Bowditch's translation of Laplace's Mécanique Céleste.

Hendricks decided in 1840 that he would train to become a medical doctor. He began reading medical books preparing to enter medical school but still taught each winter to earn enough money to support himself. In the spring of 1843 he went to western Ohio where he intended to make money giving medical advice. His aim was to build up enough financial reserves so that he might begin his studies at a medical college. He married Leah Shelley Gish (1825-1915) in Williams County, Ohio, on 28 January 1843. Leah Gish was the daughter of Abraham Gish and Elizabeth Shelley. Leah and Joel Hendricks had nine children, one son and eight daughters): Franklin Benjamin (1843-1862), Francis Eliza (1845-), Louisa Jane (1847-1919), Elmira Celestia (1849-1938), Cornelia Ann (1852-1938), Alice Martha (1855-1938), Rosa Marian (1857-1876), Clara (1860-1948), and Daisy (1867-1867). Franklin Benjamin Hendricks was killed in the American Civil War. Following his marriage, Hendricks found that he neither had the time nor the financial means to attend medical college so he gave up on the idea. However, he did continue to give medical advice for several years. In the 1850 census he was living in Auburn in DeKalb County, Indiana and he gave his occupation as physician.

Along with a number of others, Hendricks founded Newville Academy in the town of Newville, DeKalb County. He was appointed as a teacher of mathematics at Newville Academy and he taught there for two years. We note that Hendricks was still in Auburn when his daughter Cornelia Ann was born on 21 February 1852 but by the time his daughter Alice Martha was born on 4 February 1855 the family had moved to Newville.

Francis M Case, was appointed the first Surveyor General of Colorado on 5 April 1861. The first survey contract granted by Case was to Hendricks, who was living in Newville, Indiana, at that time. Hendricks was appointed as Deputy Surveyor and given the 'First Standard Parallel South' survey, the 'Second Standard Parallel South' survey and the 'Third Standard Parallel South' survey in the state of Colorado which he completed in September 1861. He completed the 'Exterior Boundaries' survey on 23 October 1861. The American Civil War began in April 1861 and Hendricks became a surgeon of an Indiana regiment. After serving for about eight months he was wounded and discharged on account of his disability. In the autumn of 1864 the Hendricks family left DeKalb County and moved to Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa. Again Hendricks became involved in surveying and until 1873 he undertook such work. However, Hendricks had spent his whole life with a great love for mathematics and in 1873 he founded a mathematics journal which he named The Analyst.

The 1st part of the 1st volume of The Analyst appeared in January 1874. In his 'Introductory Remarks' which appeared in this first part Hendricks writes that:-

... it is intended to afford a medium for the presentation and analysis of any and all questions of interest or importance in pure and applied Mathematics, embracing especially all new and interesting discoveries in theoretical and practical astronomy, mechanical philosophy, and engineering.

The first few papers in the first part were: On the Relative Positions of the Asteroidal Orbits; The Recurrence of Eclipses; Operations on Imaginary Quantities Considered Geometrically; and Equations of Differences. Among the papers in the second part of this first volume was To Find the Area Common to Two Intersecting Circles by Artemas Martin while the third part contained the paper Problem Relating to the Determination of Circular Orbits by George W Hill. Hill became a frequent contributor to The Analyst and published many papers in it. It is worth noting that Christine Ladd contributed a paper to the March part of the second volume with the title Crelle's Journal. She ends a review of the contents of a recent part of August Crelle's Journal for pure and applied Mathematics by writing:-

It is not greatly to the credit of the mathematicians of the vicinity that 'Crelle's Journal' lies on the shelves of the Boston Public Library with uncut leaves; unless, indeed, we are to suppose that all who give themselves to mathematics are so rich that they can afford to take the Journal for themselves. Certainly none who hope to extend the boundaries of the science can afford to do without their Crelle.
Hendricks continued to edit The Analyst for ten years but, due to declining health, he ended publication with the final part of Volume 10 in November 1883.

Through his hard, energetic work as the editor of The Analyst, Hendricks gained international fame. In his Announcement Hendricks was unable to announce who would take over publication of the journal as negotiations were still not finalised. However, it was soon agreed that Ormond Stone of the University of Virginia would take over and the journal was renamed the Annals of Mathematics. The first part of the Annals of Mathematics appeared in March 1884 so there was no break in publication between The Analyst and its replacement. In 1899 the Annals of Mathematics was transferred to Harvard University, and in 1911 to Princeton University. In 1933 it was agreed that the Annals of Mathematics be edited jointly by Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, an arrangement which continues to this day.

In 1865 Hendricks received an honorary degree from Indiana State University. In 1880 he was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, becoming a fellow in 1885. In 1891 he was elected a member of the New York Mathematical Society, a few years before that society had changed its name to the American Mathematical Society.

John Marvin Colaw (1860-1939) writes in [2]:-

After the discontinuance of 'The Analyst', Dr Hendricks continued to manifest his interest in mathematical subjects by frequent contributions to other periodicals, and his writing always commanded wide respect. Though gifted beyond the ordinary, Dr Hendricks was modest to a fault, and thought little of self or self interest. His life was characterized by candour, modesty, and devotion to the truth. Dr Hendricks had been in failing, health for some time, but was not considered dangerously ill, until a few hours before his death. He passed away surrounded by his family ...
Hendricks was buried in Woodland Cemetery, Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

October 2015
MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Hendricks.html]