Diverse Science

Mickens, Ronald E. | Difference Equations

  • First edition first printing. An attractive presentation copy inscribed by the author on the front free endpaper, “To Claudia, for the joy and beauty of science [smiley face] Ronald E. Mickens, Feb. 20, 1989”. Rare signed and with the stylish jacket in such nice condition.

    Ronald E. Mickens (1943 - ) “is a physicist who has advanced the general understanding of the role that pure mathematics can play in science. He is perhaps best known for his work on difference equations – a type of equation that is now considered fundamental to the development of chaos theory” (Krapp, Notable Black American Scientists, p. 229).

    In an interview with the American Physical Society Mickens has described how, “Even at two or three years of age, I was curious about the ‘workings’ of the universe and of the human mind”. His maternal grandfather introduced him to the scientific outlook, and his childhood in a farming community provided opportunities to see science in action: “There was an implicit scientific understanding involved in all these processes, [picked up] just from working the farm”. Mickens went on to earn his bachelor’s in physics at Fisk University and his PhD at Vanderbilt in 1968, then studied particle physics as a postdoctoral researcher at MIT.

    Mickens has had an extensive teaching career at institutions including Fisk, Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, MIT, and Vanderbilt. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards allowing him to study a wide range of topics, including “nonlinear equations, numerical analysis, mathematical biology, and the history and sociology of science” (Krapp), on which he has published more than 170 papers and five books. Mickens’s most recent research projects have focused on mathematical models for epidemiology and vibrations and oscillations in materials science. As he told the APS, “There’s really no area of physics that doesn’t have real world applications... Even if it seems like the applications for something aren’t too significant, you still have the satisfaction of dealing with a challenging problem and making progress with it”.

    “Ron is also deeply involved in documenting African American contributions to science and technology. He has already written a biography of Edward Bouchet, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in any subject—it happened to be physics. He continues to research and write a biographical work on Elmer Imes, the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in physics” (APS interview). He has served as historian of the National Society of Black Physicists and was one of the founders of the National Conference of Black Physics Students.

  • New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1987.

    Octavo. Original black boards, titles to spine in silver. With the dust jacket. Equations and graphs throughout the text. Small bump to the edge of the upper board also affecting the jacket. Faint partial toning of the pastedowns. An excellent, fresh copy in the jacket that is just a little rubbed and faded along the spine panel.