model of third Rhine bridge at Schaffhauser *TIS |

Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently.

~Wernher von Braun

The 83rd day of the year; 83 is the smallest prime number which is the sum of a prime number of consecutive prime numbers in a prime number of different ways, i.e., 23 + 29 + 31 = 11 + 13 + 17 + 19 + 23. *Prime Curios

EVENTS

4BC A lunar eclipse may have coincided with the death of one of the most notorious kings of all time. Historian Flavius Josephus notes that an eclipse of the Moon preceded the death of the biblical king Herod. Three eclipses fit the bill as occurring in the right time frame and being visible from the Middle East, but the favorite contender is the March 23, 4 B.C. rising total lunar eclipse that may have marked the demise of Herod.*12 Famous Eclipses in History *fotoart |

In 1840, Englishman J.W. Draper took the first successful photo of the Moon. He made a daguerreotype, a precursor of the modern photograph.*TIS

1881 J J Sylvester writes to Arthur Cayley to announce, "I believe that I have proved Gordan's Theorem, and can assign a superior limit to the number of fundamental invariants." His proof was founded on the prospect that a certain sequence increased without bound. By October he knew that it did not.

1920 When Professor Johann Palisan of the University of Vienna discoved an asteroid on this date, he chose to name it after Herbert Hoover, who would later become the President of the USA. As head of the American Relief Administration, after WWI, Hoover organized shipments of food for millions of starving people in Central Europe. In Finnish it is common to use the word “hoover” with the meaning, “to help”. (at least it was, can someone tell me if this is still so) It seems strange that today most history books in his home country preserve his name in the term “Hooverville’s” for hobo camps and shanty towns where displaced peoples lived during the American Great Depression. *Wik

In 1950, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization was established. *TIS The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources. *WMO webpage

1981 The March 23 issue carried the first mention of Rubik's Cube in Time Magazine. *Mark Longridge, A Rubik's Cube Chronology

Rubik had begun distribution in Hungary in 1977, and by early 1979 Mathematical Intelligencer carried an introduction in of "The Hungarian Magic Cube" by David Singmaster with the note, "A new mathematical toy has been slowly becoming available in western Europe and is becoming more popular than the Soma Cube, Instant Insanity, and may well surpass the popularity of Mastermind or Sam Loyd's Fifteen puzzle."

In 1989, fusion at room temperature was claimed by Martin Fleischmann and Stan Pons, two Utah electrochemists. They believed they had sustained a controlled nuclear fusion reaction in a bench-top fusion percolator made up of two electrodes with heavy water which generated up to 100 per cent more energy than they put in. There were sporadic sightings of excess heat, which Fleischmann said cannot be accounted for by chemistry alone. However, the idea of cold fusion was discredited because leading scientists were unable to replicate the work and found no hallmarks of nuclear processes, especially none of the subatomic particles called neutrons. Their tantalizing promise of a limitless supply of cheap energy were invalid.*TIS

2012 Sonia Kovalevsky Day.. "Her birthday is January 15, but today gets to be her day. Cathy O'Neil (aka Mathbabe) started Sonia Kovalevsky Day at Barnard College in 2006, and it sounds like it's been going strong ever since." *Sue VanHattum at MathMama Writes blog.

BIRTHS

1709 Hans Ulrich Grubenmann (23 Mar 1709; 24 Jan 1783 at age 73) Swiss carpenter, who with his brother Johannes, built a bridge (1758) over the Limmat River at the town of Wettingen, near Zürich, that is believed to be the first timber bridge to employ a true arch in its design. The brothers' ingenious combination of the arch and truss principles made it possible to construct bridges longer and better than ever before. They constructed churches as well as other bridges. *TIS 1754 (Jurij)Georg Freiherr von Vega (23 Mar 1754 in Zagorica, Ljubljana, Slovenia - 26 Sept 1802 in Vienna, Austria) wrote about artillery but he is best remembered for his tables of logarithms and trigonometric functions. Vega calculated π to 140 places, a record which stood for over 50 years. This appears in a paper which he published in 1789.

In September 1802 Vega was reported missing. A search was unsuccessful until his body was found in the Danube near Vienna. The official cause of death was an accident but many suspect that he was murdered. *SAU

1795 Bernt Michael Holmboe (23 March 1795 – 28 March 1850) was a Norwegian mathematician. Holmboe was hired as a mathematics teacher at the Christiania Cathedral School in 1818, where he met the future renowned mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. Holmboe's lasting impact on mathematics worldwide has been said to be his tutoring of Abel, both in school and privately. The two became friends and remained so until Abel's early death. Holmboe moved to the Royal Frederick University in 1826, where he worked until his own death in 1850.

Holmboe's significant impact on mathematics in the fledgling Norway was his textbook in two volumes for secondary schools. It was widely used, but faced competition from Christopher Hansteen's alternative offering, sparking what may have been Norway's first debate about school textbooks. *Wik

1827 Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace (23 Mar 1749, 5 Mar 1827 at age 78) was a French mathematician, physicist, statistician and astronomer known for his mathematical analysis of the stability of the solar system (1773), alleviating Isaac Newton's concerns about perturbations between planets. He took an exact approach to science. He developed an explanation of surface tension of a liquid in terms of inter-molecular attractions, investigated capillary action and the speed of sound. He assisted Antoine Lavoisier (1783) investigating specific heat and heats of combustion, initiating the science of thermochemistry. He believed the solar system formed from a collapsing nebula. He contributed to the mathematics of probability and calculus, in which a differential equation is known by his name, and was involved in establishing the metric system.*TIS His last words were, “What we know is very slight; what we don’t know is immense.” *Eves, Revisited, 319◦

1829 Norman Robert Pogson (23 Mar 1829; 23 Jun 1891 at age 62) English astronomer who devised the magnitude scale of the brightness of stars (1850) now in use. He divided the classical scale in which a first magnitude star is one hundred times brighter than a sixth magnitude star using five integer steps. Each step represents a fifth-root of 100 (about 2.512) increase in brightness. The Sun's magnitude on this scale is -26.91, whereby negative numbers denote objects brighter than first magnitude. Sirius is magnitude -1.58, Aldebaran is 1 and the faintest star detected is 30. His interest in astronomy began in his youth; by age 18 he had calculated orbits for two comets. He discovered 8 asteroids, 21 new variable stars and compiled a massive star catalogue. In 1860 he moved to India for the remainder of his life's work.*TIS

1837 Richard Anthony Proctor (23 Mar 1837, 12 Sep 1888) English astronomer who first suggested (1873) that meteor impacts caused lunar craters, rather than volcanic action. He studied the motion of stars, their distribution, and their relation to the nebulae. In 1867 he prepared a map of the surface of Mars on which he named continents, seas, bays and straits (in the same manner that Riccioli used on his map of the moon). However, he did not perceive "canals" on the surface, which later Schiaparelli identified. Proctor participated in expeditions of 1874 and 1882 to observe the transit of Venus. He was very successful popularizing astronomy by his writings in books, periodicals, and lectures he gave as far abroad as Australia and America (where he stayed after 1881).*TIS

1855 Franklin H(enry) Giddings (23 Mar 1855; 11 Jun 1931 at age 76) American sociologist, one of the first in the United States to turn sociology from a branch of philosophy into a research science dependent on statistics. He was noted for his doctrine of the "consciousness of kind," which he derived from Adam Smith's conception of "sympathy," or shared moral reactions. His explanation of social phenomena was based this doctrine - his theory that each person has an innate sense of belonging to particular social groups. He encouraged statistical studies in sociology. *TIS

1862 Eduard Study (23 March 1862 in Coburg, Germany - 6 Jan 1930 in Bonn, Germany)Study became a leader in the geometry of complex numbers. He reformulated, independently of Severi, the fundamental principles of enumerative geometry due to Schubert. He also worked on invariant theory helping to develop a symbolic notation. In 1923 he published important work on real and complex algebras of low dimension publishing these results. Study's contribution is summarized by W Burau as follows, "... Study demonstrated what he considered to be a thorough treatment of a problem. ... With Corrado Segre, Study was one of the leading pioneers in the geometry of complex numbers. ... Adept in the methods of invariant theory ... Study, employing the identities of the theory, sought to demonstrate that geometric theorems are independent of coordinates. ... Study was the first to investigate systematically all algebras possessing up to four generators over R and C. "

Other areas which Study worked on were straight lines in elliptic space, with his student at Bonn J L Coolidge, and he simplified the method of differential operators. In 1903 he published Geometrie der Dynamen which considered euclidean kinematics and the mechanics of rigid bodies. *SAU

1882 Amalie Emmy Noether (23 Mar 1882; 14 Apr 1935 at age 53) German mathematician best known for her contributions to abstract algebra, in particular, her study of chain conditions on ideals of rings. In theoretical physics, she produced Noether's Theorem, which proves a relationship between symmetries in physics and conservation principles. This basic result in the general theory of relativity was praised by Einstein. It was her work in the theory of invariants which led to formulations for several concepts of Einstein's general theory of relativity. For her obituary in The New York Times, Albert Einstein wrote: “Fraulein Noether was the most significant mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began. *TIS Someone once described her as the daughter of the mathematician Max Noether. To this Edumund Landau replied “Max Noether was the father of Emmy Noether. Emmy is the origin of coordinates in the Noether family.” *H. Eves, Introduction to the History of Mathematics

Emmy Noether’s house in Erlangen is in a blog at The Renaissance Mathematicus

1897 John Lighton Synge (March 23, 1897–March 30, 1995) was an Irish mathematician and physicist. Synge made outstanding contributions to different fields of work including classical mechanics, general mechanics and geometrical optics, gas dynamics, hydrodynamics, elasticity, electrical networks, mathematical methods, differential geometry, and Einstein's theory of relativity. He studied an extensive range of mathematical physics problems, but his best known work revolved around using geometrical methods in general relativity.

He was one of the first physicists to seriously study the interior of a black hole, and is sometimes credited with anticipating the discovery of the structure of the Schwarzschild vacuum (a black hole).

He also created the game of Vish in which players compete to find circularity (vicious circles) in dictionary definitions. *Wik

1907 Hassler Whitney (March 23, 1907 – May 10, 1989) was an American mathematician. He was one of the founders of singularity theory, and did foundational work in manifolds, embeddings, immersions, and characteristic classes. *SAU

1912 Wernher Magnus Maximilian von Braun (23 Mar 1912; 16 Jun 1977 at age 65) was a German-American rocket engineer who was one of the most important developers of rockets and their evolution to applications in space exploration. His interest began as a teenager in Germany, and during WW II he led the development of the deadly V–2 ballistic missile for the Nazis (which role remains controversial). After war, he was taken to use his knowledge to produce rockets for the U.S. Army. In 1960, he transferred to the newly formed NASA and became director of Marshall Space Flight Center and chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle used to put men on the moon. His contributions include the Explorer satellites; Jupiter, Pershing, Redstone and Saturn rockets, and Skylab. *TIS "My experiences with science led me to God. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun? "

1928 Computer Pioneer Jean Sammet Is Born :

Jean Sammet, an early pioneer of computing, is born in New York. Sammet attended Mount Holyoke College and the University of Illinois, where she launched a teaching career. Trained in math, she moved into industry in 1961, developing the language FORMAC at IBM. The language was the first commonly used language for manipulating non-numeric algebraic expressions. She also wrote one of the classic histories of programming languages in her book, "Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals." *CHM

DEATHS

1924 Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (4 Oct 1841, 23 Mar 1924 at age 82) American physicist and meteorologist who was the first to propose the use of a ring pendulum for measuring absolute gravity. From 1889 to 1894 he served both as Director of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and also Superintendent of the U.S. Standard Weights and Measures where he oversaw the shift in the fundamental standards of the U.S. from the English yard and pound to the international meter and kilogram. Mendenhall devised a quarter second's pendulum for gravity measurements and instituted improvements in the measurement of base lines with wire tapes, in the construction of instruments for precise leveling and in the methods used in triangulation and gravity work, and developed a comprehensive plan for the study of terrestrial magnetism. *TIS 1945 Sir (William) Napier Shaw (4 Mar 1854; 23 Mar 1945 at age 90) was an English meteorologist who applied his training in mathematics. He studied the upper atmosphere, using instruments carried by kites and high-altitude balloons. He measured (1906) the movement of air in two anti-cyclones, finding descent rates of 350 and 450 metres per day. He calculated the reduction in pressure due to a certain depression to correspond to the removal of two million million tons of air. He introduced the millibar unit for measurement of air pressure (1000 millibar = 1 bar = 1 standard atmosphere) and the tephigram to illustrate the temperature of a vertical profile of the atmosphere. He also co-authored an early work on atmospheric polluiton, The Smoke Problem of Great Cities (1925).*TIS

1946 Gilbert Newton Lewis (23 Oct 1875, 23 Mar 1946 at age 70) American chemist who collaborated with Irving Langmuir in developing an atomic theory. He developed a theory of valency, which introduced the covalent bond (c. 1916), whereby a chemical combination is made between two atoms by the sharing of a pair of electrons, one contributed from each atom. This was part of his more general octet theory, published in Valence and the Structure of Atoms and Molecules (1923). Lewis visualized the electrons in an atom as being arranged in concentric cubes. The sharing of these electrons he illustrated in the Lewis dot diagrams familiar to chemistry students. He generalized the concept of acids and bases now known as Lewis acids and Lewis bases. *TIS

Max Mason (26 Oct 1877; 23 Mar 1961) American mathematical physicist, educator, and science administrator. During World War I he invented several devices for submarine detection - several generations of the Navy's "M," or multiple-tube, passive submarine sensors. This apparatus focused sound to ascertain its source. To determine the direction from which the sound came, the operator needed only to seek the maximum output on his earphones by turning a dial. The final device had a range of 3 miles. Mason's special interest and contributions lay in mathematics (differential equations, calculus of variations), physics (electromagnetic theory), invention (acoustical compensators, submarine-detection devices), and the administration of universities and foundations. *TIS

1963 Thoralf Skolem,(23 May 1887 in Sandsvaer, Buskerud, Norway - 23 March 1963 in Oslo, Norway) number theorist and logician. At the International Congress of Mathematicians in Cambridge in 1950 he said “We ought not to regard all that is written in the traditional textbooks as something sacred.” It was this attitude that earlier allowed him to discover that the real numbers could have countable models, a fact known as Skolem’s paradox. *Wik This Norwegian logician was the ﬁrst to introduce non-standard models of the natural numbers. *VFR

1979 Ivo Lah (AKA Ivan Lah; September 5, 1896 Štrukljeva vas near Cerknica, Austria-Hungary, now Slovenia,– March 23, 1979, Ljubljana, SFR Yugoslavia, now Slovenia) was a Slovenian mathematician and actuary, best known for his discovery of the Lah numbers in 1955. His scientific bibliography contains about 120 items covering a wide spectrum of topics from Mathematics to Statistics, Demographics, etc. For instance one can find 10 items in Maths Reviews, and 19 items in Zentralblatt für Mathematik. His most important mathematical result, published in 1955, is the so-called "Lah identity" where he shows how the rising powers can be expressed in terms of falling powers. The reviewer of his paper was a leading combinatorialist of that time, John Riordan. *Wik Unsigned Lah numbers have an interesting meaning in combinatorics: they count the number of ways a set of n elements can be partitioned into k nonempty linearly ordered subsets. Lah numbers are related to Stirling numbers.*Wik

2007 Paul Joseph Cohen (2 April 1934 in Long Branch, New Jersey, USA- 23 March 2007 in Palo Alto, California, USA) Cohen used a technique called forcing to prove the independence in set theory of the axiom of choice and of the generalized continuum hypothesis. *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, Famous First Facts