BOSTON—For the 20,000 members of the American Mathematical Society, this year’s centennial is an occasion for both celebration and concern.

American mathematics in many ways is at its zenith in terms of prestige and scope. Yet federal support for the “pure” mathematics represented by the AMS has failed to keep up with inflation, and there is little hope for a turnabout until the federal deficit is brought under control.

There is turmoil as well inside the AMS. After a year of sometimes heated debate, AMS members are now voting on whether the society should oppose research funding from the Defense Department, especially money tied to the Strategic Defense Initiative. The results are due out this spring.

Amid this ferment, AMS officials have been searching for an executive director to replace William LeVeque, who is stepping down in the fall after 11 years. Last month they selected William Jaco, formerly of...

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