Wednesday, 29 June 2011

On This Day in Math - June 29

Jeannie, You'll always be beautiful to me!
In 3123 BC, a Sumerian astronomer saw a devastating asteroid, perhaps a half-mile wide, according to an interpretation of a clay tablet, made by researchers from Bristol University, reported in The Times on 31 Mar 2008. The ancient date was indicated by a computer recreation of the night sky using symbols on the tablet recording the positions of constellations The Planiform tablet found by Henry Layard at Nineveh, likely a 700 BC copy of the astronomer's notes, described in cuneiform a "white stone bowl approaching" that "vigorously swept along." The asteroid probably crashed into the Austrian Alps, leaving a swath of cataclysmic damage such as, for example, the Genesis destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.*TIS

1877 After proving that the points in a square can be put in one-to-one correspondence with the points on a line segment Cantor wrote his friend Dedekind “Je le vois, mais je ne le crois pas.” (I see it, but I don’t believe it.) [Dauben, Georg Cantor, p. 55]*VFR

In 1954, the Atomic Energy Commission, by a vote of 4 to1 decided against reinstating Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer's access to classified information. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 required consideration of  "the character, associations, and loyalty" of the individuals engaged in the work of the Commission. Substantial defects of character and imprudent and dangerous associations, particularly with known subversives who place the interests of foreign powers above those of the United States, were considered reasons for disqualification. The Commission regarded his associations with persons known to him to be Communists exceeded tolerable limits of prudence and self-restraint, and lasted too long to be justified as merely the intermittent and accidental revival of earlier friendships.*TIS
1956 The interstate highway system was signed into law by President Eisenhower. Even (odd) num­bered roads run East–West (North–South) with the numbers increasing from South to North (West to East). Roads with three digit numbers are loops around cities (when the first digit is even) or spurs (first digit odd); In either case the last two digits are the main road number.  *VFR 
In 1956, the Act that made possible the modern interstate highway system in the U.S. was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower had seen the speed and efficiency in moving troops and equipment on the four-lane autobahns in Germany during WW II. The idea of federal support of interstate limited-access routes in the U.S. had begun with a study under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938. Little progress was made on building these roads while federal funding was low. When the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 committed federal funds to the States for 90% of the cost, construction began in earnest for the System of Interstate and Defense Highways having at least four lanes with no at-grade railroad crossings. *TIS

2011 - My Jeannie is celebrating her birthday today, and I'm celebrating having her in my life... all the good I ever do is a reflection of a single sun.  

1818  Pietro Angelo Secchi Italian Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, who made the first survey of the spectra of over 4000 stars and suggested that stars be classified according to their spectral type. He studied the planets, especially Jupiter, which he discovered was composed of gasses. Secchi studied the dark lines which join the two hemispheres of Mars; he called them canals as if they where the works of living beings. (These studies were later continued by Schiaparelli.) Beyond astronomy, his interests ranged from archaeology to geodesy, from geophysics to meteorology. He also invented a meteorograph, an automated device for recording barometric pressure, temperature, wind direction and velocity, and rainfall. *TIS

1869 George Ellery Hale born. American astronomer known for his development of important astronomical instruments. To expand solar observations and promote astrophysical studies he founded Mt. Wilson Observatory (Dec 1904). He discovered that sunspots were regions of relatively low temperatures and high magnetic fields. Hale hired Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble as soon as they finished their doctorates, and he encouraged research in galactic and extragalactic astronomy as well as solar and stellar astrophysics. Hale planned and tirelessly raised funds for the 200" reflecting telescope at the Palomar Mountain Observatory completed in 1948, after his death, and named for him - the Hale telescope.*TIS

1893 Eduard Cech, Czech topologist. Czech mathematician born in Stračov, Bohemia (then Austria-Hungary, now Czech Republic). His research interests included projective differential geometry and topology. In 1921–1922 he collaborated with Guido Fubini in Turin. He died in Prague. *Wik

1904 Topologist Witold Hurewicz born. Hurewicz is best remembered for two remarkable contributions to mathematics, his discovery of the higher homotopy groups in 1935-36, and his discovery of exact sequences in 1941. His work led to homological algebra. It was during Hurewicz's time as Brouwer's assistant in Amsterdam that he did the work on the higher homotopy groups; "...the idea was not new, but until Hurewicz nobody had pursued it as it should have been. Investigators did not expect much new information from groups, which were obviously commutative...". *Wik

1942  K. Jon Barwise. an American mathematician, philosopher and logician who proposed some fundamental revisions to the way that logic is understood and used.*Wik

1895  T(homas) H(enry) Huxley was an English biologist whose promotion of Darwinism led him to an advocacy of agnosticism (a word he coined). At the age of 12 he was reading advanced works on geology, and by early adolescence he recorded the results of simple self-conducted experiments. As a ship's assistant surgeon on HMS Rattlesnake he studied marine specimens by microscope. During the 1850's he published papers on animal individuality, the cephalous mollusks (ex. squids), the methods of paleontology, and the methods and principles of science and science education. *TIS

1924 Robert Simpson Woodward  was an American physicist and mathematician, born at Rochester, Michigan. He graduated C.E. at the University of Michigan in 1872 and was appointed assistant engineer on the United States Lake Survey. In 1882 he became assistant astronomer for the United States Transit of Venus Commission. In 1884 he became astronomer to the United States Geological Survey, serving until 1890, when he became assistant in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. In 1893 he was called to Columbia as professor of mechanics and subsequently became professor of mathematical physics as well. He was dean of the faculty of pure science at Columbia from 1895 to 1905, when he became president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, whose reputation and usefulness as a means of furthering scientific research was widely extended under his direction. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1896. In 1898-1900 he was president of the American Mathematical Society, and in 1900 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1915 he was appointed to the Naval Consulting Board. He died in 1924 in Washington, D.C.*Wik

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