Friday, 1 July 2011

On This Day in Math - July 1


Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty
a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, 
without appeal to any part of our weaker nature,
without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, 
yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. 
 The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, 
which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, 
is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
--BERTRAND RUSSELL,

EVENTS
1349 Sometimes, a little astronomical knowledge can be a dangerous thing, even to those who possess it. A tale from medieval England is passed down from the chronicles of the scholar Thomas Bradwardine of a witch who attempted to force her will on the people through knowledge of an impending eclipse. Bradwardine, who had studied astronomical predictions of Arabian astronomers, saw through the ruse, and matched the prediction of the July 01, 1349 A.D. lunar eclipse with a more precise one of his own. No word survives as to the fate of the accused, but one can only suspect banishment or worse.*listosaur.com
1694 Opening of the University of Halle in Germany. Georg Cantor later taught there. *VFR

1798 Napoleon’s fleet reached Alexandria, bearing Monge and Fourier.*VFR

1818 William George Horner’s (1786–1837) method of solving equations is presented to the Royal Society.*VFR  In numerical analysis, the Horner scheme (also known as Horner algorithm), named after William George Horner, is an algorithm for the efficient evaluation of polynomials in monomial form. Horner's method describes a manual process by which one may approximate the roots of a polynomial equation. The Horner scheme can also be viewed as a fast algorithm for dividing a polynomial by a linear polynomial with Ruffini's rule. Student's often learn this process as synthetic division.  *Wik

1847 The United States issued its first two postage stamps. They pictured Benjamin Franklin and George Washington respectively [Scott #1-2]. *VFR

1852 Dirichlet delivers a memorial lecture at the Berlin Academy in honor of his close friend Jacobi, calling him the greatest member of the Academy since Lagrange. *VFR

1856 Weierstrass appointed Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Polytechnic School in Berlin. *VFR

In 1858, the Wallace-Darwin theory of evolution was first published at the Linnaean Society in London*. The previous month Charles Darwin received a letter from Alfred Wallace, who was collecting specimens in the East Indies. Wallace had independently developed a theory of natural selection - which was almost identical to Darwin's. The letter asked Darwin to evaluate the theory, and if worthy of publication, to forward the manuscript to Charles Lyell. Darwin did so, almost giving up his clear priority for he had not yet published his masterwork The Origin of Species. Neither Darwin nor Wallace were present for the oral presentation at the Linnaean Society, where geologist Charles Lyell and botanist Joseph Hooker presented both Wallace's paper and excerpts from Darwin's unpublished 1844 essay.*TIS

1873 From a letter dated July 1, 1873, in the Coast Survey files in the National Archives in Washington. Peirce writes, "Newcomb, in a paper .... says he finds that pendulums hung by springs twist and untwist as they oscillate and says this will affect the time of oscillation."The Charles S. Peirce-Simon Newcomb Correspondence by Carolyn Eisele.

1894 The New York Mathematical Society changed its name to the American Mathematical Society to reflect its national charter. [AMS Semicentennial Publications, vol. 1, p. 74]. *VFR

1908 International agreement to use SOS for distress signal signed. An International Radiotelegraphic Convention, ... met in Berlin in 1906. This body signed an international agreement on November 3, 1906, with an effective date of July 1, 1908. An extensive collection of Service Regulations was included to supplement the Convention, and in particular Article XVI adopted Germany's Notzeichen distress signal as the international standard, stating: "Ships in distress shall use the following signal: · · · — — — · · · repeated at brief intervals". *Citizens Compendium

1918 Florian Cajori (1859–1930) appointed professor of the history of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the few such chairs in the the world. During the next twelve years he published 159 papers on the history of mathematics. *VFR

1964 The New York Times, in a full page ad, announced that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward would play a game on an elliptical pool table. It had a pocket at one focus so that if the ball passed over the other focus it would bank off the rail into the pocket. [UMAP Journal, 4(1983), p. 176; Recreational Mathematics Magazine, no. 14, January-February 1964] *VFR

BIRTHS
1646 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz born in Leipzig, Germany. Leibniz occupies a prominent place in the history of mathematics and the history of philosophy. He developed the infinitesimal calculus independently of Isaac Newton, and Leibniz's mathematical notation has been widely used ever since it was published. He became one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators. While working on adding automatic multiplication and division to Pascal's calculator, he was the first to describe a pinwheel calculator in 1685[4] and invented the Leibniz wheel, used in the arithmometer, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator. He also refined the binary number system, which is at the foundation of virtually all digital computers. In philosophy, Leibniz is mostly noted for his optimism, e.g. his conclusion that our Universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one that God could have created. Leibniz, along with René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, was one of the three great 17th century advocates of rationalism. The work of Leibniz anticipated modern logic and analytic philosophy, but his philosophy also looks back to the scholastic tradition, in which conclusions are produced by applying reason to first principles or a priori definitions rather than to empirical evidence. Leibniz made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in biology, medicine, geology, probability theory, psychology, linguistics, and information science. He wrote works on politics, law, ethics, theology, history, philosophy, and philology. Leibniz's contributions to this vast array of subjects were scattered in various learned journals, in tens of thousands of letters, and in unpublished manuscripts. As of 2010, there is no complete gathering of the writings of Leibniz.*Wik

1779 John Farrar born at Lincoln, Massachusetts. As Hollis professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Harvard, he was responsible for a sweeping modernization of the science and mathematics curriculum, including the change from Newton’s to Leibniz’s notation for the calculus. *VFR

1788 Jean Victor Poncelet born in Metz, France. He taught engineering and mechanics, but had a hobby of much greater interest—projective geometry. *VFR French mathematician and engineer whose study of the pole and polar lines associated with conic led to the principle of duality. While serving as an engineer in Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign as an engineer, he was left for dead at Krasnoy, but then captured. During his imprisonment he studied projective geometry and wrote a treatise on analytic geometry. Released in 1814, he returned to France, and in 1822 published Traité des propriétés projectives des figures in which he presented his fundamental ideas of projective geometry such as the cross-ratio, perspective, involution and the circular points at infinity. As a professor of mechanics (1825-35), he applied mechanics to improve waterwheels and was able to double their efficiency.*TIS
1848 Emil Weyr (1 July 1848 in Prague, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) - 25 Jan 1894 in Vienna, Austria) His father Frantisek Weyr, was a professor of mathematics at a realschule (secondary school) in Prague from 1855. Emil was four years older than his brother Eduard Weyr who also became a famous mathematician. Emil attended the realschule in Prague where his father taught, then studied at the Prague Polytechnic from 1865 to 1868 where he was taught geometry by Vilém Fiedler.
He studied in Italy with Cremona and Casorati during the academic year 1870-71 returning to Prague where he continued to teach. In 1872 he was elected to be Head of the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists. In 1875 he was appointed as professor of mathematics at the University of Vienna. He, together with his brother Eduard Weyr, were the main members of the Austrian geometric school. They were interested in descriptive geometry, then in projective geometry and their interests turned towards algebraic and synthetic methods in geometry. Among many works Emil Weyr published were Die Elemente der projectivischen Geometrie and Über die Geometrie der alten Aegypter.
Emil Weyr led the geometry school in Vienna throughout the 1880's up until his death. Together with Gustav von Escherich, Emil Weyr founded the important mathematical journal Monatshefte fuer Mathematik und Physik in 1890. The first volumes of the journal contain papers written by his brother Eduard. In 1891 Emil Weyr became one of the first 19 founder members of the Royal Czech Academy of Sciences. *SAU

1906 Jean Dieudonn´e born. *VFR French mathematician and educator known for his writings on abstract algebra, functional analysis, topology, and his theory of Lie groups. Dieudonné was one of the two main contributors to the Bourbaki series of texts. He began his mathematical career working on the analysis of polynomials. He worked in a wide variety of mathematical areas including general topology, topological vector spaces, algebraic geometry, invariant theory and the classical groups. *TIS

DEATHS

1749 William Jones, FRS (1675 – 3 July 1749) was a Welsh mathematician, most noted for his proposal for the use of the symbol π (the Greek letter pi) to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. He was a close friend of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley. In November, 1711 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was later its Vice-President.[1]*Wik

1957 Donald McIntosh graduated from the University of Aberdeen and taught at George Watson's Ladies College in Edinburgh. He was appointed a Director of Education. He became Secretary of the EMS in 1899 and President in 1905. *SAU

1963 Bevan Braithwaite Baker graduated from University College London. After service in World War I he became a lecturer at Edinburgh University and was Secretary of the EMS from 1921 to 1923. He left to become Professor at Royal Holloway College London. *SAU
1971 Sir William Lawrence Bragg (31 Mar 1890; 1 Jul 1971 at age 81) was an Australian-English physicist and X-ray crystallographer who at the early age of 25, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 (with his father, Sir William Bragg). Lawrence Bragg formulated the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure: nλ = 2dsinθ which relates the wavelength of x-rays, λ, the angle of incidence on a crystal, θ, and the spacing of crystal planes, d, for x-ray diffraction, where n is an integer (1, 2, 3, etc.). Together, the Braggs worked out the crystal structures of a number of substances. Early in this work, they showed that sodium chloride does not have individual molecules in the solid, but is an array of sodium and chloride ions. *TIS

1983 Richard Buckminster Fuller was a U.S. engineer and architect who developed the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure, and the only practical kind of building that has no limiting dimensions (i.e., beyond which the structural strength must be insufficient). Fuller also invented a wide range of other paradigm-shifting machines and structural systems. He was especially interested in high-strength-to-weight designs, with a maximum of utility for minimum of material. His designs and engineering philosophy are part of the foundation of contemporary high-tech design aesthetics. He held over 2000 patents.*TIS  This is another one who died within two weeks of his date of birth. I must organize data on this...


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