Wednesday, 28 September 2011

On This Day in Math - Sep 28

But in the present century, thanks in good part to the influence of Hilbert, we have come to see that the unproved postulates with which we start are purely arbitrary. They must be consistent, they had better lead to something interesting.

~ Julian Lowell Coolidge

The 271st day of the year; 271 is a prime number and is the sum of eleven consecutive primes (7 + 11 + 13 + 17 + 19 + 23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43).

490 B.C. In one of history’s great battles, the Greeks defeated the Persians at Marathon. A Greek soldier was dispatched to notify Athens of the victory, running the entire distance and providing the name and model for the modern “marathon” race. *VFR

1695 After fitting several comets data using Newton's proposal that they followed parabolic paths, Edmund Halley was "inspired" to test his own measurements of the 1682 comet against an elliptical orbit. He writes to Newton, "I am more and more confirmed that we have seen that Comet now three times since Ye Year 1531." *David A Grier, When Computer's Were Human

1858, Donati's comet (discovered by Giovanni Donati, 1826-1873) became the first to be photographed. It was a bright comet that developed a spectacular curved dust tail with two thin gas tails, captured by an English commercial photographer, William Usherwood, using a portrait camera at a low focal ratio. At Harvard, W.C. Bond, attempted an image on a collodion plate the following night, but the comet shows only faintly and no tail can be seen. Bond was subsequently able to evaluate the image on Usherwood's plate. The earliest celestial daguerreotypes were made in 1850-51, though after the Donati comet, no further comet photography took place until 1881, when P.J.C. Janssen and J.W. Draper took the first generally recognized photographs of a comet*TIS “William Usherwood, a commercial photographer from Dorking, Surrey took the first ever photograph of a comet when he photographed Donati’s comet from Walton Common on the 27th September 1858, beating George Bond from Harvard Observatory by a night! Unfortunately, the picture taken by Usherwood has been lost.” *Exposure web site 

1917 Richard Courant wrote to Nina Runge, his future wife, that he finally got the opportunity to talk to Ferdinand Springer about “a publishing project” and that things looked promising. This meeting led to a contract and a series of books now called the "Yellow Series". *VFR

1938 Paul Erdos boards the Queen Mary bound for the USA. Alarmed by Hitler's demands to annex the Sudatenland, Euler hurriedly left Budapest and made his way through Italy and France to London. He would pass through Ellis Island on his way to a position at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study on October 4. * Bruce Schechter, My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos

1969 Murchison meteorite , a meteorite fell over Murchison, Australia. Only 100-kg of this meteorite have been found. Classified as a carbonaceous chondrite, type II (CM2), this meteorite is suspected to be of cometary origin due to its high water content (12%). An abundance of amino acids found within this meteorite has led to intense study by researchers as to its origins. More than 92 different amino acids have been identified within the Murchison meteorite to date. Nineteen of these are found on Earth. The remaining amino acids have no apparent terrestrial source. *TIS

2009: goes online. *Peter Krautzberger, comments

2011 President Barack Obama announced that Richard Alfred Tapia was among twelve scientists to be awarded the National Medal of Science, the top award the United States offers its researchers. Tapia is currently the Maxfield and Oshman Professor of Engineering; Associate Director of Graduate Studies, Office of Research and Graduate Studies; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University. He is a renowned American mathematician and champion of under-represented minorities in the sciences. *Wik

551 B.C. Birthdate of the Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius. His birthday is observed as “Teacher’s Day” in memory of his great contribution to the Chinese Nation. His most famous aphorism is: “With education there is no distinction between classes or races of men.” *VFR

1605 Ismael Boulliau (28 Sept 1605 , 25 Nov 1694) was a French clergyman and amateur mathematician who proposed an inverse square law for gravitation before Newton. Boulliau was a friend of Pascal, Mersenne and Gassendi and supported Galileo and Copernicus. He claimed that if a planetary moving force existed then it should vary inversely as the square of the distance (Kepler had claimed the first power), "As for the power by which the Sun seizes or holds the planets, and which, being corporeal, functions in the manner of hands, it is emitted in straight lines throughout the whole extent of the world, and like the species of the Sun, it turns with the body of the Sun; now, seeing that it is corporeal, it becomes weaker and attenuated at a greater distance or interval, and the ratio of its decrease in strength is the same as in the case of light, namely, the duplicate proportion, but inversely, of the distances that is, 1/d2. *SAU

1698 Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (28 Sep 1698; 27 Jul 1759)French mathematician, biologist, and astronomer. In 1732 he introduced Newton's theory of gravitation to France. He was a member of an expedition to Lapland in 1736 which set out to measure the length of a degree along the meridian. Maupertuis' measurements both verified Newton's predictions that the Earth would be an oblate speroid, and they corrected earlier results of Cassini. Maupertuis published on many topics including mathematics, geography, astronomy and cosmology. In 1744 he first enunciated the Principle of Least Action and he published it in Essai de cosmologie in 1850. Maupertuis hoped that the principle might unify the laws of the universe and combined it with an attempted proof of the existence of God.*TIS

1761 François Budan de Boislaurent (28 Sept 1761, 6 Oct 1840) was a Haitian born amateur mathematician best remembered for his discovery of a rule which gives necessary conditions for a polynomial equation to have n real roots between two given numbers. Budan is considered an amateur mathematician and he is best remembered for his discovery of a rule which gives necessary conditions for a polynomial equation to have n real roots between two given numbers. Budan's rule was in a memoir sent to the Institute in 1803 but it was not made public until 1807 in Nouvelle méthode pour la résolution des équations numerique d'un degré quelconque. In it Budan wrote, "If an equation in x has n roots between zero and some positive number p, the transformed equation in (x - p) must have at least n fewer variations in sign than the original." *SAU (Sounds like a nice followup extension to Descartes Rule of signs in Pre-calculus classes. Mention the history, how many times do your students hear about a Haitian mathematician?)

1824 George Johnston Allman (28 September 1824 – 9 May 1904) was an Irish professor, mathematician, classical scholar, and historian of ancient Greek mathematics.*Wik

1873 Birthdate of the American geometer Julian Lowell Coolidge. (28 Sep 1873; 5 Mar 1954) After an education at Harvard (B.A. 1895), Oxford (B.Sc. 1897), Turin (with Corrado Serge) and Bonn (with Eouard Study, Ph.D. 1904), he came back to Harvard to teach until he retired in 1940. He was an enthusiastic teacher with a flair for witty remarks. [DSB 3, 399] *VFR
He published numerous works on theoretical mathematics along the lines of the Study-Segre school. He taught at Groton School, Conn. (1897-9) where one of his pupils was Franklin D Roosevelt, the future U.S. president. From 1899 he taught at Harvard University. Between 1902 and 1904, he went to Turin to study under Corrado Segre and then to Bonn where he studied under Eduard Study. His Mathematics of the Great Amateurs is perhaps his best-known work. *TIS

1881 Edward Ross studied at Edinburgh and Cambridge universities. After working with Karl Pearson in London he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the Christian College in Madras India. Ill health forced him to retire back to Scotland. *SAU

1901 Kurt Otto Friedrichs (September 28, 1901 – December 31, 1982) was a noted German American mathematician. He was the co-founder of the Courant Institute at New York University and recipient of the National Medal of Science.*Wik

1925 Martin David Kruskal (September 28, 1925 – December 26, 2006) was an American mathematician and physicist. He made fundamental contributions in many areas of mathematics and science, ranging from plasma physics to general relativity and from nonlinear analysis to asymptotic analysis. His single most celebrated contribution was the discovery and theory of solitons.*wik

1925 Seymour R. Cray (28 Sep 1925; 5 Oct 1996) American electronics engineer who pioneered the use of transistors in computers and later developed massive supercomputers to run business and government information networks. He was the preeminent designer of the large, high-speed computers known as supercomputers. *TIS Cray began his engineering career building cryptographic machinery for the U.S. government and went on to co-found Control Data Corporation​ (CDC) in the late 1950s. For over three decades, first with CDC then with his own companies, Cray consistently built the fastest computers in the world, leading the industry with innovative architectures and packaging and allowing the solution of hundreds of difficult scientific, engineering, and military problems. Many of Cray's supercomputers are on exhibit at The Computer Museum History Center. Cray died in an automobile accident in 1996.*CHM

1694 Gabriel Mouton was a French clergyman who worked on interpolation and on astronomy.*SAU

1869 Count Guglielmo Libri Carucci dalla Sommaja (1 Jan 1803, 28 Sept 1869) Libri's early work was on mathematical physics, particularly the theory of heat. However he made many contributions to number theory and to the theory of equations. His best work during the 1830s and 1840s was undoubtedly his work on the history of mathematics. From 1838 to 1841 he published four volumes of Histoire des sciences mathématiques en Italie, depuis la rénaissanace des lettres jusqu'à la fin du dix-septième siècle. He intended to write a further two volumes, but never finished the task. It is an important work but suffers from over-praise of Italians at the expense of others. *SAU

1953 Edwin Powell Hubble (20 Nov 1889, 28 Sep 1953)American astronomer, born in Marshfield, Mo., who is considered the founder of extragalactic astronomy and who provided the first evidence of the expansion of the universe. In 1923-5 he identified Cepheid variables in "spiral nebulae" M31 and M33 and proved conclusively that they are outside the Galaxy. His investigation of these objects, which he called extragalactic nebulae and which astronomers today call galaxies, led to his now-standard classification system of elliptical, spiral, and irregular galaxies, and to proof that they are distributed uniformly out to great distances. Hubble measured distances to galaxies and their redshifts, and in 1929 he published the velocity-distance relation which is the basis of modern cosmology.*TIS

1992 John Leech is best known for the Leech lattice which is important in the theory of finite simple groups.*SAU

2004 Jacobus Hendricus ("Jack") van Lint (1 September 1932, 28 September 2004) was a Dutch mathematician, professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology, of which he was rector magnificus from 1991 till 1996. His field of research was initially number theory, but he worked mainly in combinatorics and coding theory. Van Lint was honored with a great number of awards. He became a member of Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, received four honorary doctorates, was an honorary member of the Royal Netherlands Mathematics Society (Koninklijk Wiskundig Genootschap), and received a Knighthood.*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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