Charles Albert Noble, Mathematics: Berkeley
Charles Albert Noble was born August 14, 1867, in Soquel, California. His parents were early settlers: Augustus Noble, of English descent and a California pioneer, and Joanna (Shaw) Noble, of a colonial family of Salem, Massachusetts, coming to California in 1850. Augustus Noble and his brothers purchased a land grant in 1849 and established themselves in Soquel as farmers and orchardists. In 1903, Charles Noble married Florence N. Coleman, also of an early California family. She died in 1947. His son, Dr. Charles A. Noble, Jr., Clinical Professor of Medicine in the University of California, and his two grandsons, Charles Edward Noble, and Dr. Walter Morris Hart Noble, survive him. He died, May 7, 1962, at the age of ninetyfour. He was a farmer boy, but, in truth, for such an occupation in terms of the agriculture of those days he acquired a profound distaste. After his father's death he lived at the home of his sister, Mrs. Yates Cunningham Lawson, and was able to attend high school in San Francisco. He graduated from the University of California in 1889 as Bachelor of Science. His halfcentury teaching career began in 1889, and was interrupted only for the period 189396, which he used for advanced study in Germany, at the University of Göttingen. He studied there particularly under the two famous mathematicians, David Hilbert and Felix Klein. Like other American mathematicians of the period, he acquired an idiomatic knowledge of German, and a happy, intimate knowledge of ― 67 ―
German student life. His first mathematical paper appeared in German, in 1896, on a boundary value problem. His “Inaugural
Dissertation” for the Ph.D. degree, which he received in 1901, was entitled “Eine neue Methode in der Variationsrechnung.”
Thereafter he published in English or German, mathematical papers on differential equations, and, incidentally, one on the
curve of concentration of a liquid solution.
He wrote various articles, for mathematics and education journals, on the teaching of mathematics in secondary schools and on the training of teachers of mathematics respectively in California, Germany, France, and England. He was inspecting schools for the University of California, in Marin and Sonoma counties, at the time of the 1906 earthquake. The sabbatical year 190607 he spent abroad, with his wife and young son, and under authority of the German Government, visited the schools of Göttingen and Munich. Also, for American use, he translated two books of his own teacher, Klein (in conjunction with E. R. Hedrick): Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Standpoint, Part I, ArithmeticAlgebra Analysis (274 p., N. Y. 1932) and Part II, Geometry (214 p., N. Y. 1939). From 1889 to 1893 he was a teacher in high school: one year of mathematics in the Oakland High School and two years of mathematics and English in the San Francisco Boys' High School. After his study in Germany he returned in 1896 to the University of California, as Fellow in Mathematics for one year. Then came the typical progression through the successive grades of instruction to the professorship. He saw the University of California grow from a small institution into one of international eminence. He was a member of the professional mathematical societies and of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He became Emeritus in 1937. But later, during World War II, while so many of his colleagues were at the Aberdeen ― 68 ―
Proving Grounds or the Pentagon he returned to teach again in the Department of Mathematics, donating his services to the
University.
Charles Noble was a person of great charm. He grew up in an uncrowded society, of which he preserved the virtues. At once the stranger would feel at home in his presence. He loved the mountains of California. As a youth, he and his companions would tramp from Berkeley to the top of Mount Diablo, and back again next day. In the late nineties he made pack trips with the Sierra Club successively from north to south in the high mountains. Although severe arthritis forced him to discontinue these extended activities, he continued to enjoy with his friends the lodge of the Sierra Ski Club in winter and in July the tent camp on its forty acres of forest and flowers. The picture of Charles Noble will be found in the group photograph of the charter members of the Faculty Club. He was also a founding father of the Kosmos Club. To give of himself was his nature. For more than one generation he and old friends would meet for Thursday lunch at the University Club in San Francisco. The preChristmas gathering at his home was a notable occasion, because the friends of his youth were friends for life. He continued, however, to absorb new ones, some from among younger colleagues and from among our graduate students of mathematics. He added much to the happiness of these last during the time of their advanced study, and celebrated gaily with them their attainment of the Ph.D. degree. Friends, old and new, would come to his house in the late afternoons, to join him in anecdote, argument, and jollity. In conclusion we quote a statement of one of his longtime friends and old time pupils: ^{[*]} “Happily I was one of his students (in high school). Already I had begun to wonder at the separateness of the various ― 69 ―
types of mathematics to which I had been exposed. At once my new teacher began to relate them. And a lifelong friendship
grew. Some of the girls made eyes (he was handsome, darkhaired, straight and trim). But for him teaching was strictly businessa
human business that stirred my enthusiasm.”
G. C. Evans
T. Buck
H. Lewy
