Friday, 11 May 2012

On This Day in Math - May 11







A mind which has a taste for scientific inquiry,
and has learned the habit of applying its principles readily to the cases which occur,
has within itself an inexhaustable source of pure and exciting contemplations.

~John Herschel

The 132nd day of the year; 132 and its reversal (231) are both divisible by the prime 11 (132/11 = 12, 231/11 = 21). Note that the resulting quotients are also reversals. *Prime Curios

EVENTS

1892 Edgeworth’s first Newmarch lecture. In May and June of 1892 Edgeworth, newly appointed to the Oxford chair and editor of The Economic Journal, gave six Newmarch lectures, "On the Uses and Methods of Statistics."


1897 black American inventor, William U. Moody was issued a U.S. design patent for a “game board design.” No. 27,046). It shows a rectangular board with a particular
arrangement of partitions in the form of arcs of concentric circles and some other shorter partitions causing a complex route for a ball to travel from one corner to the diagonal corner, presumably, by tilting the board. *TIS


1920 Oxford University passed a statute admitting women to degrees. *VFR


1928 radio station WGY, in Schenectady, NY, began America’s first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts. The programs lasted from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Most of the viewers were on the technical staff at nearby General Electric, which had designed the system and was using the broadcasts to refine its equipment. A handful of hobbyists who had built their own sets were also able to watch. Those who tuned in had to make constant adjustments, turning two knobs at once to keep the blurry picture discernible on their three-inch-square screens. By the end of 1928, 17 more stations around the country began scheduled broadcasts, designed to test the apparatus rather than attract viewers. *TIS


1951, Jay Forrester patented computer core memory.


1957 Howard F. Fehr, of Columbia University Teachers College, in an address at Syracuse: “A mathematics professor who talks at length affects both ends of the listener—he makes one end feel numb and the other feel dumb.” [Eves, Revisited, p. 151] . *VFR


1959 Eugene P. Wigner delivered a penetrating Courant Lecture at NYU on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” which is well worth reading. *VFR


1979 VisiCalc Introduced. It was the first program operable by inexperienced computer users. As it ran only on the Apple, the company soon was on top of the market. *VFR


1986 A specially designed bicycle set the human powered land speed record of 105.37 km per hour (65.48 miles per hour). *VFR


1997 Garry Kasparov loses in the rematch with IBM's Deep Blue in the first match of what many considered a test of artificial intelligence. The world's best chess player, Kasparov lost the match and $1.1 million purse to the IBM supercomputer, which he had claimed could never surpass human chess ability. After losing the sixth and final game of the match, Kasparov accused IBM of building a machine specifically to beat him. Observers said he was frustrated by Deep Blue's quickness although they expected him to win with unconventional moves. *CHM On February 10, 1996, Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4–2 (wins count 1 point, draws count ½ point). The match concluded on February 17, 1996.
Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded (unofficially nicknamed "Deeper Blue") and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½, ending on May 11. *Wik





BIRTHS

1702 Isaac Greenwood. (11 May 1702 Boston, Massachusetts – 22 October 1745 Charleston, South Carolina ) In 1727 he was installed at Harvard as the first Hollis professor of mathematics and natural and experimental philosophy. He strengthened and modernized the science program at Harvard. *VFR
During his tenure, he wrote anonymously the first natively-published American book on mathematics – the Greenwood Book, published in 1729. This book made the first published statement of the short scale value for billion in the United States, which eventually became the value used in most English-speaking countries.
He was removed from the Chair for intemperance (drunkenness) in 1737.
Unable to support his family, he joined the Royal Navy as a chaplain – HMS Rose in 1742, and later HMS Aldborough in 1744. He was released from service in Charleston, South Carolina, on 22 May 1745.
He drank himself to death a few months later on 22 October 1745.*Wik

1871 Frank Schlesinger (May 11, 1871 New York City – July 10, 1943 Old Lyme, Connecticut) American astronomer who pioneered in the use of photography to map stellar positions and to measure stellar parallaxes, which could give more precise determinations of distance than visual ones, and with less than one hundredth as much time at the telescope. He designed instruments and mathematical and numerical techniques to improve parallax measurements. He published ten volumes of zone catalogs, including some 150,000 stars. He compiled positions, magnitudes, proper motions, radial velocities, and other data to produce the first edition and, with Louise Jenkins, the second, of the widely-used Bright Star Catalogues, making Yale a leading institution in astrometry. He established a second Yale observatory in South Africa. *VFR


1881 Theodore von Karman (May 11, 1881 – May 7, 1963) Hungarian-American aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization.*Wik; He was director of the Institute for Aerodynamics at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) in AACHEN, Nordrhein-Westfalen, in 1913-1934. The main lecture theatre complex is named the Kármán Auditorium and there is a photo and a bust of him in the foyer.


1918 Richard Phillips Feynman (11 May, 1918 – 15 February, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist who was probably the most brilliant, influential, and iconoclastic figure in his field in the post-WW II era. By age 15, he had mastered calculus. He took every physics course at MIT. His lifelong interest was in subatomic physics. In 1942, he went to Los Alamos where Hans Bethe made the 24 year old Feynman a group leader in the theoretical division, to work on estimating how much uranium would be needed to achieve critical mass for the Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project. After the war, he developed Feynman Diagrams, a simple notation to describe the complex behavior of subatomic particles. In 1965, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for work in quantum electrodynamics. *TIS


1930 Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (May 11, 1930 – August 6, 2002) was a Dutch computer scientist. He received the 1972 Turing Award for fundamental contributions to developing programming languages, and was the Schlumberger Centennial Chair of Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin from 1984 until 2000. Among his contributions to computer science are the shortest path-algorithm, also known as Dijkstra's algorithm; Reverse Polish Notation and related Shunting yard algorithm; the THE multiprogramming system, an important early example of structuring a system as a set of layers; Banker's algorithm; and the semaphore construct for coordinating multiple processors and programs. Another concept due to Dijkstra in the field of distributed computing is that of self-stabilization – an alternative way to ensure the reliability of the system. Dijkstra's algorithm is used in SPF, Shortest Path First, which is used in the routing protocols OSPF and IS-IS. *Wik

DEATHS
1610 Matteo Ricci (October 6, 1552; Macerata – May 11, 1610;Beijing )was an Italian Jesuit who went to China as a missionary and introduced the Chinese to Western mathematics.*SAU
There is now a memorial plaque in Zhaoqing to commemorate Ricci's six-year stay there, as well as a "Ricci Memorial Centre", in a building dating from the 1860's. *Wik

1871 1st Baronet) Sir John (Frederick William) Herschel (7 March 1792 – 11 May 1871) was an English astronomer. As successor to his father, Sir William Herschel, he discovered another 525 nebulae and clusters. John Herschel was a pioneer in celestial photography, and as a chemist contributed to the development of sensitized photographic paper (independently of Talbot). In 1819, he discovered that sodium thiosulphate dissolved silver salts, as used in developing photographs. He introduced the terms positive image and negative image. Being diverse in his research, he also studied physical and geometrical optics, birefringence of crystals, spectrum analysis, and the interference of light and sound waves. To compare the brightness of stars, he invented the astrometer.*TIS [He was buried in Westminster Abbey.]


1965 Jason John Nassau (29 March 1893 in Smyrna, (now Izmir) Turkey - 11 May 1965 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA) was an American astronomer.
He performed his doctoral studies at Syracuse, and gained his Ph.D. mathematics in 1920. (His thesis was Some Theorems in Alternants.) He then became an assistant professor at the Case Institute of Technology in 1921, teaching astronomy. He continued to instruct at that institution, becoming the University's first chair of astronomy from 1924 until 1959 and chairman of the graduate division from 1936 until 1940. After 1959 he was professor emeritus.
From 1924 until 1959 he was also the director of the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Warner and Swasey Observatory in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a pioneer in the study of galactic structure. He also discovered a new star cluster, co-discovered 2 novae in 1961, and developed a technique of studying the distribution of red (M-class or cooler) stars.*Wik


Credits
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell
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