Saturday, 20 August 2011

On This Day in Math - Aug 20

Mathematics is a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that it proclaims a truth; a form of reasoning which transcends reasoning in that it wants to bring about the truth it proclaims; a form of action, of ritual behavior, which does not find fulfillment in the act but must proclaim and elaborate a poetic form of truth.
~Salomon Bochner

The 232nd day of the year; 232 is the maximum number of regions that the plane can be divided into with 21 lines (how many of the regions would be of infinite area?)

1699 Newton's name introduced outside the Cambridge area. In 1669 Barrow had brought Newton a copy of Nicholas Mercator's Logarithmotechnia, which included the infinite series for ln(1+x). Newton recognized this as a simple example of his more general work on infinite series during his annus mirabilis in Woolsthorpe. Newton began to share some of his work with Barrow, who talked him into allowing him to send some of it, anonymously, with John Collins, which he did. When Collins highly favorable responses were received, Newton allowed Barrow to identify him to Collins. Barrow's letter to Collins on this date was the first time Newton became known to the mathematical community outside Cambridge. *James Gleick, Isaac Newton
1858 The Darwin-Wallace paper was read before the Linnean Society July 1st, 1858 and published in their Proceedings Vol 3 1858. pp 45-62. on this day.
"On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection" ; By Charles Darwin, Esq., F.R.S., F.L.S.., & F.G.S., and Alfred Wallace​, Esq. Communicated by Sir Charles Lyell, F.R.S., F.L.S., and J.D. Hooker, Esq., M.D., V.P.R.S., F.L.S., &c. *Linnean Society

1955 Observances were held on the Island of Samos commemorating the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the first school of philosophy by Pythagoras. Four postage stamps were issued by Greece. Naturally one of them illustrated the celebrated 47th proposition of Euclid, the Pythagorean Theorem, by a 3–4–5 triangle with squares erected on its sides.

1601 Pierre de Fermat was born in Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France. Besides being the coinventor, with Ren´e Descartes, of Analytic Geometry, Fermat did important work in the theory of maxima and minima, quadrature (before the invention of the calculus), probability and optics. He is best known today for his work in number theory. *VFR The exact date of his birth seems uncertain. Some suggest that he may have been born as late as 1608. His tombstone in the church of the Augustines in Toulouse (now in the museum) gives the date of as January 12, 1665 and gives his age as fifty-seven years. This seems to be the source of the 1608 date often given. Later in the 1870's, Charles Taupiac (the mayor of Beaumont-de-Lomagne) unearthed the town archives showing that Fermat was baptized on 20 August, 1601.(*Julio Gonzalez Cabillon) Even then some have protested that might have been an older brother who died in childhood.(*Franz Lemmermeyer)

1645 Siguenza y Gongora was a Mexican astronomer and philosopher.*SAU

1710 Thomas Simpson born. Best known to elementary calculus students for Simpson's rule, a method to approximate definite integrals. The method actually uses a method of fitting parabolas to the function (a word not in use when Simpson lived) but is exact for polynomials up to a cubic.

1863 Corrado Segre (20 August 1863, 18 May 1924) was an Italian mathematician who is remembered today as a major contributor to the early development of algebraic geometry.*Wik

1898 Leopold Infeld born, Polish theoretical physicist In 1948 he published Whom the Gods Love, a biographical novel about Evariste Galois. *VFR

1899 Salomon Bochner (20 Aug 1899; 2 May 1982) Galician-born American mathematician and educator responsible for the development of the Bochner theorem of positive-definite functions and the Bochner integral.*TIS

1957 Simon K. Donaldson born in Cambridge, England. In 1986 he received a Fields Medal for his work on the topology of four-manifolds. *VFR Remarkably, Donaldson has solved problems of mathematics by using ideas from physics. From the Yang-Mills generalizations of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic equations, Donaldson used special solutions to these equations, called instantons, to look at general four-manifolds. After being awarded the Fields Medal, Donaldson continued his exploitation of ideas from physics with applications to mathematics. *TIS

1622 Baha ad-din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Amili (20 Mar 1546; 20 Aug 1622 at age 76)
Syrian-Iranian theologian, mathematician and astronomer, a.k.a. Shaykh Baha'i). He became a very learned Muslim whose genius touched every field of knowledge from mathematics and philosophy to architecture and landscape design. He revived the study of mathematics in Iran. His treatise on the subject, Khulasat al-hisab (“The Essentials of Arithmetic”), and translations from the original Arabic was in use as a textbook until the end of the 19th century. His treatise in astronomy, Tashrihu'l-aflak ("Anatomy of the Heavens") summarised the works of earlier masters. He was born within a year of William Gilbert in England and Tycho Brahe in Denmark, and was still a child when his family left Syria to escape religious persecution.*TIS
1672 Jan de Witt murdered by a mob from the (William of) Orange faction. For the previous twenty years he served as grand pensionary in Holland, essentially the prime minister of the Netherlands. Consequently this talented mathematician had little time to devote to mathematics. He wrote the first systematic account of the analytic geometry of the straight line and conics. It was published in Van Schooten’s second Latin edition of Descartes’ Geometrie *VFR de Witt and his brother were both killed by a mob which was probably supported by William III of Orange. At the very least, as the Wikipedia articles states, "he protected and rewarded the killers." After a previous attempt on his life, he was lured by a forged letter to the cell where his brother was held, and both were hanged and then their bodies were mutilated. The story of their deaths are a critical element in the plot of Alexander Dumas' "The Black Tulip". *Wik

1677 Pierre Petit was a French scientist who had a strong influence on the French government. He was one of Mersenne's collaborators.*SAU

1923 Vilfredo Pareto (15 Jul 1848, 20 Aug 1923) Italian economist and sociologist, known for his application of mathematics to economic analysis and for his theory of the 'circulation of elites'. His initial five-year course in civil engineering, graduating in 1870, gave him a grounding in mathematics. While working as an engineer, he studied philosophy and politics and wrote many periodical articles in which he was one of the first to analyse economic problems with mathematical tools. Pareto's first work, Cours d'economie politique (1896-97), included his famous 'law' of income distribution, a complicated mathematical formulation attempting to prove the distribution of incomes and wealth in society is not random and that a consistent pattern appears throughout history, in all parts of the world and in all societies. *TIS Pareto's Law was not created by him, but named in honor of him. The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who had observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. *Wik

1930 Herbert Hall Turner (13 Aug 1861, 20 Aug 1930) English astronomer who pioneered many of the procedures now universally employed in determining stellar positions from astronomical photographs. After serving as chief assistant at the Royal Greenwich Observatory for nine years, he spent most of his career as Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford University. One of the leaders in the worldwide effort to produce an astrographic chart of the sky, he developed improved methods for obtaining both positions and magnitudes from photographic plates. Most of his later work was in seismology; he compiled and published worldwide earthquake data starting in 1918, and he discovered the existence of deep-focus earthquakes in 1922. *TIS

1972 Carol Karp died of breast cancer. At the time she was at the height of her career in logic. See 10 August 1926. *VFR

2001 Sir Fred Hoyle (24 June 1915, 20 Aug 2001) English mathematician and astronomer, best known as the foremost proponent and defender of the steady-state theory of the universe. This theory holds both that the universe is expanding and that matter is being continuously created to keep the mean density of matter in space constant. He became Britain's best-known astronomer in 1950 with his broadcast lectures on The Nature of the Universe, and he recalled coining the term "Big Bang" in the last of those talks. Although over time, belief in a "steady state" universe as Hoyle had proposed was shared by fewer and fewer scientists because of new discoveries, Hoyle never accepted the now most popular "Big Bang" theory for the origin of the universe. *TIS

2006 Professor William (Bill) Parry FRS (3 July 1934–20 August 2006) was an English mathematician. During his research career, he was highly active in the study of dynamical systems, and, in particular, ergodic theory, and made significant contributions to these fields. He is considered to have been at the forefront of the introduction of ergodic theory to the United Kingdom. He played a founding role in the study of subshifts of finite type, and his work on nilflows was highly regarded.*Wik

*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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