Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Beth West, great-granddaughter of William Tyler Mather for valuable photos and documents.
William Tyler Mather, professor of physics, died on June 14, 1937. He was 72.
Professor Mather was born on September 2, 1864, in Amherst, Massachusetts. A little background on his family is helpful in understanding William’s life. He was the son of Richard Henry (1835–1890 and Ellen Augusta (Mather) (1847–1896) Mather, and a direct descendent of Increase Mather’s son, the celebrated minister, Cotton Mather. Richard was Professor of Greek and German at Amherst in 1864 and Professor of Greek and lecturer on sculpture in 1878. In 1873 he and his wife applied and received a passport. He secured for Amherst college the second finest collection of plaster casts in the U. S. He received the degree of D. D. from Bowdoin in 1879. Although never the pastor of a church, he often supplied the pulpits of New York, Boston, and other cities. He edited Greek text-books for use in colleges, which passed through several editions. The principal ones were Herodotus (1872); selections from Thucydides, the "Electra" of Sophocles (1873) ; abstract of lectures upon sculpture (1882); and the "Prometheus Bound" of Aeschylus (1883). He spent the winter of 1887-88 in Athens in connection with the work of his professorships.
William Tyler received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Amherst College in 1886 and 1891, respectively. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He married Mabel Elizabeth Nevins (18661953) on June 30, 1892. Mabel is seen below in her wedding gown. The photo was taken by photographer A. J. Schillare in Northhampton, Massachusetts. He was active between 1856–1917 in Northhampton. The photo is called a cabinet card or Carte-de-Visite.
Following graduation with his AB, he was an Instructor in Chemistry and Physics at Leicester Academy in Leicester, Mass., from 1886-87. From 1887 to 1892, he taught Physics and Chemistry at Williston Seminary, a boys’ school in Easthampton, Mass. He then worked as a chemist in Boston until 1893 when he entered Johns Hopkins University to study physics. The 1896 issue of Science announced that W. T. Mather had been awarded a Fellowship in Physics. He earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins in 1897. He remained there for a year as an Instructor. In 1898, he was appointed Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Texas where he taught for 40 years, until shortly before his death. His children were: sons, Richard M., Piedmont, CA, Edward Otis, Washington D.C-later New York, daughters: Mrs. E. M. Pichett, El Paso, Mrs Sam L. Austin, Houston.
On December 11, 1897, The Austin American Statesman ran this article:
THE UNIVERSITY REGENTS
THE MEETING HELD YESTERDAY
A VERY IMPORTANT ONE
A NEW PROFESSOR WAS APPOINTED
To Fil the Chair of Physics—Important
Appropreation Made for Various
Departments, Both Here and at Galveston
In 1917, Governor Jim Ferguson appeared before the regents to discuss his request that six faculty members be fired. His charges involved political activity, peculation and fraud. The regents fired five professors, including Professor of Physics William T. Mather. They suggested it was due to Governor Jim Ferguson’s displeasure with the five, and his threat to veto the University budget if they remained. Students and alumni protested. The Texas House of Representatives investigated charges that Mather received a percentage of the price of the laboratory manual written by him and sold by the University Co-op. He was also accused of receiving travel expenses as Chair of the University Athletic Committee. He was cleared of any wrongdoing and eventually reinstated by a non-unanimous vote of the Regents (Regent Littlefield opposed). An additional charge against Mather was his chairmanship of the Anti-Vice League in Austin, making him, according to Major Littlefield, “the most dangerous man to the University in the Faculty.” The Anti-Vice League was formed to enforce the closing of the Austin prostitution district called “Guy Town” in 1913.
Professor Mather held memberships in the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Texas Academy of Science.
(Additions by Mel Oakes: Professor Mather in 1898 donated 140 Greek books to the University of Texas. He was chair of the Athletics Committee for UT and is credited (with another professor) with creating the Southwest Athletic Conference. He was very active in the YMCA, an important institution during the early days of UT. He worked tirelessly to push for funds for the Physics Department.)
Dr. Mather in his lab, likely in Old Main. (Special thanks to Larry and Beth West. Few photos of labs in Old Main survive.)
William Tyler Mather Photo Album