Sunday, 7 August 2011

On This Day in Math - Aug 7

One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient.
~Henri Poincare

The 219th day of the year; There are 219 space groups in 3 dimensions, analogous to the 17 wallpaper groups in 2 dimensions.


1620 Kepler’s mother was arrested (imprisoned) for witchcraft. *VFR In 1615, Ursula Reingold, a woman in a financial dispute with Kepler's brother Christoph, claimed Kepler's mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, and in 1617, Katharina was accused of witchcraft; witchcraft trials were relatively common in central Europe at this time. Beginning in August 1620 she was imprisoned for fourteen months. She was released in October 1621, thanks in part to the extensive legal defense drawn up by Kepler. The accusers had no stronger evidence than rumors, along with a distorted, second-hand version of Kepler's Somnium, in which a woman mixes potions and enlists the aid of a demon. Katharina was subjected to territio verbalis, a graphic description of the torture awaiting her as a witch, in a final attempt to make her confess. Throughout the trial, Kepler postponed his other work to focus on his "harmonic theory". The result, published in 1619, was Harmonices Mundi ("Harmony of the Worlds").. *Wik

1657 Sir Christopher Wren selected as the Gresham College Professor of Astronomy.

1799 The second, greatly augmented edition of Montucla’s Histoire des Mathe ´matiques appeared. *VFR In 1754 he published an anonymous treatise entitled Histoire des récherches sur la quadrature du cercle, and in 1758 the first part of his great work, Histoire des mathématiques, the first history of mathematics worthy of the name. He was appointed intendant-secretary of Grenoble in 1758, secretary to the expedition for colonizing Cayenne in 1764, and chief architect and censor-royal for mathematical books in 1765.
The French Revolution deprived him of his income and left him in great destitution. The offer in 1795 of a mathematical chair in one of the schools of Paris was declined on account of his infirm health, and he was still in straitened circumstances in 1798, when he published a second edition of the first part of his Histoire.  After his death, his Histoire was completed by Jérôme Lalande, and published at Paris in 1799-1802 *Wik

 1814 A shocked Herschel responds to a letter from Charles Babbage, " I am married and I have quarreled with my father - Good God Babbage - How is it possible for a man to pen those two sentences, then ... pass off to functional expressions?" Babbage had eloped with Georgiana Whitmore, a marriage of which his father did not approve because he felt Babbage was not financially secure enough to take a wife.  John Herschel seems to have known nothing of his secret romance. .*Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer

1944 Harvard MARK I dedicated. *Goldstein, Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 111 IBM president Thomas J. Watson Sr. formally presents the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) to Harvard University. One of the earliest digital computers, known at Harvard as the Mark I, this giant relay-based machine was the result of Professor Howard Aiken's research into computation.
The Mark I was a curious mixture of punch card technology and simple electronics which became out-of-date almost as soon as it was completed. It was 51 feet long, 8 feet high, and weighed 5 tons.
Nonetheless, IBM learned about large calculator development with the Mark I and applied these skills in its own Selective Sequence Controlled Calculator (SSEC), another Giant Brain project undertaken when Aiken snubbed IBM by claiming he had invented the ASCC. *CHM


1726 James Bowdoin American founder and first president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1780). He was a scientist prominent in physics and astronomy, and wrote several papers including one on electricity with Benjamin Franklin, a close friend. In one of his letters to Franklin, Bowdoin suggested the theory, since generally accepted, that the phosphorescence of the sea, under certain conditions, is due to the presence of minute animals. Bowdoin was also a political leader in Massachusetts during the American revolution (1775-83), and governor of Massachusetts (1785-87). His remarkable library of 1,200 volumes, ranged from science and math to philosophy, religion, poetry, and fiction. He left it in his will to the Academy.*TIS

1802 Germain Henri Hess Swiss-born Russian chemist whose studies of heat in chemical reactions formed the foundation of thermochemistry. He formulated an empirical law, Hess's law of constant heat summation (1840), which states that the heat evolved or absorbed in a chemical process is the same whether the process takes place in one or in several steps. It is explained by thermodynamic theory, which holds that enthalpy is a state function. Chemists have made great use of the law of Hess in establishing the heats of formation of compounds which are not easily formed from their constituent elements. His early investigations concerned minerals and the natural gas found near Baku, and he also discovered the oxidation of sugars to yield saccharic acid.*TIS

1852 Philipp Forchheimer Austrian hydraulic engineer who made significant studies of groundwater hydrology. Early in his academic career, he worked on problems of soil mechanics. Later, he turned to hydraulic problems, establishing the scientific basis of the discipline by applying standard techniques of mathematical physics - in particular Laplace's equation - to problems of groundwater movement. Laplace's equation had already been well developed for heat flow and fluid flow. Forchheimer extended the preexisting mathematical theory to calculations of groundwater flow. He was also the first to both mathematically and experimentally examine the features of dambreak waves in a rectangular channel (with his PhD student Armin Schoklitsch)*TIS

1868 Ladislaus Josephowitsch Bortkiewicz worked on mathematical statistics and applications to actuarial science and political economy. His work on actuarial science was largely concerned with mortality tables. He examined life expectancy in an increasing population and showed in 1893, contrary to what had previously been believed, that life expectancy in such a population could only be computed from mortality tables and was not a function of the observed birth rate and death rate. He published on mortality rates again in publication of 1904 and 1911 where he examined methods to compare mortality rates.
Good, in [5], argues that the Poisson distribution should have been named the von Bortkiewicz distribution. Bortkiewicz was interested in the law of small numbers and he used the divergence coefficient Q, deducing its expectation and standard deviation. This aspect of Bortkiewicz research is studied in detail in [7]. He published a work The Law of Small Numbers in 1898. In this he was the first to note that events with low frequency in a large population followed a Poisson distribution even when the probabilities of the events varied.*SAU

1869 Mary Frances Winston Newson born in Forreston, Illinois. She did graduate work at Bryn Mawr and Chicago, and then, after meeting Felix Klein at the zeroeth International Congress of Mathematicians in 1893, she attended G¨ottingen. Three years later, in 1896, she finished her dissertation on differential equations and passed her exams magna cum laude. In 1897 she became the first American woman to receive her Ph.D. from a European University. *VFR

1886 (Louis) Alan Hazeltine was an American electrical engineer and physicist who invented the neutrodyne circuit, which made commercial radio possible. As one of the few experts in radio engineering at the outbreak of WW I, he designed a radio receiver for the U.S. Navy. In 1922, Hazeltine invented the "neutrodyne" receiver to eliminate the squeaks and howls of the early radio receivers, using neutralizing capacitors to in effect siphon off the high pitched squeals. The Hazeltine amplifier neutralized the grid-to-plate capacitative coupling which was a cause of oscillation in triode amplifiers. The neutrodyne was the first commercial receiver suited to general public reception. By 1927 some ten million of these receivers were being used by listeners in the U.S. *TIS

1834 Joseph Marie Jacquard French silk weaver, (born Lyons), inventor of the Jacquard programmable power loom for brocaded fabric. His loom would mechanically produce any pattern, controlled by perforated control cards (1805). This served as the impetus for the technological revolution of the textile industry and is the basis of the modern automatic loom. The concept of using punched cards was later applied by Hollerith to keeping track of the 1890 US census data. The idea further evolved to computer input punched cards. *TIS

1848 Jöns Jacob Berzelius was a Swedish scientist, one of the founders of modern chemistry. He is especially noted for his determination of atomic weights, the development of modern chemical symbols, his electrochemical theory, the discovery and isolation of several elements, the development of classical analytical techniques, and his investigation.*TIS

1958 Herbert Osborne Yardley American cryptographer who organized and directed the U.S. government's first formal code-breaking efforts during and after World War I. He began his career as a code clerk in the State Department. During WW I, he served as a cryptologic officer with the American Expeditionary Forces in France during WWI. In the 1920s, when he was chief of MI-8, the first U.S. peacetime cryptanalytic organization, he and a team of cryptanalysts exploited nearly two dozen foreign diplomatic cipher systems. MI-8 was disbanded in 1929 when the State Department withdrew funding. Jobless, Yardley caused a sensation in 1931 by publishing his memoirs of MI-8, The American Black Chamber, which caused new security laws to be enacted.*TIS

1983 Bart Jan Bok was a Dutch-American astronomer whose name remains associated with the "Bok globules" he was the first to investigate - dark clouds of dense gas and dust visible against a background of bright nebulae. Bok globules have a mass of 10 to 50 times the mass of the Sun and are about a light year across. He began their observation in the 1940's and in a 1947 paper with E.F. Reilly proposed that these were sites of new star formation as the gas clouds underwent gravitational collapse. Bok's other important work was on the structure and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. His enthusiasm for astronomy began as a young boy. Bok bicycled to Norway to observe the solar eclipse of 1927. He moved to the U.S. in 1929.*TIS

1985 G´abor Szeg˝o, Professor Emeritus at Stanford, died at the age of 90. He co-authored with George (originally Gy¨orogy) P´olya (who died exactly a month later) the renown book Problems and Theorems in Analysis. *VFR worked in the area of extremal problems and Toeplitz matrices.*SAU

*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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