Friday, 20 January 2012

On This Day in Math - Jan 20

If you are afraid of something, measure it, and you will realize it is a mere triple.
~Renato Caccioppoli

The 20th day of the year; 20 is the smallest number that cannot be either prefixed or followed by one digit to form a prime.


In 1633, Galileo, at age 68, left his home in Florence, Italy, to face the Inquisition in Rome. By 22 Jun 1633, he buckled under the threats and interrogation by the Inquisition, and renounced his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun. *TIS

1748 In a surprising letter of January 20, 1748, D'Alembert wrote
to Euler [Euler 1980] to suggest a new theory: perhaps the moon (or at least its
distribution of mass) was not spherical. If, after all, we only see one side from the Earth, we can't know how far back it truly extends. And perhaps if it extends far enough back, the apsidal motion would indeed be 3 degrees, as observed. In an even more surprising response written less than four weeks later [Euler 1980], Euler says that he too had considered this idea, and had worked out the details! He found that moon would have to extend back about 2 1/2 Earth diameters in the direction away from us, which seemed untenable. *VFR

In 1969, astronomers at the University of Arizona established the first optical identification of a pulsar. *TIS

1573 Simon Marius (20 Jan 1573, 26 Dec 1624) (Also known as Simon Mayr) German astronomer, pupil of Tycho Brahe, one of the earliest users of the telescope and the first in print to make mention the Andromeda nebula (1612). He studied and named the four largest moons of Jupiter as then known: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (1609) after mythological figures closely involved in love with Jupiter. Although he may have made his discovery independently of Galileo, when Marius claimed to have discovered these satellites of Jupiter (1609), in a dispute over priority, it was Galileo who was credited by other astronomers. However, Marius was the first to prepare tables of the mean periodic motions of these moons. He also observed sunspots in 1611 *TIS Galileo initially named his discovery the Cosmica Sidera ("Cosimo's stars"), but names that eventually prevailed were chosen by Simon Marius and were suggested by Johannes Kepler, in his Mundus Jovialis​, published in 1614. *Wik You can find a nice blog about the conflict with Galileo by the Renaissance Mathematicus.

1775 André-Marie Ampère (20 January 1775 – 10 June 1836) was a French physicist and mathematician who is generally regarded as one of the main discoverers of electromagnetism. The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him.*Wik

1820 Alexandre-Emile Beguyer de Chancourtois (20 Jan 1820; 14 Nov 1886) French geologist who was the first to arrange the chemical elements in order of atomic weights (1862). De Chancourtois plotted the atomic weights on the surface of a cylinder with a circumference of 16 units, the approximate atomic weight of oxygen. The resulting helical curve which he called the telluric helix brought closely related elements onto corresponding points above or below one another on the cylinder. Thus, he suggested that "the properties of the elements are the properties of numbers." Although his publication was significant, it was ignored by chemists as it was written in the language of geology, and the editors omitted a crucial explanatory table. It was Dmitry Mendeleyev's table published in 1869 that became most recognized.*TIS

1831 Edward John Routh FRS (20 January 1831–7 June 1907), was an English mathematician, noted as the outstanding coach of students preparing for the Mathematical Tripos examination of the University of Cambridge in its heyday in the middle of the nineteenth century. He also did much to systematise the mathematical theory of mechanics and created several ideas critical to the development of modern control systems theory.*Wik

1834 William Watson born in Nantucket, MA. In 1862 he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Jena, being the first American to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics at a foreign university. Later he taught at Harvard and MIT. In the same year Yale was the first American school to grant a Ph.D. in mathematics (to J. H. Worall).*VFR

1895 Gabor Szego, Professor Emeritus at Stanford. He co-authored with George (originally Gy¨orogy) P´olya the renown book Problems and Theorems in Analysis. *VFR worked in the area of extremal problems and Toeplitz matrices.*SAU

1904 Renato Caccioppoli ( 20 January 1904 – 8 May 1959) was an Italian mathematician. His most important works, out of a total of around eighty publications, relate to functional analysis and the calculus of variations. Beginning in 1930 he dedicated himself to the study of differential equations, the first to use a topological-functional approach. Proceeding in this way, in 1931 he extended the Brouwer fixed point theorem, applying the results obtained both from ordinary differential equations and partial differential equations. *Wik

1931 David M. Lee (20 Jan 1931, ) American physicist who, with Robert C. Richardson and Douglas D. Osheroff, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1996 for their joint discovery of superfluidity in the isotope helium-3.*TIS

1590 Giovanni Battista Benedetti died. In one of his books he forecast his death for 1592. Hence, on his deathbed, he recomputed his horoscope and declared that an error of four minutes must have been made in the original data, thus evincing his lifelong faith in the doctrines of judicial astrology.*VFR

1864 Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana (6 November 1781 – 20 January 1864) was an Italian astronomer and mathematician.
His contributions included work on the motions of the Moon, as well as integrals, elliptic functions, heat, electrostatics, and geodesy. In 1820 he was one of the winners of a prize awarded by the Académie des Sciences in Paris based on the construction of lunar tables using the law of gravity. In 1832 he published the Théorie du mouvement de la lune. In 1834 he was awarded with the Copley Medal by the Royal Society for his studies on lunar motion. He became astronomer royal, and then in 1844 a Baron. At the age of 80 he was granted membership in the prestigious Académie des Sciences. He died in Turin. He is considered one of the premiere Italian scientists of his age.
The crater Plana on the Moon is named in his honor.*Wik

1907 Agnes Mary Clerke (10 Feb 1842, 20 Jan 1907) Irish astronomical writer who was a diligent compiler of facts rather than a practicing scientist. Nevertheless, by 1885, her exhaustive treatise, A Popular History of Astronomy in the Nineteenth Century gained international recognition as an authoritative work. In 1903, with Lady Huggins, she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, a rank previously held only by two other women, Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville. Her publications included several books and 55 pieces in the Edinburgh Review. She contributed some astronomer biographies to the Dictionary of National Biography and some astronomical entries in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. *TIS

1921 Mary Watson Whitney (11 Sep 1847, 20 Jan 1921) American astronomer who trained with Maria Mitchell and succeeded her as professor and director of the Vassar College Observatory. As Mitchell had before her, Whitney championed science education the advancement of professional opportunities for women. She developed the astronomy department. Four years before her 1910 retirement, there were 160 students and eight different astronomy courses, including some of the first courses anywhere on astrophysics and on variable stars. During her tenure as director, the Observatory staff published 102 papers in major astronomical journals reporting their work on comets, asteroids, and variable stars. From 1896, photographic plates were used to study and measure star clusters.*TIS

1922 Camille Jordan (5 Jan 1838, 20 Jan 1922) French mathematician and engineer who prepared a foundation for group theory and built on the prior work of Évariste Galois. As a mathematician, Jordan's interests were diverse, covering topics throughout the aspects of mathematics being studied in his era. The topics in his published works include finite groups, linear and multilinear algebra, the theory of numbers, topology of polyhedra, differential equations, and mechanics.*TIS (His date of death is listed as 22 Jan by *SAU & *Wik)

1971 Jan Arnoldus Schouten (28 Aug 1883 in Nieuwer Amstel (now part of Amsterdam), Netherlands - 20 Jan 1971 in Epe, The Netherlands) worked on tensor analysis and its applications. He produced 180 papers and 6 books on tensor analysis, applying tensor analysis to Lie groups, general relativity, unified field theory, and differential equations. Influenced by Weyl and Eddington, Schouten investigated affine, projective and conformal mappings. Klein's Erlanger Programm of 1872 looked at geometry as properties invariant under the action of a group. This approach had a large influence on Schouten's approach to his topic. *SAU

2001 Crispin St. John Alvah Nash-Williams (December 19, 1932 – January 20, 2001) was a British and Canadian mathematician. His research interest was in the field of discrete mathematics, especially graph theory. *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
Post a Comment