Tuesday, 21 October 2014

On This Day in Math - October 21

“Martin has turned thousands of children into mathematicians, and thousands of mathematicians into children.”~Ron Graham on Martin Gardner

The 294th day of the year; 294 is a practical number because all numbers strictly less than 294 can be formed with sums of distinct divisors of 294.

1621 Kepler's Mother, Katherine, during her trial for witchcraft was shown the "instruments of torture."
"The whole case was now passed on the law faculty of the University of Tübingen, Kepler’s Alma Mater, who decided that Katharine should be taken to the hangman and shown the instruments of torture and ordered to confess. On 21st October 1621 this was duly carried out but the stubborn old lady refused to bend she said,"
“Do with me what you want. Even if you were to pull one vein after another out of my body, I would have nothing to admit.” Then she fell to her knees and said a Pater Noster. God would she said, bring the truth to light and after her death disclose that wrong and violence had been done to her. He would not take the Holy Ghost from her and would stand by her.
For more about this unusual woman, read Thony Christie's blog at *The Renaissance Mathematicus

1743 In the United States, on October 21, 1743, Benjamin Franklin tracked a hurricane for the first time. It was the first recorded instance in which the progressive movement of a storm system was recognized.

1796 The date of a still uninterpreted cryptic entry "Vicimus GEGAN"" in Gauss’s scientific diary. There is a another insertion that also remains uninterpreted. He wrote "REV. GALEN" in the diary on April 8, 1799 *VFR
*Genial Gauss Gottingen

1803 John Dalton's Atomic Theory was first presented on 21st October 1803 to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society of which he was President 1816-1844. *Open Plaques

1805 British Admiral Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar by adopting the tactic of breaking the enemy line in two and concentrating his firepower on a few ships (orthodox tactics had the opponents facing each other in roughly parallel lines—the “line-ahead” formation). For an analysis of why this works see David H. Nash, “Differential equations and the Battle of Trafalgar”, The College Mathematics Journal, 16(1985), 98–102. *VFR

1845 After two unsuccessful attempts to present his work in person to the Royal Astronomer Sir George Biddell Airy, John Couch Adams left a copy of his calculation regarding a hypothetical planet at the Royal Observatory. Airy criticized the work and didn’t search for the planet until later. Consequently he didn’t discover Neptune. See 23 September 1846.

1854 Florence Nightingale embarked for the Crimea on 21 October with thirty-eight nurses: ten Roman Catholic Sisters, eight Anglican Sisters of Mercy, six nurses from St. John's Institute, and fourteen from various hospitals. *Victorian Web Org

1965 Greece issued a postage stamp picturing Hipparchus and an astrolabe to commemorate the opening of the Evghenides Planetarium in Athens. [Scott #835]. *VFR

1976, the United States made a clean sweep of the Nobel Prizes, winning or sharing awards in chemistry, physics, medicine, economics, and literature. (No peace prize was awarded.)

1988 Science (pp. 374-375) reported that the 100-digit number 11104 + 1 was factored by using computers working in parallel using a quadratic sieve method. [Mathematics Magazine 62 (1989), p 70].*VFR

2015 Marty McFly and Doctor Emmet Brown "return" to this date in the future in the 1989 Sci-fi-sequel, Back to the Future II. The "future" included rocket powered skateboards... Do Razors count?


1687 Nicolaus(I) Bernoulli (21 Oct 1687 in Basel, Switzerland - 29 Nov 1759 in Basel) Nicolaus Bernoulli was one of the famous Swiss family of mathematicians. He is most important for his correspondence with other mathematicians including Euler and Leibniz. *SAU (Can't tell your Bernoulli's without a scorecard? Check out "A Confusion of Bernoulli's" by the Renaissance Mathematicus.)

1823 Birthdate of Enrico Betti. In algebra, he penetrated the ideas of Galois by relating them to the work of Ruffini and Abel. In analysis, his work on elliptic functions was further developed by Weierstrass. In “Analysis situs”, his research inspired Poincar´e, who coined the term “Betti numbers” to characterize the connectivity of surfaces. *VFR He was the first to give a proof that the Galois group is closed under multiplication. Betti also wrote a pioneering memoir on topology, the study of surfaces and space. Betti did important work in theoretical physics, in particular in potential theory and elasticity.*TIS

1833 Alfred Bernhard Nobel (21 Oct 1833; 10 Dec 1896) a Swedish chemist and inventor of dynamite and other, more powerful explosives, was born in Stockholm. An explosives expert like his father, in 1866 he invented a safe and manageable form of nitroglycerin he called dynamite, and later, smokeless gunpowder and (1875) gelignite. He helped to create an industrial empire manufacturing many of his other inventions. Nobel amassed a huge fortune, much of which he left in a fund to endow the annual prizes that bear his name. First awarded in 1901, these prizes were for achievements in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. The sixth prize, for economics, was instituted in his honour in 1969. *TIS (The well-known anecdote that there is no Nobel prize in mathematics as he thought Mittag-Leffler might win it seems to have no basis in fact

1855 Giovanni Battista Guccia (21 Oct 1855 in Palermo, Italy - 29 Oct 1914 in Palermo, Italy) Guccia's work was on geometry, in particular Cremona transformations, classification of curves and projective properties of curves. His results published in volume one of the Rendiconti del Circolo Matematico di Palermo were extended by Corrado Segre in 1888 and Castelnuovo in 1897. *SAU

1882 Harry Schultz Vandiver (21 Oct 1882 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - 9 Jan 1973 in Austin, Texas, USA) Harry developed an antagonism towards public education and left Central High School at an early age to work as a customshouse broker for his father's firm. D H Lehmer writes:
He was self-taught in his youth and must have had little patience with secondary education since he never graduated from high school. This impatience, especially with mathematical education, was to last the rest of his life.
When he was eighteen years old he began to solve many of the number theory problems which were posed in the American Mathematical Monthly, regularly submitting solutions. In addition to solving problems, he began to pose problems himself. By 1902 he was contributing papers to the Monthly. For example he published two short papers in 1902 A Problem Connected with Mersenne's Numbers and Applications of a Theorem Regarding Circulants.
In 1904 he collaborated with Birkhoff on a paper on the prime factors of a^n - b^n published in the Annals of Mathematics. In fact the result they proved was not new, although they were not aware of the earlier work which had been published by A S Bang in 1886. Also in the year 1904, Vandiver published On Some Special Arithmetic Congruences in the American Mathematical Monthly and, although still working as an agent for his father's firm, he did attend some graduate lectures at the University of Pennsylvania. He also began reading papers on algebraic number theory and embarked on a study of the work of Kummer, in particular his contributions to solving Fermat's Last Theorem. Over the next few years he published papers such as Theory of finite algebras (1912), Note on Fermat's last theorem (1914), and Symmetric functions formed by systems of elements of a finite algebra and their connection with Fermat's quotient and Bernoulli's numbers (1917).
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 did not directly affect the United States since the Democratic president Woodrow Wilson made a declaration of neutrality. This policy was controversial but popular enough to see him re-elected in 1916. However US shipping was being disrupted (and sunk) by German submarines and, under pressure from Republicans, Wilson declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. Vandiver joined the United States Naval Reserve and continued to serve until 1919 when the war had ended. After leaving the Naval Reserve, Birkhoff persuaded Vandiver to become a professional mathematician and to accept a post at Cornell University in 1919. Despite having no formal qualifications, his excellent publication record clearly showed his high quality and he was appointed as an instructor. He also worked during the summer with Dickson at Chicago on his classic treatise History of the Theory of Numbers. In 1924 he moved to the University of Texas where he was appointed as an Associate Professor. He spent the rest of his career at the University of Texas, being promoted to full professor in 1925, then named as distinguished professor of applied mathematics and astronomy in 1947. He continued in this role until he retired in 1966 at the age of 84. *SAU

1893 Bill Ferrar graduated from Oxford after an undergraduate career interrupted by World War I. He lectured at Bangor and Edinburgh before moving back to Oxford. He worked in college administration and eventually became Principal of Hertford College. He worked on the convergence of series. *SAU

1914 Martin Gardner born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From 1957 to 1980 he wrote the “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American. Many of these columns have been collected together into the numerous books that he has written. If you want to know more about the person who has done more to popularize mathematics than any other, see the interview with Gardner in Mathematical People. Proiles and Interviews (1985), edited by Donald J. Albers and G. L. Alexanderson, pp. 94–107. *VFR (My favorite tribute to Martin was this one from Ron Graham, “Martin has turned thousands of children into mathematicians, and thousands of mathematicians into children.”)

1872 Jacques Babinet (5 March 1794 – 21 October 1872) was a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who is best known for his contributions to optics. A graduate of the École Polytechnique, which he left in 1812 for the Military School at Metz, he was later a professor at the Sorbonne and at the Collège de France. In 1840, he was elected as a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences. He was also an astronomer of the Bureau des Longitudes.
Among Babinet's accomplishments are the 1827 standardization of the Ångström unit for measuring light using the red Cadmium line's wavelength, and the principle (Babinet's principle) that similar diffraction patterns are produced by two complementary screens. He was the first to suggest using wavelengths of light to standardize measurements. His idea was first used between 1960 and 1983, when a meter was defined as a wavelength of light from krypton gas.
In addition to his brilliant lectures on meteorology and optics research, Babinet was also a great promoter of science, an amusing and clever lecturer, and a brilliant, entertaining and prolific author of popular scientific articles. Unlike the majority of his contemporaries, Babinet was beloved by many for his kindly and charitable nature. He is known for the invention of polariscope and an optical goniometer. *Wik

1881 Heinrich Eduard Heine (16 March 1821 in Berlin, Germany - 21 Oct 1881 in Halle, Germany) Heine is best remembered for the Heine-Borel theorem. He was responsible for the introduction of the idea of uniform continuity.*SAU

1967 Ejnar Hertzsprung (8 Oct 1873, 21 Oct 1967) Danish astronomer who classified types of stars by relating their surface temperature (or color) to their absolute brightness. A few years later Russell illustrated this relationship graphically in what is now known as the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which has become fundamental to the study of stellar evolution. In 1913 he established the luminosity scale of Cepheid variable stars.*TIS

1969 WacLlaw Sierpinski (14 March 1882 in Warsaw, - 21 Oct 1969 in Warsaw) His grave carries—according to his wish—the inscription: Investigator of infinity. [Kuratowski, A Half Century of Polish Mathematics, p. 173; Works, p. 14] *VFR Sierpinski's most important work is in the area of set theory, point set topology and number theory. In set theory he made important contributions to the axiom of choice and to the continuum hypothesis. *SAU

2000 Dirk Jan Struik (30 Sept 1894 , 21 Oct 2000) Dirk Jan Struik (September 30, 1894 – October 21, 2000) was a Dutch mathematician and Marxian theoretician who spent most of his life in the United States.
In 1924, funded by a Rockefeller fellowship, Struik traveled to Rome to collaborate with the Italian mathematician Tullio Levi-Civita. It was in Rome that Struik first developed a keen interest in the history of mathematics. In 1925, thanks to an extension of his fellowship, Struik went to Göttingen to work with Richard Courant compiling Felix Klein's lectures on the history of 19th-century mathematics. He also started researching Renaissance mathematics at this time.
Struik was a steadfast Marxist. Having joined the Communist Party of the Netherlands in 1919, he remained a Party member his entire life. When asked, upon the occasion of his 100th birthday, how he managed to pen peer-reviewed journal articles at such an advanced age, Struik replied blithely that he had the "3Ms" a man needs to sustain himself: Marriage (his wife, Saly Ruth Ramler, was not alive when he turned one hundred in 1994), Mathematics, and Marxism.
It is therefore not surprising that Dirk suffered persecution during the McCarthyite era. He was accused of being a Soviet spy, a charge he vehemently denied. Invoking the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, he refused to answer any of the 200 questions put forward to him during the HUAC hearing. He was suspended from teaching for five years (with full salary) by MIT in the 1950s. Struik was re-instated in 1956. He retired from MIT in 1960 as Professor Emeritus of Mathematics.
Aside from purely academic work, Struik also helped found the Journal of Science and Society, a Marxian journal on the history, sociology and development of science.
In 1950 Stuik published his Lectures on Classical Differential Geometry.
Struik's other major works include such classics as A Concise History of Mathematics, Yankee Science in the Making, The Birth of the Communist Manifesto, and A Source Book in Mathematics, 1200-1800, all of which are considered standard textbooks or references.
Struik died October 21, 2000, 21 days after celebrating his 106th birthday. *Wik

2002 Bernhard Hermann Neumann (15 Oct 1909 in Berlin, Germany - 21 Oct 2002 in Canberra, Australia) Neumann is one of the leading figures in group theory who has influenced the direction of the subject in many different ways. While still in Berlin he published his first group theory paper on the automorphism group of a free group. However his doctoral thesis at Cambridge introduced a new major area into group theory research. In his thesis he initiated the study of varieties of groups, that is classes of groups defined which are by a collection of laws which must hold when any group elements are substituted into them. *SAU

Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIA = Today in Astronomy
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell

Monday, 20 October 2014

On This Day in Math - October 20

The mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while the physicist plays a game in which the rules are provided by nature, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which nature has chosen.
~Paul Dirac

The 293rd day of the year; 293 is a Sophie Germain Prime. (A prime number p such that 2p + 1 is also prime.)


1698 Halley began a scientific voyage on HMS Paramore & set out to measure magnetic variation & search for Terra Incognita. His log entry from the 20th says "Wind WSW a Small Gale I sailed from Deptford about Noon " *Kate Morant‏@KateMorant (Deptford is a small area near Greenwich, east of London along the Thames)

1735 Benjamin Franklin’s paper “On the Usefulness of Mathematics,” appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette. [NCTM yearbook # 32(1970), p. 20]*VFR

1744 In Euler's missing letter of October 20, 1744, Euler announced that he had just discovered a simple curve that exhibited something called a cusp of the second kind or a ramphoid from the Greek for a bird’s beak. L'H^opital (1661-1704) is responsible for defining these two types of cusps. In 1740, Jean-Paul de Gua de Malves (1713- 1785) published a proof that no algebraic curve could have a cusp of the second kind in [Gua de Malves 1740]. Euler was familiar with Gua de Malves' work and had initially accepted his result, but in 1744 he discovered that there was a subtle flaw in the supposed proof. In this letter, he wrote to Cramer that even in the fourth order there is a curved line of this kind, whose equation is, y4- 2xy2 + x2 = x3+ 4yx, which simplifies to y = x(1/2) +/- x(3/4)

*Ed Sandifer, How Euler Did It, MAA

1881 In a letter to Newcomb dated Oct. 20, 1881, Sylvester writes, "Who is to be the new superintendent of the Coast Survey?
Why should you not allow it to be known that you would accept the appointment supposing you would be willing to do so!" Sylvester was the eminent British mathematician who served as the first chairman of the Department of Mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University (1876-1883). He returned to England in 1884 to occupy the chair of Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. *THE CHARLES S. PElRCE-SIMON NEWCOMB CORRESPONDENCE

1958 Italy issued a stamp to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the birth of Evangelista Torricelli, mathematician and physicist. [Scott #754]. *VFR

1975 The Public Record office in London released information on the Colossus, one of the first programmable electronic digital computers. It was built in 1943 for work on cryptography. The Colossus machines were electronic computing devices used by British codebreakers to help read encrypted German messages during World War II. They used vacuum tubes (thermionic valves) to perform the calculations.
Colossus was designed by engineer Tommy Flowers with input from Harry Fensom, Allen Coombs, Sidney Broadhurst and William Chandler at the Post Office Research Station, Dollis Hill to solve a problem posed by mathematician Max Newman at Bletchley Park. The prototype, Colossus Mark 1, was shown to be working in December 1943 and was operational at Bletchley Park by February 1944. An improved Colossus Mark 2 first worked on 1 June 1944, just in time for the Normandy Landings. Ten Colossi were in use by the end of the war. No information about the computer was released until this date. *Wik

1983, the length of the meter was redefined by the international body Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (GCPM) by a method to give greater accuracy. Originally based on one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, the meter was re-established as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second *TIS

2004 The First Ubuntu Linux Distribution Released. Ubuntu is a free computer operating system based on Debian GNU​/Linux. Its name loosely translated from the Zulu means "humanity," or "a person is a person only through other people." Ubuntu is intended to provide an up-to-date, stable operating system for the average user, with a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu has been rated the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop, claiming approximately 30 percent of desktop Linux installations, according to the 2007 Desktop Linux Market survey. Ubuntu is open source and free. It is sponsored by Canonical Ltd, which is owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth​.*CHM

1616 Thomas Bartholin (20 Oct 1616; 4 Dec 1680) Danish anatomist and mathematician who was first to describe fully the entire human lymphatic system (1652). He was one of the earliest defenders of Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood. He was a member of the mathematical faculty of the University of Copenhagen, 1647-49, and anatomy professor there, 1649-61. He published many works on anatomy, physiology and medicine, (1645-74) and in 1658 a general work on pharmacology. In 1654, along with the rest of the medical faculty at the university, Bartholin published advice to the people on how to take care of themselves during the plague. King Christian V named Bartholin as his personal physician, with an annual salary, although Bartolin rarely had to treat the king. *TIS

1632 Sir Christopher Wren (20 Oct 1632; 25 Feb 1723) Architect, astronomer, and geometrician who was the greatest English architect of his time whose famous masterpiece is St. Paul's Cathedral, among many other buildings after London's Great Fire of 1666. Wren learned scientific skills as an assistant to an eminent anatomist. Through astronomy, he developed skills in working models, diagrams and charting that proved useful when he entered architecture. He inventing a "weather clock" similar to a modern barometer, new engraving methods, and helped develop a blood transfusion technique. He was president of the Royal Society 1680-82. His scientific work was highly regarded by Sir Isaac Newton as stated in the Principia. *TIS (I love the message on his tomb in the Crypt of St. Pauls: Si monumentum requiris circumspice ...."Reader, if you seek his monument, look about you."

1863 William Henry Young (20 Oct 1863 in London, England - 7 July 1942 in Lausanne, Switzerland) discovered Lebesgue integration, independently but 2 years after Lebesgue. He studied Fourier series and orthogonal series in general.

1865 Aleksandr Petrovich Kotelnikov (20 Oct 1865 in Kazan, Russia - 6 March 1944 in Moscow, USSR) In 1927 he published one of his most important works, The Principle of Relativity and Lobachevsky's Geometry. He also worked on quaternions and applied them to mechanics and geometry. Among his other major pieces of work was to edit the Complete Works of two mathematicians, Lobachevsky and Zhukovsky. He received many honours for his work, being named Honoured Scientist in 1934, then one year before he died he was awarded the State Prize of the USSR. *SAU

1891 Sir James Chadwick (20 Oct 1891; 24 Jul 1974) English physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Physics (1935) for his discovery of the neutron. He studied at Cambridge, and in Berlin under Geiger, then worked at the Cavendish Laboratory with Rutherford, where he investigated the structure of the atom. He worked on the scattering of alpha particles and on nuclear disintegration. By bombarding beryllium with alpha particles, Chadwick discovered the neutron - a neutral particle in the atom's nucleus - for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935. In 1932, Chadwick coined the name "neutron," which he described in an article in the journal Nature. He led the UK's work on the atomic bomb in WW II, and was knighted in 1945. *TIS

1904 Hans Lewy (October 20, 1904 – August 23, 1988) was an American mathematician, known for his work on partial differential equations and on the theory of functions of several complex variables.*Wik

1914 R. H. Bing (October 20, 1914, Oakwood, Texas – April 28, 1986, Austin, Texas) was an American mathematician who worked mainly in the areas of geometric topology and continuum theory. His first two names were just single letters that do not stand for anything. Bing's mathematical research was almost exclusively in 3-manifold theory and in particular, the geometric topology of R3. The term Bing-type topology was coined to describe the style of methods used by Bing.
Bing established his reputation early on in 1946, soon after completing his Ph.D. dissertation, by solving the Kline sphere characterization problem. In 1948 he proved that the pseudo-arc is homogeneous, contradicting a published but erroneous 'proof' to the contrary. In 1951 he proved results regarding the metrizability of topological spaces, including what would later be called the Bing-Nagata-Smirnov metrization theorem.*Wik

1631 Michael Maestlin (30 September 1550, Göppingen – 20 October 1631, Tübingen) was a German astronomer and mathematician, known for being the mentor of Johannes Kepler.
Maestlin studied theology, mathematics, and astronomy/astrology at the Tübinger Stift in Tübingen, a town in Württemberg. He graduated as Magister in 1571 and became in 1576 a Lutheran deacon in Backnang, continuing his studies there.
In 1580 he became a Professor of mathematics, first at the University of Heidelberg, then at the University of Tübingen where he taught for 47 years from 1583. In 1582 Maestlin wrote a popular introduction to astronomy.
Among his students was Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Although he primarily taught the traditional geocentric Ptolemaic view of the solar system, Maestlin was also one of the first to accept and teach the heliocentric Copernican view. Maestlin corresponded with Kepler frequently and played a sizable part in his adoption of the Copernican system. Galileo Galilei's adoption of heliocentrism was also attributed to Maestlin.
The first known calculation [3] of the reciprocal of the golden ratio as a decimal of "about 0.6180340" was written in 1597 by Maestlin in a letter to Kepler.
He is also remembered for :
Catalogued the Pleiades cluster on 24 December 1579. Eleven stars in the cluster were recorded by Maestlin, and possibly as many as fourteen were observed.
Occultation of Mars by Venus on 13 October 1590, seen by Maestlin at Heidelberg. *Wik

1896 François-Félix Tisserand (13 Jan 1845, 20 Oct 1896) French astronomer whose 4-volume textbook Traité de mécanique céleste (1889-96; "Treatise on Celestial Mechanics") updated Pierre-Simon Laplace's work. At age 28, he was named Director at Toulouse Observatory (1873-78). He went to Japan to observe the 1874 transit of Venus. The 83-cm telescope he installed at the Toulouse Observatory in 1875 had a wooden base insufficiently stable for photographic work, but he was able to use it for observation of the satellites of Jupiter and of Saturn. From 1892 until his death he was director of the Paris Observatory, where he completed the major work, Catalogue photographique de la carte du ciel, and arranged for its publication.*TIS

1972 Harlow Shapley (2 Nov 1885, 20 Oct 1972) Astronomer, known as "The Modern Copernicus," who discovered the Sun's position in the galaxy. From 1914 to 1921 he was at Mt. Wilson Observatory, where he calibrated Henrietta S. Leavitt's period vs. luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars and used it to determine the distances of globular clusters. He boldly and correctly proclaimed that the globulars outline the Galaxy, and that the Galaxy is far larger than was generally believed and centered thousands of light years away in the direction of Sagittarius. In the early 1920's, Shapley entered a "Great Debate" with Heber D. Curtis. They truly argued over the "Scale of the Universe."*TIS

1974 Harold Ruse graduated from Oxford and held a position at Edinburgh University. he later became a professor at Southampton and Leeds. He worked on Harmonic Spaces. He became Secretary of the EMS in 1930 and President in 1935. *SAU

1984 Paul A.M. Dirac (8 Aug 1902, 20 Oct 1984) English physicist and mathematician who originated quantum mechanics and the spinning electron theory. In 1933 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger.*TIS

1987 Andrey Nikolayevich Kolmogorov (25 Apr 1903, 20 Oct 1987) Russian mathematician whose basic postulates for probability theory that have continued to be an integral part of analysis. This work had diverse applications such as his study of the motion of planets (1954), or the turbulent air flow from a jet engine (1941). In topology, he investigated cohomology groups. He made a major contribution to answering the probability part of Hilbert's Sixth Problem, and completely resolved (1957) Hilbert's Thirteenth Problem. Kolmogorov was active in a project to provide special education for gifted children, not only by writing textbooks and in teaching them, but in expanding their interests to be not necessarily in mathematics, but with literature, music, and healthy activity such as on hikes and expeditions. *TIS

Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIA = Today in Astronomy
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Those Amazing Boole Girls

From left to right, from top to bottom: Margaret Taylor, Ethel L. Voynich, Alicia Boole Stott, Lucy E. Boole, Mary E. Hinton, Julian Taylor, Mary Stott, Mary Everest Boole, George Hinton, Geoffrey Ingram Taylor, Leonard Stott.
As it happens, it was on Ada Lovelace Day, "an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths" that I first decided I need to know more, and write about the daughters of George and Mary Everest Boole. I was reading Sibohan Robert's, The King of Infinity, about Donald Coxeter (A very entertaining book).
While he was a student of H F Baker at Trinity, Cambridge they attended "tea parties"; tea, biscuits (cookies for US folks), and lots of geometry at Baker's home. When his time to discuss his research cam, the 21 year old Coxeter introduced his "Aunt Alice", the 68 year old Aliceia Boole Stott, to deliver a joint lecture. I had read about Mary E. Boole, and knew a little about her relationship with Hinton (more later) and her teaching and string art and.... Ok, I had a lot of the Gossip, with very little detail. Since it was Ada Lovelace Day, I decided to remind myself, and some of my readers who had not known about them well, to Mary and her daughters, mostly all raised after George Boole had died (Alicia, the middle daughter was four years old, and her baby sister Ethel was only six months). Some of what follows is from notes I have accumulated over the years, and some is from recent searching. If you have access to information about the family not included here, especially about Margaret, I would love to have you share.

Ok, So maybe this event might have happened a little later than Professor Coxeter remembers in his book to Ms. Roberts. It more likely was when Donald was 23 and Alicia was 69/70 since according to most sources she was introduced to young Donald in 1930 by the Cambridge physicist, Geoffrey Ingram Taylor. This Taylor just happened to be Alicia's nephew, the son of her second oldest sister, Margaret. Get used to this, it seems that everyone in the UK is related to everyone else, or at least it seems that way in this exploration.

So let's start with the Mom, Mary Everest Boole (the Everest??? Her uncle was the one for whom they renamed the mountain). Mary got her introduction to mathematics in France where her father had gone to try and cure his health using homeopathic methods. (In fact it seems he was staying at the home of Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, who is credited with inventing homeopathic medicine. The Reverend Everest was a strong believer in homeopathy, and is said to have preached it from the pulpit. He published A Letter addressed to the Medical Practitioners of Great Britain on the Subject of Homeopathy, 1834, Pickering, London, A Popular View of Homeopathy .)
From about age 11, she used her father's library to teach herself math as she no longer attended school. She met George while visiting relatives in Ireland. Boole had only recently been appointed as the first professor of mathematics at Queen's College, Cork in Ireland. He met his future wife, Mary Everest, there in 1850 while she was visiting her uncle John Ryall who was Professor of Greek in the university. (Boole would write a dedication in his "Laws of Thought" to Ryall. )

After she returned to England, they continued to correspond until he came to England to be her tutor during a break from his University duties. About this time, her father died and presently Mary and George were married. During this time he wrote Laws of Thought, and Mary was instrumental in the editing.
It seems she had not been George's first love. In a letter from Ethel Lilian Voynich, the youngest daughter, to her nephew, the previously mentioned G I Taylor on 9 May 1954. she relates a story of the Parry family of Lincoln, a daughter of which Boole is reputed to have fallen in love with in his youth, and never got over until he met Mary Everest. The Miss Parry ahd refused to marry him as he would not sign the 39 Articles of the Church of England (more later on George's strong and unconventional religious leanings). By some accounts, there may have been several infatuations of various levels for young George. In Desmond MacHale's biography, The Live and Work of George Boole, he writes, "Boole... was a romantic at heart and fell in and out of love quite easily. ...a pupil of Boole's both in Lincoln and in Cork, wrote in a letter to his parents, 'Mr Boole is reported to have lost his heart again."

After a brief, but apparently happy nine years of married life, George died leaving Mary with five young girls all less than age ten. The details of George's unusual death are in some part related to Mary's father's influence and their mutual attraction to homeopathic medicine. One day in 1864, George walked three miles in the drenching rain and lectured wearing wet clothes. He soon became ill, developing a severe cold and high fever. His wife felt that a remedy should resemble the cause. She put George to bed and threw buckets of cold water over him (cold water and ice baths were a common part of homeopathic treatment at the time), since his illness had been caused by getting cold and wet. George Boole's condition worsened and on 8 December 1864, Boole died of an attack of fever, ending in pleural effusion.
In the earlier mentioned letter from Ellen Boole Voynich to G. I. Taylor she also includes that a bitter rivalry had existed between her mother and her aunt Maryann Boole (This most likely refers to George's sister, Mary Ann, the same as her mother.) as Maryann believed Mary E. Boole hastened her husband's death by following the recommendations of a doctor who advocated cold water cures, and making Boole lie shivering between the sheets. Ethel remarks "The Everests do seem to have been a family of crooks and cranks."
It should be pointed out that George was also a follower of homeopathic practices, but perhaps with a little less enthusiasm than his wife. In a letter to Augustus DeMorgan on 17 July, 1860 he writes, "The moral is - if you are ever attacked with inflammation and homeopathy does not produce decided effects soon, do not sacrifice you life to an opinion...but call in some accredited... Esculapius (Aesculapius was the Latin god of medicine, son of Apollo and Coronis. The first temple, with a sanatorium, was erected to him in Rome in 293) with all his weapons of war and do as your ancestors did - submit to being killed or cured according to the rule." In the mid 19th century, homeopathic followers were not all "crooks and cranks. DeMorgan believed he had been cured by homeopathy, and was a follower as well.

After George Boole died, Mary returned to London with four of the five children, Alicia stayed for about seven years with family in Cork.

Although one frequently reads that they were essentially impoverished, (Coxeter writes,... "the five girls were reunited with their mother (whose books reveal her as one of the pioneers of modern pedagogy) in a poor, dark, dirty, and uncomfortable lodging in London."   ) It seems this might well have exaggerated the case. After a London newspaper, reporting on Boole's death, suggested that the Boole family had been left unprovided for, donations poured in from their friends in London and around the UK. That the "unprovided for" seems not to have been the case is attested to by a letter (3 Feb 1865) from Isaac Todhunter of St. John's College Cambridge. He apologizes for any upset caused and states the subscriptions were refunded.

Mary took a job as a librarian at Queens College, probably through her knowledge of Reverend F. D. Maurice, who was one of several religious reformers with unconventional views that George admired. George had strong disagreements with many authoritarian views of religion, but never wrote on these ideas himself, although he was openly a supporter of several others, including Maurice, and John W. Colenso, the Bishop of Natal ( Colenso was a better than average mathematician himself, having been Second Wrangler and a Smith's Prize winner, and had taught at Harrow School as mathematical tutor for awhile and was the author of a popular arithmetic.).
Maurice was also one of the founders of Queens College, which was  England's first women's college. Working with the students there she, and others around her, realized that she was an exceptional teacher. It was during this time that she created the idea of "string art" for teaching students about mathematical and geometric ideas. Many years later the art form would become very popular in the US. Her approach to teaching would fit very neatly among many reform minded educators of the last thirty years. She once wrote, "The geometric education may begin as soon as the child’s hands can grasp objects. Let him have, among his toys, the five regular solids and a cut cone."  She also suggested that no child should be given a multiplication table until they have produced on on their own.

"She wrote several books which were published much later but she certainly had the ideas for them when unofficially tutoring at Queen's College. Examples of these books are (i) Logic Taught By Love (1890), (ii) Lectures on the Logic of Arithmetic (1903), (iii) The preparation of the child for science (1904), and (iv) Philosophy and the fun of algebra (1909).  " (St Andrews History of Math web site)
Her "Philosophy and the fun of algebra" is available, read aloud. The introduction alone is worth the visit. 
Mary was interested in spiritualism and as a result a book she wrote caused her to lose her library job. She found employment with a friend of her father, the surgeon, spiritualist and reformer, James Hinton. He was also, according to his son, a radical advocate of polygamous relationships.
"James Hinton’s writing, focused on domestic life, was outside of mainstream philosophical and cultural thought, and radical in its advocation of polygamous relationships, freer relations between the sexes, and the benefits of female nudity." (M J Blackloc, A cultural history of higher space, 1869-1909)

In 1880, Mary's oldest daughter, Mary Ellen, married James Hinton's son, another unusual character, named Charles Howard Hinton. I have written about Hinton's unusual life and some notable achievements here. His book on the fourth dimension was influential on Coxeter, and he was known to work with the three younger children during his courtship by showing them colored blocks he had made for studying 4-D. This would seem to have a special effect on the middle daughter, Alica. Hinton was Science Master at Uppingham School in the early 1880's at the same time that the Maths Master there was Abbott's friend Howard Candler, the "H.C." to whom Flatland was dedicated.

In the 80's Mary Ellen traveled with Hinton to Japan. Her long letters [1888 - 1891] back to her family indicate she was teaching school there (she mentions giving her students essays on the customs of Japan so that she can learn about them, as Yokohama is very westernized). They traveled frequently, and she speaks often of the beauty of the country. She makes no mention of her own writing, or of C. H. Hinton's work there.
Then around 1893 Hinton has a job as a professor in Princeton. It was here that he invented the gunpowder charged pitching machine that would. with modifications for safety, find its way into baseball forever. The machine was featured in an article in Harper's Weekly, for March 20, 1897. He apparently was quite popular with students, who nicknamed him "bull", supposedly for his great strength. After a Pennsylvania-Princeton football game, Prof. Hinton became the hero of the students by physically throwing a large Pennsylvania supporter over a fence after the man had attempted to snatch a yellow chrysanthemum from Hinton's Coat.
For whatever reason, he left for a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, where he seemed to stay only a short time. In 1900 he resigned the university and went to work at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Simon Newcomb, recently retired, was still active in direction of the affairs of the observatory, and had also written on the fourth dimension, so he may have been essential in Hinton's new position there. Hinton would also have an unusual death.
Hinton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and dropped dead on the spot while leaving the annual banquet of the Washington, D.C., Society of Philanthropic Inquiry. He was a prominent member of the Society and had wound up the evening by complying with the toastmaster's request for a toast to "female philosophers." His death is described in an article called "Scientist Drops Dead" in the Washington Post of Wednesday, May 1,1907.
(Rudy Rucker's introduction to Speculations on the Fourth Dimension: Selected Writings  of Charles H. Hinton,)
Mary Ellen would take her own life the following year. She was found dead of asphyxiation in her home on May 28 of 1908. The short article in the New York Times described her as "a frequent contributor to English and American Magazines." The article also quoted her as having recently written that, "life is something we have the privilege of ending when we choose. When think it is time to die, I shall end it all." There is a book of poetry, Other Notes by Mary Boole Hinton, published in 1901 that I take to be hers.

Margaret, the second of the girls would marry the artist Edward Ingram Taylor, and give birth to the Geoffrey Taylor mentioned earlier and a second son, Julian. One of Taylor's works, titled Lambert Castle, is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge but It seems that his real source of income was designing decorations for cruise lines. I am more partial to this charcoal sketch of his son at about age three.
Geoffrey was a major figure in fluid dynamics and wave theory. His biographer and one-time student, George Batchelor, described him as "one of the most notable scientists of this (the 20th) century". In 1944 he would be knighted, and awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society.
Son Julian was an accomplished surgeon. He also would distinguish himself during World War II when he volunteered, at the age of fifty. Shortly after his arrival there, Malaya and Singapore were overwhelmed by the Japanese and he was taken prisoner. After an interval an order was issued that all senior officers were to be transferred to camps in Formosa but, following universal request and pressure, Julian Taylor was permitted to remain in Changi Prison with the others, where for the next three and a half years he carried out remarkable work, not only in the field of surgery working with negligible facilities but, even more, in the field of morale by his inspiration to men much younger than himself. With his wide range of knowledge and experience he could lecture on English history, French history, the City of London, the tides round the English Coasts and the sailing of small boats, thus relieving the tedium and hopelessness of the situation. He was awarded the CBE for this service. Margaret, seems to be the most difficult of the five sisters to find information about. Perhaps she simply chose to be the wife and mother who would raise incredible children.  Perhaps she had a life full of richness that many people have who lead quiet lives.  Perhaps both of these are true. 

Alicia Boole, the "Aunt Alice" mentioned in the beginnings of this blog, was surely the most mathematical of these unusual women.  Her only education was from her mother, but given that Mary E. had proven herself an outstanding teacher, perhaps her mothers use of models prepared her for the incredible capacity she would have to visualize higher dimensions.  By whatever means, when Charles Hinton walked in to visit the home and pulled out his colored blocks of the 3D projections of four dimensional solids, Alicia was enthralled.  She quickly outpaced her brother-in-law and became a contributor to his book. Hinton's, A new era of thought published in 1888, Alicia Boole wrote part  of the chapters on sections of 3-dimensional solids. After her sister and brother-in-law departed England for Japan, she took a job as a secretary in Liverpool where she would meet and marry her husband, the actuary, Walter Stott the following year.  She had two children in the first two years of marriage, and little time it would seem to talk about the fourth dimension, but she or her husband noticed  an appeal by the Dutch mathematician Schoute for the solution to the other half of some four-dimensional geometry program he had partially resolved. Alice had the other half in the models she had made.

Schoute and Alicia Boole Stott
Schoute came thereafter each summer, and they continued to work together.

At the tercentenary of the University of Groningen, they made a big deal about the collaboration and the models, and they sent back to Alice a fancy scroll, in Latin, which she couldn't read. Later her son read it and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, they're making you a Doctor."  (This story seems almost unbelievable as arrangements had been made for Alicia to stay with Schoute's widow.  It is hard to imagine that she was unaware of the reason for her visit, but she lived in a world of hard to imagine things, so I include the story.)
Leonard would have been about 23 years old by this time and may have been very fluent in Latin. He went on to be a doctor of merit, "a pioneer in the treatment of tuberculosis, and invented a portable x-ray machine." (Vita Mathematica: Historical Research and Integration with Teaching edited by Ronald Calinger) For his 30 plus years at the Papworth Village settlement which was tried to provide a "normal" life to sufferers of tuberculosis allowing them to be with their families, have and raise children, etc. Fears for the young death of children born into such an environment proved unfounded. For his service to the country he was awarded the OBE.
Using the special capacity of her mind, she developed a new method to visualize four-dimensional polytopes. In particular, she constructed the three-dimensional sections of these four-dimensional objects. The result is a series of three-dimensional polyhedra, which she illustrated making drawings and three-dimensional models. The presence of an extensive collection in the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) reveals a collaboration between Boole Stott and the Groningen professor of geometry P. H. Schoute. This collaboration lasted more than 20 years and combined Schoute’s analytical methods with Boole Stott unusual ability to visualize the fourth dimension. After Schoute’s death (1913), the University of Groningen in 1914 awarded an honorary doctorate to Boole Stott.

For whatever reason, Alicia did not make the trip to Groningen and the award was made in her absence.
After that she seemed to quit working on her polytopes for a period of about 15 years, then the introduction to Coxeter gave renewed life to her work and they corresponded and visited until he left for Canada in 1936. She would die four short years later.
For people who imagine that all mathematicians have some special knack for seeing the fourth dimension, a story that may illustrate somewhat how profound was Alicia's talent. One of the great (some say greatest) geometers alive today is John H Conway.  He told this story to Siobhan Roberts during a conference in Japan :
while he was at Cambridge circa 1960, he made an earnest attempt to think in four dimensions.  Being a geometer, Conway naturally preferred contemplating a fourth dimension in terms of space.  In attempting to visualize a fourth coordinate or dimension in space, Conway built a device that allowed him to see with what he called “double parallax” ─ in addition to the displacement that occurs horizontally when you look at an object by closing one eye and then the other, he tried to train himself to see vertical parallax. If he could experience both horizontal and vertical parallax, he would have four coordinates for every point in space, and thus would be seeing four dimensions. In his attempt to do so, Conway donned a recycled motorcycle helmet, adapted with a flat visor and cheap, old war- surplus periscopes. The periscopes were bolted to the visor (not very well; they rattled when he walked) and extended from his right eye up to his forehead and his left eye down toward his chin. The only name Conway had for the helmet was“that damned contraption”because it was rather uncomfortable, his nose pressed up against the visor, as a child’ s to a toy shop window at Christmas.  Conway had a strong desire to see four dimensions, which he truly believed was possible (and still does). He regularly walked around wearing his helmet in the Fellows Garden of his college at Cambridge, and in a flash of daring (or stupidity) during one Saturday in the downtown streets busy with shoppers.“I suppose I had a limited amount of success in that quixotic quest,”he told me.“I got to the point where I could see four dimensions, but there was no hope of going beyond, so what’ s the point?

Lucy Everest Boole, sister number four, was an Irish chemist and pharmacist and professor at the London School of Medicine for Women. She was the first female Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Lucy Boole never married and lived with her mother. She became ill in 1897 and died in 1904 at the age of 42.

In 1902 Ethel Lilian Boole, the youngest of the girls, married Wilfrid Michael Voynich, a Polish revolutionary, antiquarian, and bibliophile, the eponym of the Voynich manuscript (I first learned of the Voynich manuscript in exploring Belphagor's Primes, the number 100000000000000666000000000000001. This beautiful palindromic prime has a 1 at each end, with 666, the number of the beast in the middle, and thirteen ones on each side separating the 666 from the units. The symbol even had its own symbol, a sort of inverted π. The symbol itself comes from the Voynich Manuscript.) She is most famous for her novel The Gadfly, first published in 1897 in the United States (June) and Britain (September), about the struggles of an international revolutionary in Italy. This novel was very popular in the Soviet Union and was the top bestseller and compulsory reading there, and was seen as ideologically useful; for similar reasons, the novel has been popular in the People's Republic of China as well. By the time of Voynich's death The Gadfly had sold an estimated 2,500,000 copies in the Soviet Union and was made into a movie in 1928 in Soviet Georgia (Krazana) and in 1955. (At the time I am writing this, the book is available in Kindle edition for free. The mysterious Voynich Manuscript, was \($4.99 \)US) 

In 1955, the Soviet director Aleksandr Fajntsimmer adapted the novel into a film of the same title (Russian: Ovod). Composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the score (see The Gadfly Suite, like everything else in the universe, it's on Youtube). Along with some other excerpts, the Romance movement has since become very popular. Shostakovich's Gadfly theme was also used in the 1980s, in the BBC TV series Reilly, Ace of Spies. In 1980 the novel was adapted again as a TV miniseries The Gadfly, featuring Sergei Bondarchuk as Father Montanelli.

I mentioned Geoffrey Taylor, the physicist son of Margaret.  Mary Ellen's two sons distinguished themselves as well. George Hinton worked as a metallurgist in Mexico, and  made extensive classifications of the flora and fauna of central and southern Mexico with his son.  His collections included well in excess of 300 new species and four new genera. His son, Howard Everest, extended the education provided in the fields by his father to become one of Englands entemologists, and perhaps the worlds foremost expert on Dryopoidea, (a taxonomic superfamily of beetles).
Sebastian, a Chicago Lawyer (the firm had the Wrigley's Gum acct) is credited with the invention of that school yard staple, the Jungle Jim.  He married Carmelita Chase who founded the Putney School in Vermont and   who was a personal friend, it seems, of Chairman Mao.  Sebastian seemed to have lived much of his adult life fearing that he was genetically predisposed to suicide because of his mother.  In 1923 he checked into a clinic for treatment, but while there committed suicide. Their daughter, Joan, was a nuclear physicist and one of only one or two woman taking part in Manhattan Project developing the A-bomb, in 1948.  Shortly afterward she went to China to join the revolution and ran a dairy farm near Beijing.  Her brother, William,is best known for his book Fanshen, published in 1966, a "documentary of revolution" which chronicled the land reform program of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the 1940s in Zhangzhuangcun.  The other daughter, Jean was a life long environmentalist and activist.  She once said,
".. her mission in life became clear to her one day in 1941, when she helped a group of black activists storm a whites-only cafeteria in Washington, D.C."

An interesting tie between members of the family also occurred at the first atomic bomb explosion at White Sands, N.M. Working on the project, it would be expected that Mary Ellen's granddaughter Joan would be there. But his work in in turbulent motion and shock waves allowed him to contribute to problems that they were having with the implosion instability needed to trigger the chain reaction. To this end he visited the US in 1944, and again in 1945 to be at the same Bomb Blast.

Well that's it, the state of my knowledge to date on the incredible daughters of George and Mary E. Boole.  I hope to keep updating this as good people with more information than I have share their knowledge with me.  So check back and see what I have learned, corrected, etc.  

On This Day in Math - October 19

I am a great believer in the simplicity of things and as you probably know I am inclined to hang on to broad & simple ideas like grim death until evidence is too strong for my tenacity.
~Sir Ernest Rutherford

The 292nd day of the year; The continued fraction representation of pi  is [3; 7, 15, 1, 292, 1, 1, 1, 2...]; the convergent obtained by  truncating before the surprisingly large term 292 yields the excellent  rational approximation \( \frac{355}{113) \) for pi *Wik


1698 Halley began a scientific voyage on HMS Paramore & set out to measure magnetic variation & search for Terra Incognita *Kate Morant‏@KateMorant
This was the first time a sea voyage had been planned for the sole purpose of scientific discovery. 

1752 Franklin described his kite experiment in a letter written in Philadelphia and addressed to Peter Collinson, who had earlier provided Franklin with some simple apparatus for performing electrical experiments. A copy of the original letter is at present in the archives of the Royal Society in London. *Julian Rubin web site

1759 Gauss writes,in a letter to his former teacher, E. A. W. von Zimmermann, when he showed up at the Göttingen University library, "I cannot deny, that I found it very unpleasant that most of my beautiful discoveries in indefinite analysis were not original. What consoles me is this. All of Euler's discoveries that I have so far found, I have made also, and still more so. I have found a more general, and, I think, more natural viewpoint; yet I still see an immeasurable field before me..." *Animating Creativity, The LaRouche Youth Movement web page.

1948 The National Bureau of Standards authorized construction of its Standards Western Automatic Computer. The machine, which would be built at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles, had an objective to compute using already-developed technology. This was in contrast to the machine’s cousin, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer, which tested components and systems for computer *CHM

1965 The London Times reported that an archaeologist has located what he believes to be the tomb of Archimedes.*VFR

In 1973, a US Federal Judge signed his decision following a lengthy court trial which declared the ENIAC patent invalid and belatedly credited physicist John Atanasoff with developing the first electronic digital computer, the Atanasoff- Berry Computer or the ABC. Built in 1937-42 at Iowa State University by Atanadoff and a graduate student, Clifford Berry, it introduced the ideas of binary arithmetic, regenerative memory, and logic circuits. These ideas were communicated from Atanasoff to John Mauchly, who used them in the design of the better-known ENIAC built and patented several years later.*TIS

1994 The Pentium FDIV bug error was isolated to the Pentium Pro chip by Professor Thomas R. Nicely at Lynchburg College, Virginia, USA while working on Brun's constant (the sum of the reciprocals of the odd twin primes).   Nicely had noticed some inconsistencies in the calculations on June 13, 1994 shortly after adding a Pentium system to his group of computers, but was unable to eliminate other factors (such as programming errors, motherboard chipsets, etc.) until October 19, 1994. On October 24, 1994 he reported the issue to Intel.   The bug was rarely encountered by average users (Byte magazine estimated that 1 in 9 billion floating point divides with random parameters would produce inaccurate results) *Wik

2014 Small chance that Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered in the beginning of 2013, might collide with Mars. At the moment, based on the observation arc of 74 days, the nominal close approach distance between the red planet and the comet might be as little as 0.00073 AU, that is approximately 109,200 km! Distance to Mars’ natural satellite Deimos will be smaller by 6000 km, making it 103,000 km. On the 19th October 2014, the comet might reach apparent magnitude of -8…-8.5, as seen from Mars! *Spaceobs.org


1795 Arthur Jules Morin​ (19 October 1795 – 7 February 1880) was a French physicist. He conducted experiments in mechanics and invented the Morin dynamometer.
In 1850, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.*Wik (He was also the director of my favorite Paris Museum, Musee des Arts et Métiers.) In the issue of Nature which appeared on 5 February 1880 the following report appears:-
We regret to state that General Morin, the well-known director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, is lying in a very precarious state in consequence of a severe cold. Great anxiety is felt for him at the Institute, of which he is one of the most respected and popular members. The General is aged 85 years. In the following issue of Nature, his death in Paris on 7 February was reported. *SAU

1871 John Miller (19 Oct 1871 in Glasgow, Scotland - 14 July 1956 in Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow, Scotland) studied at Glasgow and Göttingen. He returned to Glasgow to the Royal College of Science and Technology (the precursor to Strathclyde University). He became President of the EMS in 1913. *SAU

1903 Jean Frédéric Auguste Delsarte (October 19, 1903, Fourmies – November 28, 1968, Nancy) was a French mathematician known for his work in mathematical analysis, in particular, for introducing mean-periodic functions and generalised shift operators. He was one of the founders of the Bourbaki group.*Wik

1910 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (19 Oct 1910; 21 Aug 1995) Indian-born American astrophysicist who (with William A.Fowler) won the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics for formulating the currently accepted theory on the later evolutionary stages of massive stars. He was one of the first scientists to combine the disciplines of physics and astronomy. Early in his career he demonstrated that there is an upper limit, now called the Chandrasekhar limit, to the mass of a white dwarf star. A white dwarf is the last stage in the evolution of a star such as the Sun. When the nuclear energy source in the center of a star such as the Sun is exhausted, it collapses to form a white dwarf. Further, it shows that stars much more massive than the Sun must either explode or form black holes. *TIS


1586 Egnatio Danti was an Italian Dominican who made contributions to architecture, geography and astronomy.Finally, among Danti's publications, we mention Trattato del radio latino (1586) which is Danti's work describing his surveying instrument. This book appeared in the year in which Danti died. The other task he undertook just before his death was to travel to Rome, at the request of Pope Sixtus, to assist the architect Domenico Fontana, who had become architect to the papacy when Sixtus was elected, in moving the Egyptian obelisk from its place in the circus of the Vatican. The obelisk had been brought to Rome in the 1st century AD and Danti and Fontana erected it in 1586 where it now stands in the centre of St Peter's Square in the Vatican. After his return from this trip to Rome, Danti contracted pneumonia from which he died. *SAU

1875 Sir Charles Wheatstone (6 Feb 1802, 19 Oct 1875) English physicist who popularized the Wheatstone bridge, a device that accurately measured electrical resistance and became widely used in laboratories. He didn't actually invent the "Wheatstone Bridge". His contemporary, Samuel Hunter Christie, came up with the idea of the bridge circuit, but Wheatstone set the precedent for using it in the way in which it has been most commonly used. Over time, the device became associated with him and took on his name. He did, however, invent the concertina (1829), the stereoscope (1838), and an early form of the telegraph. He also  developed a chronoscope (1842) to determine the velocity of projectiles at an English gunnery.*TIS (For students of discrete math, or interested in codes, Wheatstone was also the creator of the Playfair Cipher.) A story is told that among friends he was "the life of the party" however he was afraid to speak in public. It was not unlike Wheatstone to set up a speaking engagement and cancel at the very last minute due to an awful case of stage fright. As a result of this condition Michael Faraday commentated much of Whetstone's work to the Royal Society through Faraday's famous Friday night lectures. On one such occasion Wheatstone was scheduled to speak at the Royal society and of course literally ran out the back door of the conference hall at the last minute. Faraday stepped onto the stage and delivered one of his most famous lectures, which was on the discovery of the Electro-magnetic field.

1878 Irénée-Jules Bienaymé (28 August 1796 - 19 October 1878) was a French statistician. He built on the legacy of Laplace generalizing his least squares method. He contributed to the fields and probability, and statistics and to their application to finance, demography and social sciences. In particular, he formulated the Bienaymé-Chebyshev inequality concerning the law of large numbers and the Bienaymé formula for the variance of a sum of uncorrelated random variables.*Wik

1890 Émile Léonard Mathieu (15 May 1835 in Metz, France - 19 Oct 1890 in Nancy, France) is remembered especially for his discovery (in 1860 and 1873) of five sporadic simple groups named after him. These were studied in his thesis on transitive functions.*SAU

1937 Sir Ernest Rutherford (30 Aug 1871, 19 Oct 1937) (baron) New Zealand-born British physicist who laid the groundwork for the development of nuclear physics. He worked under Sir J. J. Thomson at Cambridge University (1895-98). Then he collaborated with Frederick Soddy in studying radioactivity. In 1899 he discovered alpha particles and beta particles, followed by the discovery of gamma radiation the following year. In 1905, with Soddy, he announced that radioactive decay involves a series of transformations. In 1907, with Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, he devised the alpha-particle scattering experiment that led in 1911 to the discovery of the atomic nucleus. In 1919 he achieved the artificial splitting of light atoms. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. *TIS

1944 Denes König (21 Sept 1884 in Budapest, Hungary - 19 Oct 1944 in Budapest, Hungary) At Göttingen, König had been influenced by Minkowski's lectures on the four color problem. These lectures contributed to his growing interest in graph theory, on which he lectured in Budapest from 1911. His book, Theorie der endlichen und unendlichen Graphen, was published in 1936, and was a major factor in the growth of interest in graph theory worldwide. It was eventually translated into English under the title Theory of finite and infinite graphs (translated by R McCoart), Birkhauser, 1990; this also contains a biographical sketch by Tibor Gallai​.  König's work on the factorization of bipartite graphs relates closely to the marriage problem of Philip Hall. König's use of graphs to give a simpler proof of a determinant result of Frobenius seems to have led to some hostility between the two men.
After the Nazi occupation of Hungary, König worked to help persecuted mathematicians. This led to his death a few days after the Hungarian National Socialist Party took over the country. *SAU

1979 Marjorie Lee Browne (September 9, 1914 – October 19, 1979) was a notable mathematics educator, the second African-American woman to receive a doctoral degree in the U.S., and one of the first black women to receive a doctorate in mathematics in the U.S.*Wik

Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIA = Today in Astronomy
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell