About the Scholarship

The Paul F. Byrd Scholarship was first awarded in 1994.   His former student Kent Okasaki was the prime instigator in establishing the scholarship in honor of his thesis advisor.   Kent used his HP stock option plan to endow the scholarship.   The scholarship is sponsored by Professor Byrd's son Bruce Byrd, Kent Okasaki, and the College of Mathematics and Computer Science at San Jose State University.

The College of Mathematics awards the scholarship each year to deserving math majors enrolled in the College.   The amount of the award and the number of awards given are determined by the current value of the endowment.   Proceeds from Bruce's Book Sale go directly into the scholarship fund.


About Professor Byrd

Paul Francis Byrd (1918 - 1991) was a distinguished applied mathematician and faculty member for 30 years.   He was an aeronautical research scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a full tenured Professor of Mathematics at San Jose State University in California.

Paul Francis Byrd was a writer too.  A double treat, someone called him.   His 1954 handbook entitled Elliptic Integrals for Engineers and Physicists, published by Springer-Verlag, one of the world's most prestigious publishers, is the second book, volume sixty-seven, in a German mathematical series published in English.   The book has 400 worldwide citations in the Science Citation Index, and more than 30 reviews in a dozen different languages.

Professor Byrd's numerous excellent articales on Fibonacci Numbers, published in the Fibonacci Quarterly, are widely used as references at San Jose State University.  

Professor Byrd graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri, attended Northwestern University for two years, then received both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Chicago.  

He was working on a doctorate degree when World War II began.   Professor Byrd enlisted in the Air Force, became a lieutenant, and served with the Tuskegee Airmen 99th Division as a meteorologist.   He was wounded in Italy in 1944 but recovered.   After the war, he taught at Fisk University before taking a research job at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.  

During the early 1950s, Prof. Byrd headed the Palo Alto chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.   In 1958, Prof. Byrd took a research sabbatical at the University of Hamburg in Germany where he developed an outstanding collection of formulae related to the field of "special functions", which is of interest to both pure and applied mathematics.   Also while in Germany, he married his wife Isolde.  

When he returned to NASA the following year, Prof. Byrd began teaching part-time at San Jose State University.   He left NASA in 1974 and was appointed associate professor.   He became a full professor in 1983, becoming one of the first black tenured professors at San Jose State.   All told, he taught at San Jose State for 30 years.

Prof. Byrd was a great expert in his area of mathematics.   He did extensive research on elliptic integrals, then developed a system of formulae where there were few.   He could calculate any definite integral that could be evaluated, and most series as well.   In a paper written by Selburg and Chowla, an obscure integral was referred to as "known."   Prof. Byrd looked at the paper and in a three-page notation, developed four ways to do the integral and a generalization to a general class of such integrals.

He is most remembered for his knowledge of applied mathematics, his ability to learn independently, his ability and love for solving monthly problems, his readiness and willingness to transmit his knowledge to students and colleagues, and his capacity to fight for social justice.   Paul F. Byrd was a genuinely gentle person, a scholar, a high-ranking government scientist, a brilliant chess player, and a champion for assisting students.

One student said, "He made the study of Numerical Analysis meaningful through his dynamic teaching style, genuine empathy, and ability to nurture stregths."   Kent Okasaki said, "He was an excellent teacher, very sensitive to the learning needs of his students, and the students loved him."

Prof. Byrd and his former associates at NASA were financial contributors to numerous student scholarships at San Jose State.   His generosity is continued through the scholarship fund.

Excerpted from interviews and a remembrance written by Michele Byrd Grant.