Wednesday, 18 January 2012

On This Day in Math - Jan 18

Sooner or later every one of us breathes an atom that has been breathed before by anyone you can think of who has lived before us - Michelangelo or George Washington or Moses.
~Jacob Bronowski

The 18th day of the year; there is only one number (289=172) for which the sum of its proper divisors is 18. (can you figure out which numbers can never appear as the sum of the proper divisors?)

1663/4 King Charles II’s letter which confirmed the Lucasian statutes forbade the Professor to take any but a Fellow-commoner as his pupil, and Newton was never that. Thus Newton was NEVER Barrow’s pupil. This myth began after Newton’s death with Conduitt’s anecdote of Barrow examining Newton in Euclid as an undergraduate and finding him wanting. Newton did attend Barrow’s lectures in 1665 but would not allow that they were helpful to him; Newton was self-taught in mathematics. [Whiteside, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 19(1964), p. 61; Westfall, p. 99] *VFR

1802 Gauss read in the newspaper that Olbers had rediscovered Ceres. Gauss wrote to get the observations and a long friendship ensued. Gauss was such an avid newspaper reader that students nicknamed him the “newspaper bear” because of his habits in the library reading room. If someone was reading the paper he wanted he would sit glumly nearby and stare at them until they gave up the paper. *VFR

In 1895, James Dewar demonstrated the intimate connection between phosphorescence and photographic action of the electric light on bodies cooled to the temperature of boiling liquid air. Presented at the Royal Institution, these experiments were reported as "very remarkable." *TIS

In 1896, The first x-ray machine is exhibited in the U.S. at Casino Chambers, New York City. For an admission charge of 25 cents, patrons could view the "Parisian sensation," *TIS

1938 J.W. Bryce writes a memorandum formalizing IBM's development of a computing machine for Harvard: the Harvard Mark I, completed in 1944. The Harvard Mark I was the first fully automatic machine to be completed and computed three additions or subtractions a second; its memory stored 72 numbers.(I can see my students trying to comprehend this. They laugh out loud when I tell them that my first computer had 4k of memory, embarrassment for me and sure that I MUST have meant 4 meg) Several of J.W. Bryce's major inventions—high-speed multiplying, dividing, cross adding, the read-out, and the emitter—were utilized in the Harvard Mark I. *CHM

In 1969, pulsars were first identified by University of Arizona astronomers. *TIS

1982 Guyana (on the Northeast coast of South America) issued a series of postage stamps celebrating their conversion to the metric system. Can you name two countries that have not yet adopted the metric system? *VFR (The usage of the metric system varies around the world. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency's Factbook, the International System of Units is the official system of measurement for all nations in the world except for Burma, Liberia and the United States... other sources say Liberia has adopted metric system. Russ Rowlett opines that "The U.S. adopted the metric system in 1866. What the U.S. has failed to do is to restrict or prohibit the use of traditional units in areas touching the ordinary citizen: construction, real estate transactions, retail trade, and education." )

1825 Sir Edward Frankland (18 Jan 1825; 9 Aug 1899) English chemist who was one of the first investigators in the field of structural chemistry, invented the chemical bond, and became known as the father of valency. He studied organometallic compounds - hybrid molecules of the familiar organic non-metallic elements (such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus) with true metals. By 1850, he had prepared small organic molecules containing such metals as zinc. Subsequently, he devised the theory of valence (announced 10 May 1852), that each type of atom has a fixed capacity for combination with other atoms. For his investigations on water purification and for his services to the government as water analyst, Frankland was knighted in 1897.

1856 Luigi Bianchi (18 Jan 1856 in Parma, Italy - 6 June 1928 in Pisa, Italy) made important contributions to differential geometry.*SAU

1879 Peter Mark Roget (18 Jan 1779; 12 Sep 1869). In 1852, at age 73, he published his famous Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. He was also one of the founders of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London. Of more mathematical interest, Roget also invented the log-log scale on slide rules, making exponentiation & roots much easier to calculate. *Wik

1880 Paul Ehrenfest (January 18, 1880 – September 25, 1933) was an Austrian and Dutch physicist, who made major contributions to the field of statistical mechanics and its relations with quantum mechanics, including the theory of phase transition and the Ehrenfest theorem.*Wik

1901 Ivan Georgievich Petrovsky (18 Jan 1901 in Sevsk, Orlov guberniya, Russia - 15 Jan 1973 in Moscow, USSR) Petrovsky's main mathematical work was on the theory of partial differential equations, the topology of algebraic curves and surfaces, and probability. Petrovsky also worked on the boundary value problem for the heat equation and this was applied to both probability theory and work of Kolmogorov.*SAU

1908 Jacob Bronowski (18 Jan 1908; 22 Aug 1974) Polish-British mathematician and science writer who eloquently presented the case for the humanistic aspects of science as the writer and presenter of the BBC television series, The Ascent of Man. Bronowski, who had a Ph.D. in algebraic geometry, spent WW II in Operations Research, and was an official observer of the after-effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings. After this experience, he turned to biology, to better understand the nature of violence.*TIS

1873 Pierre Charles François Dupin (6 Oct 1784 in Varzy, France - 18 Jan 1873 in Paris, France) made contributions to differential geometry and in particular invented the 'Dupin indicatrix' which gives an indication of the local behavior of a surface up to the terms of degree two. His contributions to differential geometry include the introduction of conjugate and asymptotic lines on a surface. *SAU

1963 Edward Charles Titchmarsh (1 Jun 1899, 18 Jan 1963) English mathematician whose contributions to analysis placed him in the forefront of his profession. His contributions helped resolve the differences between the general theory of quantum mechanics and the methods used to solve particular problems in quantum theory. All Titchmarsh's work is in analysis. His early studies were on Fourier series, Fourier integrals, functions of a complex variable, integral equations and the Riemann zeta function. From 1939, Titchmarsh concentrated on the theory of series expansions of eigenfunctions of differential equations, work which helped to resolve problems in quantum mechanics. His work on this topic occupied him for the last 25 years of his life. *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
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