Moore, Robert Lee (1882–1974)

By: Albert C. Lewis

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: March 1, 1995

Robert Lee Moore, university professor and mathematician, was born in Dallas on November 14, 1882, son of Charles Jonathan and Louisa Ann (Moore) Moore. He attended school in Dallas and at the age of sixteen was admitted to the University of Texas, where he soon came under the influence of George Bruce Halsted, an internationally known mathematician. Under Halsted, Moore received B.S. and M.A. degrees, both in 1901. After another year in Austin as a fellow in mathematics at the university and a year teaching mathematics in a high school in Marshall, he went on to graduate study at the University of Chicago. There he worked under Eliakim Hastings Moore (no relation) in one of the most active centers of mathematical research in the country.

After receiving his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago in 1905 Moore taught at the University of Tennessee (1905–06), Princeton University (1906–08), Northwestern University (1908–11), and the University of Pennsylvania (1911–20). He returned to the University of Texas as associate professor of mathematics in 1920 and three years later was appointed professor. Between 1907 and 1919 he published seventeen papers, thirteen of which appeared in the journals of the American Mathematical Society and the National Academy of Sciences, and from 1913 to 1926 he was associate editor of the Transactions of the AMS. His field of mathematics-today called point-set topology-was a distinct and novel subject, and Moore eventually succeeded in developing his own unique approach within it. During the next twenty years at the University of Texas he published forty-one papers and received some of the highest honors in the American mathematical community. He served as vice president of the AMS in 1923 and as president from 1937 to 1939; he was editor of Colloquium Publications from 1928 to 1936; he was colloquium lecturer of the AMS in 1929 and developed the lectures into Foundation of Point Theory, which was published as Volume 13 of Colloquium Publications in 1932. Moore was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1931.

He had also developed a distinctive teaching method in which the student developed his own proofs and theorems within a framework set by Moore. Between 1920 and 1969 fifty doctoral students were trained in the "Moore method" of teaching (as it was called); Moore regularly taught a sequence of undergraduate courses as well. That three of his doctoral students were elected to the National Academy of Sciences was one measure of the quality of his teaching. He retired from teaching in 1969. Four years later the physics, mathematics, and astronomy building on the university campus was named Robert Lee Moore Hall. On August 19, 1910, Moore married Margaret MacLellan Key of Brenham; they had no children. He died on October 4, 1974, and was buried in Austin Memorial Park.

Alcalde (magazine of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas), March 1917, January 1931. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who Was Who in America, vol. 6. Who's Who in America, 1966–67.
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Math
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Albert C. Lewis, “Moore, Robert Lee,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995

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