The competition began in 1938 and is designed to stimulate a healthful rivalry in mathematical studies in the colleges and universities of the United States and Canada. It exists because Mr. William Lowell Putnam had a profound conviction in the value of organized team competition in regular college studies. Mr. Putnam, a member of the Harvard class of 1882, wrote an article for the December 1921 issue of the Harvard Graduates Magazine in which he described the merits of an intellectual intercollegiate competition. To establish such a competition, his widow, Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, in 1927 created a trust fund known as the William Lowell Putnam Intercollegiate Memorial Fund. The first competition supported by this fund was in the field of English and a few years later a second experimental competition was held, this time in mathematics between two institutions. It was not until after Mrs. Putnams death in 1935 that the examination assumed its present form and was placed under the administration of the Mathematical Association of America.