Monday, 25 July 2011

On This Day in Math - July 25

Teacher: How many times can you subtract 7 from 83, and what is left afterwards?
Student: You can subtract it as many times as you want, and it leaves 76 every time. ~Author Unknown

This is the 206th day of the year; It is the lowest positive integer (when written in English) to employ all of the vowels once only. There are 206 bones in the typical adult human body.


1741 Euler arrives in Berlin after a one month sea and land journey from St. Petersburg to become director of  Mathematics at Frederick the Great's newly formed Academy of Science. Having endured the political intrigue and brutal regime of Princess Anna, Euler had avoided the Politcal scene by immersing himself in work.  Frederick's mother, Sophia Dorothea, complained to Euler because he was so laconic.  Euler's reply was, "Madam, I have just come from a country where every person who spoke was hanged." *John Derbyshire, Prime Obsession, pg 59-60

 1783 Founding of the Royal Academy of Science in Turin.*VFR Lagrange helped found and was a major contributor to the scientific society of Turin, which would become the Royal Academy of Science of Turin. A main objective of this society was their journal, the Mélanges de Turin.

1807 Gauss named Professor of Astronomy and director of the new observatory in Gottingen. *VFR

In 1837, the five-needle telegraph was demonstrated by English inventors, Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke. They ran a six-wire telegraph line 2.4-km from Euston to Camden Town along the Great Western Railway Company railway track. They successfully transmitted and received messages. Wheatstone provided the technological skill and is better remembered in the history of the telegraph while Cooke had the business acumen. This first patent (1837) was impractical because the code used simultaneous combinations of five keys, and so was rather cumbersome, limited to only twenty letters (J, C, Q, U, X and Z were omitted). By 1845, they patented the more important single-needle electric telegraph.*TIS

1925 The “Monkey Trial” of John T. Scopes began in Dayton, Tennessee. Clarence Darrow defended him. The prosecution, conducted by William Jennings Bryan, presented a strong case, and he was convicted of violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. Although the law was later overturned, this case provided a strong blow to science education. Scopes was not a biologist and never taught evolution. Rather he was a mathematics and physics teacher who volunteered to stand trial to furnish a test case.*VFR
The trial ran for 12 days. A local school teacher, John Scopes, was prosecuted under the state's Butler Act, but was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. This law, passed a few months earlier (21 Mar 1925) prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. The trial was a platform to challenge the legality of the statute. Local town leaders,(wishing for the town to benefit from the publicity of the trial) had recruited Scope to stand trial. He was convicted (25 Jul) and fined $100. On appeal, the state supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the law but acquitted Scopes on the technicality that he had been fined excessively. The law was repealed on 17 May 1967. *TIS

1808 Johann Benedict Listing wrote one of the earliest texts on Topology.  he studied the figure of the earth in minute detail; he made observations in meteorology, terrestrial magnetism, and spectroscopy; he wrote on the quantitative determination of sugar in the urine of diabetics; he promoted the nascent optical industry in Germany and better street lighting in Göttingen; he travelled to the world exhibitions in London 1851, Vienna 1873 and London 1876 as an observer for his government; he assisted in geodetic surveys; ... he invented a good many terms [other than topology], some of which have became current: "entropic phenomenona", "nodal points", "homocentric light", "telescopic system", " geoid" ...he coined "one micron" for the millionth of a metre ...*SAU 

1825 Henry Wilbraham (July 25, 1825 – February 13, 1883) was an obscure English mathematician. His only noteworthy accomplishment was discovering and explaining the Gibbs phenomenon nearly fifty years before J. Willard Gibbs did. Gibbs and Maxime Bôcher, as well as nearly everyone else, were unaware of Wilbraham's work on the Gibbs phenomenon.*Wik

1857 Frank (Julian) Sprague was an engineer, inventor, and a pioneer in electric railway transportation. He started his career at sea in the U.S. Navy (1878). Later, he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard making plans for incadescent electric lamps on navy vessels, which led to joining Edison at Menlo Park (1883) He formed the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company in 1884, and became known as "the father of electric railway traction." when he installed the first U.S. electric trolley system (Richmond, Va., 1887). Edison took over this company in 1892. Sprague earned many patents, many for railway applications and diverse ideas such as electric toasters, electric signs, electric elevators and naval weaponry.*TIS

1901 Richard Gwilt was an actuary who worked for various Edinburgh insurance companies. He was a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries and of the Institute of Actuaries. *SAU

1915 I. P. Egorov born. *VFR

1920 Rosalind Franklin was an English scientist who contributed to the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a constituent of chromosomes that serves to encode genetic information. Beginning in 1951, she made careful X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA, leading her to suspect the helical form of the molecule, at least under the conditions she had used. When Watson saw her photographs, he had confirmation of the double-helix form that he and Crick then published. She never received the recognition she deserved for her independent work, but had died of cancer four years before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Crick and Watson.*TIS
1980 Euphemia Lofton Haynes (September 11, 1890 - July 25, 1980) After graduating from Washington D.C. Miner Normal School with distinction, she went on to earn an undergraduate mathematics major (and psychology minor) from Smith College in 1914. In 1917 she married Harold Appo Haynes.
Haynes pursued graduate studies in mathematics and education at the University of Chicago, earning a masters degree in education in 1930. She continued her graduate work in mathematics at the Catholic University of America where in 1943 she became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Her dissertation on "The Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondences" was written under the supervision of Professor Aubrey Landrey.
Euphemia Haynes devoted her life to education in the Washington, D.C. area for forty-seven years, including teaching mathematics at Armstrong High School and Dunbar High School. She became a professor of mathematics at Miner Teachers College in 1930 where she established the mathematics department and served as chair of the Division of Mathematics and Business Education (in 1955 Minor Teachers College and Wilson Teachers College united to form the District of Columbia Teachers College.) From July 1966 to July 1967, Haynes served as the first woman to chair the District of Columbia School Board. She played a central role in the integration of the DC public schools. Upon her death, she left $700,000 to the Catholic University of America which was used to establish the Euphemia Lofton Haynes Chair in the Department of Education and to support a student loan fund in the School of Education. *ASC
1987 Charles Stark Draper American aeronautical engineer, educator, and science administrator who earned degrees from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT then, in 1939, became head of MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory, which was a centre for the design of navigational and guidance systems for ships, airplanes, and missiles from World War II through the Cold War. He developed gyroscope systems that stabilized and balanced gunsights and bombsights and which were later expanded to an inertial guidance system for launching long-range missiles at supersonic jet targets. He was "the father of inertial navigation." The Project Apollo contract for guiding man and spacecraft to the moon was also placed with the Instrumentation Lab.*TIS

1993 Vincent Joseph Schaefer U.S. chemist whose research in meteorology and weather control introduced cloud seeding. He worked on the physics of precipitation at the General Electric (GE) Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York. Having discovered a method of producing a snowstorm under laboratory conditions, he proved the same was possible outdoors. On 13 Nov 1946, he flew over Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, successfully seeding clouds with pellets of dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) to produce the first snowstorm initiated by man. Later, he became founder and director of Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at State University of New York in Albany. *TIS

*ASC = Agnes Scott College, Biographies of Women Mathematicians
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*CHM=Computer History Museum
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