John W. Wrench, Jr. Papers
John William Wrench, Jr. (1913-2009) was born in Westfield, New York, and grew up in Hamburg, New York. He received his B.A. in mathematics from the University of Buffalo (now SUNY at Buffalo) in 1933 and his M.A. in mathematics in 1935. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University in 1938.
Dr. Wrench held teaching positions while at Yale University (1935-1938), and, after completing his Ph.D., he taught at Wesleyan University in Connecticut (1938-1939). In 1939, he moved to Washington, D.C., to take a teaching position at George Washington University, where he taught until 1942.
During WWII he held scientific research positions under contract with the National Defense Research Committee at both George Washington University (1942-1943) and Catholic University (1943-1945). From 1945 to 1953 Dr. Wrench worked for the U.S. Navy on several projects.
In 1948, while working for the Navy, Dr. Wrench and fellow mathematician Levi Smith computed the value of pi to more than 1,000 digits using a gear-driven calculating device. In 1961, Wrench’s lifelong interest in pi drove him and Daniel Shanks to calculate pi to 100,265 digits, this time using an IBM 7090 computer. The feat was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, and a printout of their calculations was presented to the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1953, Dr. Wrench became deputy head of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory (AML) at the Navy’s David W. Taylor Model Basin at Carderock (West Bethesda, Maryland). He developed high-speed numerical methods with applications in structural design, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and data analysis. He calculated high-speed numerical methods for problems in logistics, data analysis, and statistical inference. In addition, Dr. Wrench provided maximum effective use of the UNIVAC mainframe computer system in evaluations of future needs for high-speed numerical techniques. Also during this period, Wrench held a teaching position at American University in Washington, D.C. (1968-1970). In 1974, he retired as head of the AML.
Dr. Wrench was a member of several scholarly and professional societies, including Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Association for Computational Machinery. He was a fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences. He served as editor of the Journal of Mathematics of Computation. Over the course of his career Wrench published more than 150 scientific papers.
Notes, correspondence, numeric tables, publications, and printed materials document Wrench’s career as an academic, scientific researcher, and journal editor. Particularly well represented is his interest in calculations of pi and other mathematical constants. The bulk of the correspondence documents his work as editor of the Journal of Mathematics of Computation. Notes and lectures illuminate Wrench’s work as a professor at several institutions.
Forms part of the Archives of American Mathematics.
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John W. Wrench Papers, Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
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Detailed Description of the Papers