Open only 23 years, from 1933 to 1956, Black Mountain College has become famous for the many artists who were faculty or students at the college. These individuals have had a profound influence on modern and contemporary art. Recently there have been national and international exhibitions dedicated to the influence and legacy of BMC. There is now an extensive collection of literature on the college. Most of this work has focused on the arts and artists from BMC. However, BMC was not just an art school. It was a liberal arts college based on John Dewey’s theories of education. There was a full spectrum of liberal arts classes, including classes in the sciences such as mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology. The college always had at least a few science faculty. Just as BMC was able to attract many great artists because of WWII, they were also able to attract some amazing science faculty. For a small undergraduate college tucked back in the southern Appalachian Mountains, the list of distinguished science faculty is surprising. This talk will give a brief overview of a few of the notable individuals who taught in the sciences at BMC.
David Peifer is a professor of mathematics at UNCA. His mathematical research is on symmetries and structures of shapes in dimensions four and less, or technically what is known as low dimensional topology and infinite group theory. David became interested in the history and legacy of Black Mountain College after discovering that the great German mathematician Max Dehn taught at the college from 1945 until he passed away in 1952. In the early 1900’s, Dehn did foundational work in topology and infinite group theory. Over the past decade, David has published several articles and given presentations about the history of Max Dehn and the arts and sciences at BMC. Recently, David has given joint talks with NYC artist Dorothea Rockburne, at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and at the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. David has been a board member at the BMC Museum and Art Center, in Asheville, for the past nine years.