Monday, 1 August 2011

On This Day in Math - August 1

Regarding all these basic topics in infinitesimal calculus which we teach today as canonical requisites ... the question is never raised, "Why so?" or "How does one arrive at them?" Yet all these matters must at one time have been goals of an urgent quest, answers to burning questions, at the time, namely, when they were created. If we were to go back to the origins of these ideas, they would lose that dead appearance of cut-and-dried facts and instead take on fresh and vibrant life again.
Otto Toeplitz - The calculus : A genetic approach (Chicago, 1963)

This is the 213th day of the year; 213 is a square free number as it has no repeated prime factors. How many days of the year are square free?

1767 “Mason and Dixon finished drawing the world’s longest straight line.” [366 Dumb Days in History, by Tom Koch]

In 1774, Joseph Priestley, British Presbyterian minister and chemist, identified a gas which he called "dephlogisticated air" -- later known as oxygen. Priestley found that mercury heated in air became coated with "red rust of mercury," which, when heated separately, was converted back to mercury with "air" given off. Studying this "air" given off, he observed that candles burned very brightly in it. Also, a mouse in a sealed vessel with it could breathe it much longer than ordinary air. A strong believer in the phlogiston theory, Priestley considered it to be "air from which the phlogiston had been removed." Further experiments convinced him that ordinary air is one fifth dephlogisticated air, the rest considered by him to be phlogiston. *TIS

1786   Caroline Herschel discovered her first comet (Comet Herschel C/1786 P1) and became history's first woman with this distinction. Her comet came to be known as the "first lady's comet" and brought with it the fame that secured her own place in history books.*The Woman Astronomer

1814 Almost a month after eloping with Georgiana Whitmore; a marriage of which his father did not approve, Charles Babbage writes to his friend John Herschel, who knew nothing of his secret romance, "I am married and have quarreled with my father." Then after a few lines of self-justification, he explains some theorems he has been working on. Herschel was shocked, and responded on the seventh of the same month.*Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer

In 1831, New London Bridge opened to traffic. In 1821, a committee was formed by Parliament to consider the poor condition of the existing centuries-old bridge. The arches had been badly damaged by the Great Freeze, so it was decided to build a new bridge. Building commenced under John Rennie in 1825, and completed in 1831, at the expense of the city. The bridge is composed of five arches, and built of Dartmoor granite. It was opened with great splendour by King William the fourth, accompanied by Queen Adelaide, and many of the members of the royal family, August 1st, 1831. In the 1960's it was auctioned and sold for $2,460,000 to Robert McCulloch who moved it to Havasu City, Arizona. The rebuilt London Bridge was completed and dedicated on 10 Oct 1971.*TIS

1861  First use of "weather forcast". From the BBC I read, "Telling people what had happened was useful, but not as useful as telling them what was going to happen. The man who made the first attempt to bridge that gap, and who coined the phrase "weather forecast", was Admiral Robert Fitzroy. Thirty years before, he had been captain of the Beagle voyage that carried Charles Darwin, so he was no stranger to the perils of weather when at sea. In 1854, Fitzroy was given the job of collecting data on weather at sea, leading what later became the Met Office. After a few years, he saw that weather systems could be tracked. He became convinced that predictions were possible and that storm warnings would save many lives. His bosses did not agree that predictions were realistic, but in spite of them Fitzroy started to issue storm warnings in 1861. Then, on the 1st of August 1861 (exactly 150 years ago), Fitzroy issued the first ever weather forecast for the general public, published in The Times. This earned him a slap on the wrist and a huge amount of criticism, because it was considered that the forecasts could not possibly be accurate. After a lot of debate, the public forecasts ended in 1866."   A tweet from @ Rebekah Higgitt corrected this to : weather predictions existed long before (including, but not only, astrological), bt Aug 1861 *is* 1st use of term "weather forecast"..

1944 The MARK I computer began operation at Harvard. *VFR

1947 The Netherlands issued a postage stamp honoring Jans(Johan) de Witt (1625–1672), who did important early work dealing with analytic geometry. *VFR Besides being a statesman Johan de Witt, also was an accomplished mathematician. In 1659 he wrote "Elementa Curvarum Linearum" as an appendix to his translation of René Descartes' "La Géométrie". In this, De Witt derived the basic properties of quadratic forms, an important step in the field of linear algebra. *Wik

In 1957, the Solar Building (Bridgers and Paxton Office Building), Albuquerque NM, was the first commercial building to be heated by the sun's energy. It was subsequently listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its "exceptional importance," in the area of engineering because it was an early solar-heated commercial building, the equipment for which survived largely intact. It was constructed when active solar-energy systems were still considered experimental. The site is privately owned, at 213 Truman St., NE., Albuquerque, NM. The architectural design was provided by Wright and Stanley.*TIS

1963 Greece issued a postage stamp picturing the “Acropolis at Dawn” by Lord Baden-Powell.*VFR

1967  US Navy recalls Hopper to head COBOL effort.  The US Navy recalls Captain Grace Murray Hopper to active duty to help develop the programming language COBOL. With a team drawn from several computer manufacturers and the Pentagon, Hopper -- who had worked on the Mark I and II computers at Harvard in the 1940s -- created the specifications for COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) with business uses in mind. These early COBOL efforts aimed at creating easily-readable computer programs with as much machine independence as possible. Designers hoped a COBOL program would run on any computer for which a compiler existed with only minimal modifications.
Hopper made many major contributions to computer science throughout her very long career, including what is likely the first compiler ever written, "A-0." She appears to have also been the first to coin the word "bug" in the context of computer science, taping into her logbook a moth which had fallen into a relay of the Harvard Mark II computer. She died on January 1, 1992.
The U.S. Navy commissioned their most advanced ship, the U.S.S. Hopper (DDG 70), on September 6, 1997 named in honor of Grace Hopper. *CMH

1980 Michael Aschbaher wrote Daniel Gorenstein that he had completed the classification of the finite simple groups. This culminated a 20-year effort by some 300 group theorists. The complete proof is about 5000 pages long. [Mathematics Magazine 54 (1981), p. 41

2011   Carolin Crawford selected as the Gresham Professor of Astronomy. *Wik

1817 Sir (Joseph) Henry Gilbert English chemist who as co-director with John Bennet Lawes of the Rothamsted Experimental Station, Hertfordshire, for over 50 years established a premier reputation for research at the first organized agricultural experimental station in the world. Their work applied skills in chemistry, meteorology, botany, animal and vegetable physiology, and geology to determine practical improvements for agricultural methods. They studied the nitrogen requirements of plants, how the element was taken up by plants, and the effects of nitrogen fertilizers on grain production and quality. In the 1840s, they initiated the manufacture of superphosphate fertilizer, one of their inventions.*TIS

1818 Maria Mitchell First professional woman astronomer in the United States, born Nantucket, Mass. While pursuing an amateur interest, on 1 Oct 1847, she gained fame from the observation of a comet which she was first to report. She was also the first female member of the American Association of Arts and Scienes. She died at age 70 in Lynn, Mass. *TIS

1861 Ivar Otto Bendixson taught at Stockholm, then from 1913 to 1927 he was rector of Stockholm University. He worked on set theory and differential equations. He is best remembered for the Poincaré - Bendixson theorem. *SAU

1881 Otto Toeplitz born in Breslau, Germany. In 1905 he received his Ph.D. in algebraic geometry at the university there and then moved to G¨ottingen, where he was deeply influenced by the work of Hilbert. He was also interested in the history of mathematics and held that only a mathematician of stature is qualified to be a historian of mathematics. In 1949 he published an introduction to the calculus on a historical basis. This delightful book is available in English as The Calculus. A Genetic Approach. *VFR

1905 Helen Battles (Sawyer) Hogg (1 Aug 1905, 28 Jan 1993) was a Canadian astronomer who located, cataloged and measured the distances to variable stars in globular clusters (stars with cyclical changes of brightness found within huge, dense conglomerations of stars located in the outer halo of the Milky Way galaxy). Her interest in astronomy was spurred when she witnessed a total eclipse of the sun in 1925. Alongside her career work, she was also foremost in Canada in popularizing astronomy, about which she wrote a column in the Toronto Star for thirty years. She was the first woman to become president of the Royal Canadian Institute. In 1989, the observatory at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa was dedicated in her name.*TIS

1937 Barry Edward Johnson is well known for his work on Banach algebras and operator algebras, in particular, studying cohomology in these algebras. His mathematical publications started in 1964 with a series of papers on topological algebras, measure algebras and Banach algebras. In these he examined the theory of centralizers and the continuity of transformations. In 1964 he wrote a joint paper with Ringrose Derivations of operator algebras and discrete group algebras and his next papers continued to examine the continuity of homomorphisms, derivations and linear operators. He developed cancer on February 2000 and fought the disease bravely. Despite his deteriorating physical condition, he continued to undertake cutting edge mathematical research. He died of cancer in St Oswald's Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne aged 64. *SAU

1955 Bernadette Perrin-Riou was awarded the 1999 Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in recognition of her number theoretical research on p-adic L-functions and Iwasawa theory.

1630 Federico Cesi (13 Mar 1585; 1 Aug 1630 at age 45) Italian scientist who founded the Accademia dei Lincei (1603, Academy of Linceans or Lynxes), often cited as the first modern scientific society, and of which Galileo was the sixth member (1611). Cesi first announced the word telescope for Galileo's instrument. At an early age, while being privately educated, Cesi became interested in natural history and that believed it should be studied directly, not philosophically. The name of the Academy, which he founded at age 18, was taken from Lynceus of Greek mythology, the animal Lynx with sharp sight. He devoted the rest of his life to recording, illustrating and an early classification of nature, especially botany. The Academy was dissolved when its funding by Cesi ceased upon his sudden death(at age 45). *TIS It was revived in its currently well known form of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, by the Vatican, Pope Pius IX in 1847.

1920 Bal Gangadhar Tilak scholar, mathematician, philosopher, and militant nationalist who helped lay the foundation for India's independence. He founded (1914) and served as president of the Indian Home Rule League and, in 1916, concluded the Lucknow Pact with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which provided for Hindu-Muslim unity in the struggle for independence. *TIS

1992 Leslie Fox (September 1918 Dewsbury, Yorkshire-1 August 1992 Oxford) was a British Mathematician noted for his contribution to numerical analysis.
Fox studied mathematics as a Scholar of Christ Church, Oxford graduating with a First in 1939 and continued to undertake research in the engineering department. While working on his D.Phil. in computational and engineering mathematics under the supervision of Sir Richard Southwell he was also engaged in highly secret war work. He worked on the numerical solution of partial differential equations at a time when numerical linear algebra was performed on a desk calculator. Computational efficiency and accuracy was thus even more important than in the days of electronic computers. Some of this work was published after the end of the Second World War jointly with his supervisor Richard Southwell.
On gaining his doctorate in 1942 Fox joined the Admiralty Computing service. Following the war, in 1945 he went to work in the mathematics division of the National Physical Laboratory. He left the National Physical Laboratory in 1956 and spent a year at the University of California. In 1957 Fox took up an appointment at Oxford University where he set up the Computing Laboratory. In 1963 Fox was appointed as Professor of Numerical Analysis at Oxford and Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.
Fox's laboratory at Oxford was one of the founding organisations of the Numerical Algorithms Group, and Fox was also a dedicated supporter of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). The Leslie Fox Prize for Numerical Analysis of the IMA is named in his honour.*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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