On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
~ Charles Babbage
The 13th day of the year; there are 13 Archimedian Solids. (different from the Platonic solids, which are have only one type of polygon meeting in identical vertices)
In 1404, English alchemists were forbidden to use their knowledge to create precious metals. Since the time of Roger Bacon, it had fascinated the imagination of many ardent men in England. During the reign of Henry IV, the Act of Multipliers was passed by the Parliament, declaring the use of transmutation to "multiply" gold and silver to be felony. Great alarm was felt at that time lest any alchymist should succeed in his projects, and perhaps bring ruin upon the state, by furnishing boundless wealth to some designing tyrant, who would make use of it to enslave his country. In 1689, Robert Boyle lobbied for repeal of the Act.*TIS
1610 Galileo discovers a fourth moon (Callisto) of Jupiter. Galileo initially named his discovery the Cosmica Sidera ("Cosimo's stars"), but names that eventually prevailed were chosen by Simon Marius. Marius discovered the moons independently at the same time as Galileo, and gave them their present names, which were suggested by Johannes Kepler, in his Mundus Jovialis, published in 1614.*Wik
1659 Hendrik van Heuraet sends van Schooten his rectiﬁcation of the semi-cubical parabola. This was published—his only publication—in the second Latin edition of Descartes’s Geometrie. This result broke the spell of Aristotle’s dictum that curved lines could not in principle be compared with straight lines. *VFR
1874 The U.S. Patent Office issues a patent for the Spalding Adding Machine. The precursor of calculators and computers, mechanical adding machines could do simple arithmetic and were popular in businesses until supplanted by computers in the 1960s. *CHM
1911 A. V. Vasil’ev gave a lecture entitled, “Non-Euclidean Geometry and the Non-Aristotelian Logic.” This is his claim to the discovery of three-valued logics. He did not work out the system in detail, so credit usually goes to LLukasiewicz. *VFR
In 1958, Linus Pauling (1901-1994) presented the petition of 9,000 scientists to the U.N., asking to halt the testing of nuclear bombs. Pauling, together with his wife, was instrumental in collecting thousands of signatures from scientists all over the world for the petition to end nuclear bomb testing, which was presented to Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations. A few months later the Soviet Union called for an immediate halt to nuclear testing, and in October, after more tests by both sides that added markedly to world concern about fallout, talks began in Geneva to discuss details of a possible test ban. *TIS
2012 Friday the Thirteenth will occur three times this year, today, in April, and again in July. At least one Friday the 13th will occur each year, and never more than three. This year the three Fridays occur as densely packed as they can possibly be. The last year with three Friday the 13ths was 2009, and the next will be 2015. There seems to be no written evidence of the superstition in English until 1869. Interestingly, the Spanish and Greek Cultures have a similar tradition about Tuesday the 13th. *Wik
2012 Not Unlucky for some... Friday, January 13, 2012 the Institute for Advanced Studies Princeton, New Jersey announced:
The 2012 Wolf Prize in Physics has been awarded to Jacob D. Bekenstein, former Member (2009–10) in the School of Natural Sciences, for his work on black holes. Bekenstein is Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The 2012 Wolf Prize in Mathematics has been awarded to Michael Aschbacher, former Member (1978–79) in the School of Mathematics, for his work on the theory of finite groups, and Luis Caffarelli, former Professor (1986–96) and Member (2009) in the School of Mathematics, for his work on partial differential equations. Aschbacher is the Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Mathematics at the California Institute of Technology. Caffarelli is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas, Austin. The awards will be presented in May at the Knesset in Jerusalem.
1845 François-Félix Tisserand (13 Jan 1845; 20 Oct 1896) was a French astronomer whose 4-volume textbook Traité de mécanique céleste (1889-96; "Treatise on Celestial Mechanics") updated Pierre-Simon Laplace's work. At age 28, he was named Director at Toulouse Observatory (1873-78). He went to Japan to observe the 1874 transit of Venus. The 83-cm telescope he installed at the Toulouse Observatory in 1875 had a wooden base insufficiently stable for photographic work, but he was able to use it for observation of the satellites of Jupiter and of Saturn. From 1892 until his death he was director of the Paris Observatory, where he completed the major work, Catalogue photographique de la carte du ciel, and arranged for its publication. *TIS
1864 Wilhelm Wien (13 Jan 1864; 30 Aug 1928) German physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1911 for his displacement law concerning the radiation emitted by the perfectly efficient blackbody (a surface that absorbs all radiant energy falling on it). While studying streams of ionized gas Wien, in 1898, identified a positive particle equal in mass to the hydrogen atom. Wien, with this work, laid the foundation of mass spectroscopy. J. J. Thomson refined Wien's apparatus and conducted further experiments in 1913 then, after work by Ernest Rutherford in 1919, Wien's particle was accepted and named the proton. Wien also made important contributions to the study of cathode rays, X-rays and canal rays.*TIS
1876 Erhard Schmidt (13 January 1876 – 6 December 1959) was a German mathematician whose work significantly influenced the direction of mathematics in the twentieth century. He was born in Tartu, Governorate of Livonia (now Estonia). His advisor was David Hilbert and he was awarded his doctorate from Georg-August University of Göttingen in 1905. His doctoral dissertation was entitled Entwickelung willkürlicher Funktionen nach Systemen vorgeschriebener and was a work on integral equations.
Together with David Hilbert he made important contributions to functional analysis. He is best known for the Gram-Schmidt orthogonalisation process, which constructs an orthogonal base from any vector space. *Wik
1876 Luther Pfahler Eisenhart (13 January 1876 – 28 October 1965) was an American mathematician, best known today for his contributions to semi-Riemannian geometry.
Eisenhart played a central role in American mathematics in the early twentieth century. He served as chairman of the mathematics department at Princeton University and later as Dean of the Graduate School there. He is widely credited with guiding the development in America of the mathematical background needed for the further development of general relativity, through his influential textbooks and his personal interaction with Albert Einstein, Oswald Veblen, and John von Neumann at the nearby Institute for Advanced Study, as well as with gifted students such as Abraham Haskel Taub. *Wik
1900 Gertrude Mary Cox (January 13, 1900 – October 17, 1978) was an influential American statistician and founder of the department of Experimental Statistics at North Carolina State University. She was later appointed director of both the Institute of Statistics of the Consolidated University of North Carolina and the Statistics Research Division of North Carolina State University. Her most important and influential research dealt with experimental design; she wrote an important book on the subject with W. G. Cochran. In 1949 Cox became the first female elected into the International Statistical Institute and in 1956 she was president of the American Statistical Association.*Wik The choice of a woman to hold such a post was unusual at that time and came about in a curious way. G W Forster of North Carolina State College contacted Professor Snedecor for names of individuals who would be viable candidates for the position. Professor Snedecor prepared a list of persons (all males) and before mailing it to Dr Forster showed the list to Miss Cox. Her immediate reaction was, "Why didn't you put my name on the list?" Her name was then added in a footnote to the letter, "Of course if you would consider a woman for this position I would recommend Gertrude Cox of my staff." The choice of a woman on the basis of a footnote was an administrative decision which had far-reaching effects. *SAU
1902 Karl Menger (Vienna, Austria, January 13, 1902 – Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.A., October 5, 1985) was a mathematician. He was the son of the famous economist Carl Menger. He is credited with Menger's theorem. He worked on mathematics of algebras, algebra of geometries, curve and dimension theory, etc. Moreover, he contributed to game theory and social sciences. He is remembered for the creation of the Menger Sponge*Wik
1614 Jeremiah Horrocks (1618, 13 Jan 1641) (some sources give 3 Jan as date of death, England had not converted to Gregorian Calendar) English astronomer and clergyman who applied Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion to observations of the Moon and Venus. Once Horrocks managed to obtain a small telescope, his observations convinced him that Lansberg's tables were incorrect. He accepted Kepler's elliptical orbits, and in working on the moon he applied an elliptical orbit to it and established that the line of apsides precessed, an effect which he ascribed to the influence of the sun. Horrocks predicted and observed a transit of Venus on 24 Nov 1639, the first one ever observed, and from the observation he corrected the solar parallax, indicating a much greater distance of the sun than anyone before him had admitted. He died at age only 22.*TIS The only person to predict, and one of only two people to observe and record, the transit of Venus of 1639, which was the first transit of Venus to be convincingly predicted and observed. *Wik
Thony Christie has stated that the "clergyman" notation is incorrect. *@rmathematicus, Twitter
1934 Paul Urich Villard (28 Sep 1860, 13 Jan 1934) was a French physicist and chemist who in 1900 identified a third kind of natural radiation, later called gamma rays. He was studying the radiations from uranium salts discovered by Henri Becquerel four years before. Charged particles whose paths were bent in a magnetic field were known, but Villard found a form of penetrating radiation that was not deviated, but it drew little attention from contemporary scientists. A year before, in 1899, Ernest Rutherford named the first two kinds of natural radiation—positive alpha particles and negative beta rays. The third kind became known as gamma rays—with energy higher than X-rays, weak power of ionization, and which Rutherd characterized (1914) as a form of electromagnetic radiation, like light. Villard invented several radiological instruments, including the osmoregulator and Villard's valve. He researched hydrates, and discovered silver hydrate. He wrote Les Rayons Cathodiques (1900). *TIS
*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