Friday, 10 June 2011

On This Day in Math - June 10


Mathematics is one of the essential emanations of the human spirit,
a thing to be valued in and for itself, like art or poetry.
~Oswald Veblen
EVENTS
1827 William Rowan Hamilton, age 21, appointed astronomer royal at Dunsink Observatory and Andrews professor of astronomy at Trinity College, Ireland. This was a unique event in that he was still an undergraduate. *VFR



1854, G.F. Bernhard Riemann proposed that space is curved in a lecture titled Über die Hypothesen welche der Geometrie zu Grunde liegen. He described the old-fashioned Euclidean plane geometry and solid geometry, respectively, as two-, and three-dimensional examples of what we now call Riemann spaces with zero curvature. Saying that the space is curved, rather than flat or Euclidean, is another way saying that the familiar properties of Euclidean geometry - such as the Pythagorean theorem - do not hold. He went on to suggest that all physical laws become simpler when expressed in higher dimensions. Einstein in 1915 used Rieman’s work in his theory of General Relativity which incorporated time as the fourth dimension.*TIS Weber recounted Weber recounts how with unusual emotion Gauss praised Riemann’s profundity on their way home. John Derbyshire in his Prime Obsession calls it "one of the ten mathematical papers ever delivered anywhere."



1919 In a letter to Irving Langmuir, Ernest Rutherford writes, "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." Nelson Ernest Rutherford *Quoted in Nathan Reingold and Ida H. Reingold, Science in America: A Documentary History 1900-1939 (1981), 354.


1924 Oswald Veblen describes his ideas for the Institute for Mathematical Research in a letter to Vernon Kellogg. The senior men would devote themselves “entirely to research, and to the guidance of the research of the younger men.” (History and philosophy of modern mathematics By William Aspray)



1977 The first Apple II computer was delivered.



In 2000, the Millenium Bridge - a footbridge across the River Thames - was opened by Queen Elizabeth. The radical new design was the work of architect Sir Norman Foster with sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and engineering support from Arup. It was the first new crossing of the River Thames in over 100. As the first few thousand people crossed the bridge, it developed an unexpected and potentially dangerous lateral "wobble". This caused people to unwittingly walk "in step", which increased the oscillation. The design had been adapted from a computer model typical for a car bridge, but which did not take into account the lateral forces associated with human walking. After structural damping was added to stop the oscillation, the bridge re-opened in 2002*TIS



BIRTHS
940 Abu’l-Wafa born. He worked with a rusty compass.*VFR The professors cryptic remark about a "rusty compass" refers to Abu'l wafa's preference, when possible, to do his geometric constructions with a compass with a fixed opening.
"A text written by Abu'l-Wafa for practical use was A book on those geometric constructions which are necessary for a craftsman. This was written much later than his arithmetic text, certainly after 990. The book is in thirteen chapters and it considered the design and testing of drafting instruments, the construction of right angles, approximate angle trisections, constructions of parabolas, regular polygons and methods of inscribing them in and circumscribing them about given circles, inscribing of various polygons in given polygons, the division of figures such as plane polygons, and the division of spherical surfaces into regular spherical polygons.
Another interesting aspect of this particular work of Abu'l-Wafa's is that he tries where possible to solve his problems with ruler and compass constructions. When this is not possible he uses approximate methods. However, there are a whole collection of problems which he solves using a ruler and fixed compass, that is one where the angle between the legs of the compass is fixed. It is suggested in [1] that:-
Interest in these constructions was probably aroused by the fact that in practice they give more exact results than can be obtained by changing the compass opening.
Abu'l-Wafa is best known for the first use of the tan function and compiling tables of sines and tangents at 15' intervals. This work was done as part of an investigation into the orbit of the Moon, written down in Theories of the Moon. He also introduced the sec and cosec and studied the interrelations between the six trigonometric lines associated with an arc.
Abu'l-Wafa devised a new method of calculating sine tables. His trigonometric tables are accurate to 8 decimal places (converted to decimal notation) while Ptolemy's were only accurate to 3 places." *SAU



1710 James Short British optician and astronomer who produced the first truly
parabolic and elliptic (hence nearly distortionless) mirrors for reflecting telescopes. During his working life of over 35 years, Short made about 1,360 instruments - not only for customers in Britain but also for export: one is still preserved in Leningrad, another at Uppsala and several in America. Short was principal British collator and computer of the Transit of Venus observations made throughout the world on 6th June 1761. His instruments travelled on Endeavour with Captain Cook to observe the next Transit of Venus on 3rd June 1769, but Short died before this event took place.



1803 Henri-Philibert-Gaspard Darcy French hydraulic engineer who first derived the equation (now known as Darcy's law) that governs the laminar (nonturbulent) flow of fluids in homogeneous, porous media. In 1856, modern studies of groundwater began when Darcy was commissioned to develop a water-purification system for the city of Dijon, France. He constructed the first experimental apparatus to study the flow characteristics of water through the earth. From his experiments, he derived the Darcy's Law equation, describing the flow of water in nature, which is fundamental to understanding groundwater systems.



1832 Nikolaus August Otto born. German engineer who developed the four-stroke internal-combustion engine, which offered the first practical alternative to the steam engine as a power source. A French engineer, Alphonse Beau de Rochas, formulated the basic design for the four-stroke internal combustion engine and patented it in 1862, but never built a working model. In 1876, Otto used principles from Beau de Rochas and others to construct the prototype of today's automobile engines, often called the Otto-cycle engine. He sold thousands of copies before Beau de Rochas sued him and invalidated Otto's patent. But light, efficient Otto-cycle engines largely enabled the creation of automobiles, powerboats, motorcycles and even airplanes. *TIS


1861 Pierre(-Maurice-Marie) Duhem French physicist, mathematician, and philosopher of science who emphasized a history of modern science based on evolutionary metaphysical concepts. He had a wide variety of mathematical interests from mechanics and physics to philosophy and the history of mathematics. Duhem studied magnetism following the work of Gibbs and Helmholtz and also worked on thermodynamics and hydrodynamics producing over 400 papers. He maintained that the role of theory in science is to systematize relationships rather than to interpret new phenomena.  *TIS
1887 Vladimir Ivanovich Smirnov (10 June 1887 – 11 February 1974) was a Russian mathematician who made significant contributions in both pure and applied mathematics, and also in the history of mathematics.
Smirnov worked on diverse areas of mathematics, such as complex functions and conjugate functions in Euclidean spaces. In the applied field his work includes the propagation of waves in elastic media with plane boundaries (with Sergei Sobolev) and the oscillations of elastic spheres.
Smirnov is also widely known among students for his five volume book A Course in Higher Mathematics (the first volume was written jointly with Jacob Tamarkin).*Wik
DEATHS

1836 Andre-Marie Ampere. French mathematician and physicist who founded and named the science of electrodynamics, now known as electromagnetism. His interests included mathematics, metaphysics, physics and chemistry. In mathematics he worked on partial differential equations. Ampère made significant contributions to chemistry. In 1811 he suggested that an anhydrous acid prepared two years earlier was a compound of hydrogen with an unknown element, analogous to chlorine, for which he suggested the name fluorine. He produced a classification of elements in 1816. Ampère also worked on the wave theory of light. By the early 1820's, Ampère was working on a combined theory of electricity and magnetism, after hearing about Oersted's experiments.TIS It is said that Ampere was capable of intense concentration leading to absent-mindedness. Once walking in Paris he had an insight and pulled a piece of chalk out of his pocket and finding the back of a cab he began to cover the back of the cab with equations, and was then shocked to see his solution begin to pull away and disappear down the street.


1903 (Antonio) Luigi (Gaudenzio Giuseppe) Cremona was an Italian mathematician who was an originator of graphical statics (the use of graphical methods to study forces in equilibrium) and work in projective geometry. Cremona's work in statics is of great importance and he gave, in a clearer form, some theorems due to Maxwell. In a paper of 1872 Cremona took an idea of Maxwell's on forces in frame structures that had appeared in an engineering journal in 1867 and interpreted Maxwell's notion of reciprocal figures as duality in projective 3-space. These reciprocal figures, for example, have three forces in equilibrium in one figure represented by a triangle while in the reciprocal figure they are represented by three concurrent lines.*TIS



1948 Philippa Garrett Fawcett
Fawcett's performance in the Trinity Intercollege Examination which she sat after two years at Cambridge was outstanding and it was clear that she would excel in the Tripos Examinations of 1890. At this time only the men were ranked in the Tripos Examination but women who took the examination were made aware of their place by being told they were placed between the nth and (n+1)st man or equal to the nth man. Expectations were high that Fawcett would perform well and her mother wrote in a letter to a friend (see for example [3]):-

I am going to Cambridge tomorrow week and shall have my last sight of [Philippa] till after the exam. I have made up my mind not to be too anxious about it. There are a great many better things in the world than beating other people in examinations.

However, beat other people is exactly what Fawcett did in the twelve three hour examination papers. The Senior Moderator of the Mathematical Tripos Examinations of 1890 was Walter Rouse Ball and it was his duty to read the women's list after the men's ranked list had been read. When Rouse Ball came to read the women's list he read out first:-
Miss Philippa Garrett Fawcett - above the Senior Wrangler.
Fawcett had become the first woman at Cambridge to come top in the Mathematical Tripos Examinations. A description of the event is recorded in the North Hall Diary of Newnham College:-
The great event of the year was Philippa Garrett Fawcet's achievement in the Mathematical Tripos. For the first time a woman has been placed above the Senior Wrangler. The excitement in the Senate House when the lists were read was unparalleled. The deafening cheers of the throng of undergraduates redoubled as Miss Fawcett left the Senate House by the side of the Principal. On her arrival at the College she was enthusiastically greeted by a crowd of fellow-students, and carried in triumph into Clough Hall. Flowers, letters, and telegrams poured in upon her throughout the day. The College was profusely decorated with flags. In the evening the whole College dined in Clough Hall. After dinner toasts were proposed: the healths drunk were those of the Principal, Miss Fawcett, her Coach (Mr Hobson) and Senior and Junior Optimes. At 9.30 p.m. the College gardens were illuminated, and a bonfire was lighted on the hockey-ground, round which Miss Fawcett was three times carried amid shouts of triumph and strains of "For she's a jolly good fellow."

1974 Jaroslav Hájek (4 Feb 1926 in Podebrady, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) - 10 June 1974 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) He was among the pioneers of unequal probability sampling. The name "Hájek predictor" now labels his contributions to the use of auxiliary data in estimating population means. In 1967 Hájek published (jointly with Z Sidak) Theory of rank tests but it was a work which had in fact been written four years before in 1963. Their methods use three lemmas of Le Cam in order to treat rank statistics under local alternatives and they established the efficiency of rank tests. *SAU

Credits:
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
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