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Biographies of Plains Indians

Robert Eugene Megginson — 1948

One of only about 12 Native Americans who hold a PhD in mathematics, Robert Megginson grew up in a family who was interested in math. His British father held a bachelor’s degree in physics and math and his maternal grandfather, an Oglala Lakota often gave the young Megginson math problems to solve.

Math was not Megginson’s first degree, however. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics and worked for a private firm for eight years as a computer systems software specialist. In 1977 he returned to college and received his master’s degree in statistics and his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Illinois. Dr. Megginson then joined the faculty of Eastern Illinois University and later the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. His field of study is the study of multi-dimensional (Banach) spaces.

For the past decade Dr. Megginson has spent his time working to solve the problem of the under-representation of minorities in the field of mathematics. In 1992 he developed a summer program for high school students at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The purpose of the program is to keep the students interested in mathematics and related fields and encourage them to pursue college degrees in these areas.

Dr. Megginson has mentored many minority students and in 1997 received the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society awarded Megginson its Ely S. Parker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. In 2001 he was named to the Native American Science and Engineering Wall of Fame. He continues to live and teach in Ann Arbor, Michigan.