St. Olaf College Mathematical Exposition
Lynn Arthur Steen
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Dept. of Mathematics
Statistics, & Comp.Sci

St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Ave.
Northfield, MN 55057

Copyright © 2010.

Counterexamples in Topology

During my first years at St. Olaf I sought and received NSF support for a program of undergraduate research--at that time a rarity in mathematics--to provide a base for St. Olaf graduates to enter strong graduate schools in the mathematical sciences. Since my teaching at that time focused on analysis and topology, it was natural to select research topics that grew out of those interests. Counterexamples in Topology, co-authored with St. Olaf colleague J. Arthur Seebach, Jr. and supported by a cast of undergraduate mathematics majors, emerged from summer undergraduate projects in the late 1960's to become the standard reference in the field. It was revised and republished twice since 1970, most recently in 1995.


Telegraphic Reviews

Pythagorean Theorem in Arabic In 1970, in collaboration with the late J. Arthur Seebach, Jr., I began what turned into a twenty-two year stint as Telegraphic Reviews editor of the American Mathematical Monthly, the major journal of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Faculty from St. Olaf, Carleton, and Macalester Colleges wrote brief reviews of approximately 1000 mathematics books annually to help college mathematicians and librarians select volumes of greatest value and interest. The sustained commitment of St. Olaf faculty as a center of editing and reviewing for undergraduate mathematics contributed greatly to the development of the department and to unparalleled strength in the mathematics section of the St. Olaf College Library.

This three-college Telegraphic Reviews system continued throughout the 1990s under the leadership of my St. Olaf colleague Arnold Ostebee until time and technology was ripe for a fully on-line system, MAA Reviews, that is now part of the Mathematical Sciences Digital Library.


Mathematics Today & Tomorrow

In the 1970's I served as the first Mathematics Editor for Science News--a weekly newsmagazine of science--and also wrote annual articles on advances in mathematics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. During this same period I also edited a volume of popular essays entitled Mathematics Today,one of the first mathematics books to be reviewed in The New Yorker. A few years later this volume was republished in paperback, about the same time as a more speculative sequel, Mathematics Tomorrow, appeared.

These experiences led to a course in Science Writing that I co-taught for ten years with my wife Mary, a member of the St. Olaf English Department. The focus of this course, like that of my own writing, was to explain technical subjects to an attentive general audience.


Mathematics Magazine

For the five years from 1976 to 1980 Arthur Seebach and I collaborated on yet another project: editing Mathematics Magazine, a bimonthly magazine of undergraduate mathematics published by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Mathematics Magazine publishes feature articles, short notes, problems for undergraduates (followed by submitted solutions to previous problems), and a section of late-breaking news and letters. In 1976 Mathematics Magazine provided the first news report for mathematics faculty of the computer-aided solution to the famous Four Color Problem (v. 49, pp. 219-222).

Twenty years later, in 1996-2000, Mathematics Magazine returned to St. Olaf under the editorship of Paul Zorn who, in 2004, became chair of the St. Olaf College Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Editorial Positions

2000-06   Mathematics Editor, Achieve, Inc.
1999-03   Writer and Editor, Quantitative Literacy, National Council on Education and the Disciplines.
1989-94   Editorial Advisory Board, The Mathematica Journal.
1989-94   Associate Editor, Undergraduate Mathematics Education (UME) Trends.
1989-92   Editorial Board, The Wittenberg Review: An Undergraduate Journal of the Liberal Arts.
1970-92   Telegraphic Book Review Editor, The American Mathematical Monthly.
1976-86   Mathematics Writer, Britannica Book of the Year.
1978-82   Contributing Editor, The Mathematical Intelligencer.
1976-82   Contributing Editor for Mathematics, Science News.
1976-80   Co-Editor, Mathematics Magazine.
1974-75   Writing Fellow, Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences.