Tuesday, 27 December 2011

On This Day in Math - Dec 27

At ubi materia, ibi Geometria.
Where there is matter, there is geometry.
~Johannes Kepler

1612 Galileo observed Neptune, but did not recognize it as a planet. Galileo's drawings show that he first observed Neptune on December 28, 1612, and again on January 27, 1613. On both occasions, Galileo mistook Neptune for a fixed star when it appeared very close—in conjunction—to Jupiter in the night sky; hence, he is not credited with Neptune's discovery. (The official discovery is usually cited as September 23, 1846, Neptune was discovered within 1° of where Le Verrier had predicted it to be.) During the period of his first observation in December 1612, Neptune was stationary in the sky because it had just turned retrograde that very day. This apparent backward motion is created when the orbit of the Earth takes it past an outer planet. Since Neptune was only beginning its yearly retrograde cycle, the motion of the planet was far too slight to be detected with Galileo's small telescope.*Wik

In 1831, Charles Darwin set sail from Plymouth harbour on his voyage of scientific discovery aboard the HMS Beagle, a British Navy ship. The Captain Robert FitzRoy was sailing to the southern coast of South America in order to complete a government survey. Darwin had an unpaid position as the ship's naturalist, at age 22, just out of university. Originally planned to be at sea for two years, the voyage lasted five years, making stops in Brazil, the Galapogos Islands, and New Zealand. From the observations he made and the specimens he collected on that voyage, Darwin developed his theory of biological evolution through natural selection, which he published 28 years after the Beagle left Plymouth. Darwin laid the foundation of modern evolutionary theory. *TIS

In 1956, the formerly believed "law" of conservation of parity was disproved in the first successful results from an experiment conducted by Madame Chien-Shiung Wu at Columbia University on the beta-decay of cobalt-60. It had been suggested in a paper published by Lee and Yang on 1 Oct 1956. There had been problems to overcome working with the cobalt sample and detectors in a vacuum at a working temperature of one-hundredth of a kelvin. Wu's team repeated the experiment, doing maintenance on the apparatus as necessary, until on 9 Jan 1957 further measurements confirmed the initial results. Leon Lederman performed an independent test of parity with Columbia's cyclotron. They held a press conference on 15 Jan 1957.*TIS

1571 Johannes Kepler (27 Dec 1571; 15 Nov 1630) German astronomer who formulated three major laws of planetary motion which enabled Isaac Newton to devise the law of gravitation. Working from the carefully measured positions of the planets recorded by Tycho Brahe, Kepler mathematically deduced three relationships from the data: (1) the planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus; (2) the radius vector sweeps out equal areas in equal times; and (3) for two planets the squares of their periods are proportional to the cubes of their mean distances from the sun. Kepler suggested that the tides were caused by the attraction of the moon. He believed that the universe was governed by mathematical rules, but recognized the importance of experimental verification.*TIS

1654 Jacob Jacques Bernoulli (27 Dec 1654; 16 Aug 1705) was a Swiss mathematician and astronomer who was one of the first to fully utilize differential calculus and introduced the term integral in integral calculus. Jacob Bernoulli's first important contributions were a pamphlet on the parallels of logic and algebra (1685), work on probability in 1685 and geometry in 1687. His geometry result gave a construction to divide any triangle into four equal parts with two perpendicular lines. By 1689 he had published important work on infinite series and published his law of large numbers in probability theory. He published five treatises on infinite series (1682 - 1704). Jacob was intrigued by the logarithmic spiral and requested it be carved on his tombstone. He was the first of the Bernoulli family of mathematicians. *TIS (see more about the family of Bernoulli's at the Renaissance Mathematicus )

Even as the finite encloses an infinite series
And in the unlimited limits appear,
So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia
And in the narrowest limits no limit in here.
What joy to discern the minute in infinity!
The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity!

Ars Conjectandi

1773 Sir George Cayley (27 Dec 1773; 15 Dec 1857)(6th Baronet ) English aeronautical pioneer who built the first successful man-carrying glider (1853). He made extensive anatomical and functional studies of bird flight. By measuring bird and human muscle masses, he realized it would be impossible for humans to strap on a pair of wings and take to the air. His further studies in the principles of lift, drag and thrust founded the science of aerodynamics from which he discovered stabilizing flying craft required both vertical and horizontal tail rudders, that concave wings produced more lift than flat surfaces and that swept-back wings provided greater stability. Cayley also invented the caterpillar tractor (1825), automatic railroad crossing signals, self-righting lifeboats, and an expansion-air (hot-air) engine.
*TIS (He was a distant cousin of the father of mathematician Arthur Cayley)

1915 Jacob Lionel Bakst Cooper (27 December 1915, Beaufort West, Cape Province, South Africa, 8 August 1979, London, England) was a South African mathematician who worked in operator theory, transform theory, thermodynamics, functional analysis and differential equations.*Wik

1771 Henri Pitot (3 May 1695, 27 Dec 1771) French hydraulic engineer who invented the Pitot tube (1732), an instrument to measure flow velocity either in liquids or gases. With subsequent improvements by Henri Darcy, its modern form is used to determine the airspeed of aircraft. Although originally a trained mathematician and astronomer, he became involved with an investigation of the velocity of flowing water at different depths, for which purpose he first created the Pitot tube. He disproved the prevailing belief that the velocity of flowing water increased with depth. Pitot became an engineer in charge of maintenance and construction of canals, bridges, drainage projects, and is particularly remembered for his kilometer-long Roman-arched Saint-Clément Aqueduct (1772) at Montpellier, France. *TIS

1930 Gyula Farkas (28 March 1847 in Sárosd, Fejér County, Hungary - 27 Dec 1930 in Pestszentlorinc, Hungary) He is remembered for Farkas theorem which is used in linear programming and also for his work on linear inequalities. In 1881 Gyula Farkas published a paper on Farkas Bolyai's iterative solution to the trinomial equation, making a careful study of the convergence of the algorithm. In a paper published three years later, Farkas examined the convergence of more general iterative methods. He also made major contributions to applied mathematics and physics, particularly in the areas of mechanical equilibrium, thermodynamics, and electrodynamics.*SAU

1973 Raymond Woodard Brink (4 Jan 1890 in Newark, New Jersey, USA - 27 Dec 1973 in La Jolla, California, USA) was an American mathematician who studied at Kansas State University, Harvard and Paris. He taught at the University of Minnesota though he spent a year in Edinburgh in 1919. He worked on the convergence of series. *SAU

1992 Alfred Hoblitzelle Clifford (July 11, 1908 – December 27, 1992) was an American mathematician who is known for Clifford theory and for his work on semigroups. The Alfred H. Clifford Mathematics Research Library at Tulane University is named after him.*Wik

1995 Boris Vladimirovich Gnedenko (January 1, 1912 - December 27, 1995) was a Soviet mathematician and a student of Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov. He was born in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk), Russia, and died in Moscow. He is perhaps best known for his work with Kolmogorov, and his contributions to the study of probability theory. Gnedenko was appointed as Head of the Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry Section of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in 1949, and also became Director of the Kiev Institute of Mathematics in the same year.*Wik

1996 Sister Mary Celine Fasenmyer, R.S.M., (October 4, 1906, Crown, Pennsylvania – December 27, 1996, Erie, Pennsylvania) was a mathematician. She is most noted for her work on hypergeometric functions and linear algebra.*Wik

2006 Peter L. Hammer (December 23, 1936 - December 27, 2006) was an American mathematician native to Romania. He contributed to the fields of operations research and applied discrete mathematics through the study of pseudo-Boolean functions and their connections to graph theory and data mining.*Wik

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