Friday, 18 November 2011

On This Day in Math - Nov 18





Predictions can be very difficult—
especially about the future.
— Niels Bohr

The 322nd day of the year; 322 is the 12th Lucas Number. The Lucas Sequence is similar to the Fibonacci sequence with L(1) = 1 and L(2) = 3 and each term is the sum of the two previous terms.

EVENTS
2349 B.C. Noah’s flood began according to the English naturalist William Whiston (1667–1752) who felt it was caused by a comet which passed over the equator causing extensive rains. *Claire L. Parkinson, Breakthroughs, p. 131

1812 Jean Victor Poncelet (1788–1867), a military engineer, was captured while Napoleon’s army was retreating from Moscow. He profited from this enforced leisure (until his release in June 1814) by resuming his study of mathematics. While there he did important work on projective geometry. *VFR

1825 Birbeck writes to Gilmer regarding the application for professor at U Va of Charles Bonnycastle, son of John Bonneycastle. “The name of Bonnycastle must be well known in America, and if known, must be highly valued; and the son I am persuaded will extend the fame of the parent.

1879 After the death of Maxwell, George Stokes writes to offer Lord Rayleigh the position of head of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. *Memoir and scientific correspondence of the late Sir George Gabriel Stokes, pg 227

1883 At noon on this day the telegraphic time signals sent out daily from the Naval Observatory at Washington, D.C., were changed to standard time, a system adopted on the initiative of the American Railway Association. Standard time was suggested for the U.S. in 1869 by Charles Ferdinand Dowd, a schoolmaster from Saratoga, N.Y., but was not adopted then. He suggested dividing the continent into four time zones each one hour or fifteen degrees of longitude wide. Standard Railroad Time had four time zones, Eastern, Central, Western, and Pacific. Congress made these official in 1918. Some citizens grumbled about “railroad tyranny” and tampering with “God’s time.” See New York Times, 20 Nov. 1983. *VFR On April 1 of 1967, The Uniform Time Act divided the United States into eight time zones; Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, Yukon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Bering. *FFF, pg 149

1953 The push-button phone was officially introduced on Nov. 18, 1963, in two Pennsylvania communities, Carnegie and Greensburg. *Wik
1991 IBM and Siemens AG Announce 64M DRAM Chip Prototype : IBM and Siemens AG announce they have developed a prototype 64 megabyte DRAM chip. This development was in line with Moore’s Law which predicts a doubling of the number of transistors etched into silicon every 18 months. *CHM


BIRTHS
1839 August (Adolph Eduard Eberhard) Kundt (18 Nov 1839; 21 May 1894) was a German physicist who developed a method (1866) to determine the velocity of sound in gases and solids. He used a closed glass tube into which a dry powder (such as lycopodium) has been sprinkled. The source of sound in the original device was a metal rod clamped at its centre with a piston at one end, which is inserted into the tube. When the rod is stroked, sound waves generated by the piston enter the tube. If the position of the piston in the tube is adjusted so that the gas column is a whole number of half wavelengths long, the dust will be disturbed by the resulting stationary waves forming a series of striations, enabling distances between nodes to be measured. *TIS 

1844 Albert Wangerin worked on potential theory, spherical functions and differential geometry.*SAU

1872 Giovanni Enrico Eugenio Vacca (18 November 1872 – 6 January 1953) was an Italian mathematician, Sinologist and historian of science.
Vacca studied mathematics and graduated from the University of Genoa in 1897 under the guidance of G. B. Negri. He was a politically active student and was banished for that from Genoa in 1897. He moved to Turin and became an assistant to Giuseppe Peano. In 1899 he studied, at Hanover, unpublished manuscripts of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, which he published in 1903. Around 1898 Vacca became interested in Chinese language and culture after attending a Chinese exhibition in Turin. He took private lessons of Chinese and continued to study it at the University of Florence. Vacca then traveled to China in 1907-8 and defended a PhD in Chinese studies in 1910. In 1911, he became a lecturer in Chinese literature at the University of Rome. In 1922, he moved to Florence and taught Chinese literature and language at university until 1947.
The interests of Vacca were almost equally split between mathematics, Sinology and history of science, with a corresponding number of papers being 38, 47 and 45. In 1910, Vacca developed a complex number iteration for pi. *Wik

1887 Gustav Theodor Fechner (19 Apr 1801, 18 Nov 1887) German physicist and philosopher who was a key figure in the founding of psychophysics, the science concerned with quantitative relations between sensations and the stimuli producing them. He formulated the rule known as Fechner’s law, that, within limits, the intensity of a sensation increases as the logarithm of the stimulus. He also proposed a mathematical expression of the theory concerning the difference between two stimuli, advanced by E. H. Weber. (These are now known to be only approximately true. However, as long as the stimulus is of moderate intensity, then the laws will give us a good estimate.) Under the name “Dr. Mises” he also wrote humorous satire. In philosophy he was an animist, maintaining that life is manifest in all objects of the universe. *TIS

1897 Patrick M.S. Blackett (18 Nov 1897; 13 Jul 1974) English scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1948 for his discoveries in the field of cosmic radiation, which he accomplished primarily with cloud-chamber photographs that revealed the way in which a stable atomic nucleus can be disintegrated by bombarding it with alpha particles (helium nuclei). Although such nuclear disintegration had been observed previously, his data explained this phenomenon for the first time and were useful in explaining disintegration by other means. *TIS

1912 Shigeo Sasaki 佐々木 (18 November 1912 Yamagata Prefecture, Japan – 14 August 1987 Tokyo) was a Japanese mathematician working on differential geometry who introduced Sasaki manifolds. *Wik

1923 Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (18 Nov 1923; 21 Jul 1998) Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was America's first man in space and one of only 12 humans who walked on the Moon. Named as one of the nation's original seven Mercury astronauts in 1959, Shepard became the first American into space on 5 May 1961, riding a Redstone rocket on a 15-minute suborbital flight that took him and his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule 115 miles in altitude and 302 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral, FL. (His flight came three weeks after the launch of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who on 12 Apr 1961, became the first human space traveler on a one-orbit flight lasting 108 minutes.) Although the flight of Freedom 7 was brief, it was a major step for U.S. in a race with the USSR. *TIS

1927 John Leslie Britton (November 18, 1927 – June 13, 1994) was an English mathematician from Yorkshire who worked in combinatorial group theory and was an expert on the word problem for groups. Britton was a member of the London Mathematical Society and was Secretary of Meetings and Membership with that organization from 1973-1976. Britton died in a climbing accident on the Isle of Skye. *Wik

DEATHS
1919 Adolf Hurwitz (26 March 1859 in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany
Died: 18 Nov 1919 in Zurich, Switzerland) Hurwitz studied the genus of the Riemann surface and worked on how class number relations could be derived from modular equations. Hurwitz did excellent work in algebraic number theory. For example he published a paper on a factorisation theory for integer quaternions in 1896 and applied it to the problem of representing an integer as the sum of four squares. A full proof of Hurwitz's ideas appears in a booklet published in the year of his death. This involves studying the ring of integer quaternions in which there are 24 units. He shows that one-sided ideals are principal and introduces prime and primary quaternions. *SAU

1928 Alexander Ziwet (February 8, 1853 - No
vember 18, 1928) born in Breslau. He became professor at the University of Michigan, an editor of the Bulletin of the AMS, and a collector of mathematics text who enriched the Michigan library. *VFR His early education was obtained in a German gymnasium. He afterwards studies in the universities of Warsaw and Moscow, one year at each, and then entered the Polytechnic School at Karlsruhe, where he received the degree of Civil Engineer in 1880.
He came immediately to the United States and received employment on the United States Lake Survey. Two years later he was transferred to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, computing division, where he remained five years.
In 1888 he was appointed Instructor in Mathematics in the University of Michigan. From this position he was advanced to Acting Assistant Professor in 1890, to Assistant Professor in 1891, to Junior Professor in 1896, and to Professor of Mathematics in 1904.
He was a member of the Council of the American Mathematical Society and an editor of the "Bulletin" of the society. In 1893-1894 he published an "Elementary Treatise on Theoretical Mechanics" in three parts, of which a revised edition appeared in 1904. He also translated from the Russian of I. Somoff "Theoretische Mechanik" (two volumes, 1878, 1879).
*Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906), pp. 320-321.

1933 Robert Forsyth Scott (28 July 1849 in Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland - 18 Nov 1933 in Cambridge, England) studied at Cambridge and was elected to a fellowship. After a short time teaching he studied to be a barrister. He spent most of his career as Bursar and Master of St John's College Cambridge. He published a book on Determinants. *SAU

1949 Frank Baldwin Jewett (5 Sep 1879, 18 Nov 1949) Frank Baldwin Jewett was the U.S. electrical engineer who directed research as the first president of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., (1925-40). Jewett believed that the best science and technology result from bringing together and nurturing the best minds. Under his tenure Bell Labs laid the foundation for a new scientific discipline, radio astronomy, and transformed movies by synchronizing sound to pictures. Bell Labs was the first to transmit television over a long distance in the U.S. and designed the first electrical digital computer. Bell Labs won its first Nobel Prize in physics for fundamental work demonstrating the wave nature of matter.*TIS

1959 Aleksandr Yakovlevich Khinchin was a Russian mathematician who contributed to many fields including number theory and probability.*SAU

1962 Niels Henrik David Bohr (7 Oct 1885, 18 Nov 1962) was a Danish physicist, born in Copenhagen, who was the first to apply the quantum theory, which restricts the energy of a system to certain discrete values, to the problem of atomic and molecular structure. For this work he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. He developed the so-called Bohr theory of the atom and liquid model of the nucleus. Bohr was of Jewish origin and when the Nazis occupied Denmark he escaped in 1943 to Sweden on a fishing boat. From there he was flown to England where he began to work on the project to make a nuclear fission bomb. After a few months he went with the British research team to Los Alamos in the USA where they continued work on the project. *TIS (Bohr was an excellent athlete in his youth, read more here.)

1994 Nathan Jacob Fine (22 October 1916 in Philadelphia, USA - 18 Nov 1994 in Deerfield Beach, Florida, USA) He published on many different topics including number theory, logic, combinatorics, group theory, linear algebra, partitions and functional and classical analysis. He is perhaps best known for his book Basic hypergeometric series and applications published in the Mathematical Surveys and Monographs Series of the American Mathematical Society. The material which he presented in the Earle Raymond Hedrick Lectures twenty years earlier form the basis for the material in this text.*SAU


Credits
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF= Kane, J.N. Famous First Facts
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