Joseph Walsh

Harvard University

September 21, 1895 - December 10, 1973

Scientific Discipline: Mathematics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1936)

Joseph L. Walsh was a mathematician whose research in analytic mathematics broadened the understanding of waveforms. His most significant contribution was his paper published in 1923 on orthogonal expansions. He discovered a set of functions, later named Walsh functions, which have a unique sequence. These functions proved instrumental in the development of signal processing, which is crucial to modern computer technology.

Walsh earned his BS degree from Harvard University in 1916 and his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1917, the same year he was appointed an instructor of mathematics at Harvard. At the start of World War I he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until the end of the war. In 1919 he returned to his position at Harvard, earning his doctorate in 1920 for his dissertation, On the Location of the Roots of a Jacobian of Two Binary Forms, and of the Derivative of a Rational Function. Walsh became a full professor at Harvard in 1935 and chaired the Mathematics Department from 1937 to 1942. When World War II started he served in the U.S. Navy again as a lieutenant commander and then a commander from 1942 to 1946. At the end of the war, he returned to Harvard and was named Perkins Professor of Mathematics and held that position until he retired in 1966.

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