He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1884, attended Johns Hopkins in 1885-87, and studied at Göttingen (Ph.D., 1893). He was assistant professor and professor at Wesleyan (1895-1906), and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after 1906. In 1913 he became president of the American Mathematical Society, of whose Transactions he had been first associate editor (1902-05) and then editor (1905-10). He was the author of Theory of Divergent Series and Algebraic Continued Fractions (1903), and of several monographs in mathematical journals. His son, John Hasbrouck van Vleck, was a notable physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1977.