~Eric T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics
The 138th day of the year; 138 has three prime factors, the concatenation of the first two is the third. *Prime Cuiros
EVENTS1630 Belts on Jupiter ﬁrst recognized. According to Rogers, the first known mention of belts on Jupiter is that by Niccolo Zucchi in 1630.( J. H. Rogers, The Giant Planet Jupiter (Cambridge University Press, 1995).)
1719 “The learned Dr. Halley is of opinion that the comet seen in 1680 is the same which appeared in Julius Caesar’s time. This shows more than any other that comets are hard, opaque bodies; for it descended so near to the sun, as to come within a sixth part of the diameter of this planet from it, and consequently might have contracted a degree of heat two thousand times stronger than that of red-hot iron; and would have been soon dispersed in vapour, had it not been a ﬁrm, dense body. The guessing the course of comets began then to be very much in vogue. The celebrated [Johann] Bernoulli concluded by his system than the famous comet of 1680 would appear again the 17th of May, 1719. Not a single astronomer in Europe went to bed that night. However, they needed not to have broke their rest, for the famous comet never appeared.” So wrote Voltaire (1694-1778) in his Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques, c. 1778. *VFR
1749 Oops.... In 1747 at a public session in the French Academy of Sciences Clairaut stated that Newton's theory of gravity was wrong. Euler and d’Alembert had simultaneously came to the same conclusion as all had been working on the motion of the moon as a special case of the three body problem. Clairaut suggested that the strength of gravity was proportional not to 1/r^2 , but the more complicated 1/r^2 +c/r^4 for some constant c. Over large distances, the c/r^4 term would effectively disappear, accounting for the utility of the inverse square law over large distances. He then began trying to find a value of c which could account for the moon's motion. He would continue to pursue this idea until May 17, 1749, when he made an equally dramatic announcement in which he claimed that Newton was right after all. (See Deaths below)
1861 James Clerk Maxwell exhibited a three-color photographic process before the Royal Institution of Great Britain on May 17, 1861.
Maxwell photographed a colored ribbon on photographic plates. He made three exposures: one through a red filter, one through a green filter, and one through a blue filter. He probably then re-exposed those images onto other plates, or somehow processed them into positive rather than negative images; the published paper is unclear on the process.
Then, he used magic lanterns to project his transparencies, superimposed the three images, and filtered the projectors as he had filtered the original images—with red, green & blue filters. He produced a colored image, ".a coloured image was seen, which, if the red and green images had been as fully photographed as the blue, would have been a truly-coloured image of the ribbon." (The Muser)
1882 A comet is discovered and photographed by Sir Arthur Schuster (1851-1934), Germany/UK, during an eclipse in Egypt: first time a comet discovered in this way has been photographed. The Total Solar Eclipse had been observed by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), Ranard and Schuster from England, Tacchini from Italy, Trépied, Thollon and Puiseux from France.
Observation from Sohag at the Nile. *NASA Eclipse Calendar
1910 Halley's comet was big news during its visible period in New York City. Beginning with the Saturday edition of May 14 and continuing on through the Sunday edition of May 22, the comet was given top billing in the New York Times. This was the period when the comet was at the height of its brilliance and activity and the coverage clearly reflected this.
May 17: Earth will pass through comet’s 24-million-mile-long tail on May 18th; Hotels to prepare for comet watchers; Boston will sound fire alarm if comet is visible. Editorial comment on fears about comet. *Joseph M. Laufer, Halley's Comet Society - USA
1943 U.S. Army and University of Pennsylvania Sign Contract to Develop ENIAC:
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), an early all-electronic computing system, was developed and built by the U.S. Army for its Ballistics Research Laboratory. It was the first system to use vacuum tubes rather than electromagnetic switches. Its purpose was to calculate ballistic firing tables. ENIAC was designed by J. Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly of the University of Pennsylvania. Constructed at that university’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, when first commissioned, the computer was known as Project PX. It cost almost $500,000 at the time. Unveiled on February 14, 1946, it operated until November 9, 1946. It was then refurbished, given a memory upgrade, and transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, in 1947. On July 29th it was turned on again and ran continuously until 1955. *CHM
1967 the governor of Tennessee signed into law the repeal of the 1925 state law, the Butler Act, prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The law had made it "unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." The law had been tested in what became known as the "Scopes monkey trial." Scopes was found guilty, but the law had been undermined. Upon appeal, Scopes was acquitted on a technicality. The law itself remained a Tennessee state statute for 42 years. *TIS
Unfortunatly, at the time of this writing in 2011, the issue is still not dead.
1875 On May 17, 1875, the horse, Aristides, and his rider, Oliver Lewis, crossed the finish line ahead of the rest of the field at the first ever Kentucky Derby. The horse's owner, H.P. McGrath, and a roaring crowd in the stands looked on. Aristides, a Thoroughbred named after an ancient Greek general. Thirteen of the fifteen jockeys, including Lewis, were African American.(Library of Congress web site)
BIRTHS1749 Edward Jenner English surgeon and discoverer of vaccination for smallpox. There was a common story among farmers that if a person contracted a relatively mild and harmless disease of cattle called cowpox, immunity to smallpox would result. On 14 May 1796 he removed the fluid of a cowpox from dairymaid Sarah Nelmes, and inoculated James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy, who soon came down with cowpox. Six weeks later, he inoculated the boy with smallpox. The boy remained healthy, proving the theory. He called his method vaccination, using the Latin word vacca, meaning cow, and vaccinia, meaning cowpox. Jenner also introduced the word virus.*TIS
1836 Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer British astronomer who in 1868 discovered and named the element helium that he found in the Sun's atmosphere before it had been detected on Earth. He also applied the name chromosphere for the sun's outer layer. Lockyer discovered, together with Pierre J. Janssen, the prominences (red flames) that surround the solar disk. He was also interested in the classification of stellar spectra and developed the meteoric hypothesis of stellar evolution.*TIS
1928 Eric Charles Milner, FRSC (May 17, 1928–July 20, 1997) was a mathematician who worked mainly in combinatorial set theory.
A former London street urchin, Milner attended King's College London starting in 1946, where he competed as a featherweight boxer. He graduated in 1949 as the best mathematics student in his year, and received a masters degree in 1950 under the supervision of Richard Rado and Charles Coulson. Partial deafness prevented him from joining the Navy, and instead, in 1951, he took a position with the Straits Trading Company in Singapore assaying tin. Soon thereafter he joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Malaya in Singapore, where Alexander Oppenheim and Richard K. Guy were already working. In 1958, Milner took a sabbatical at the University of Reading, and in 1961 he took a lecturership there and began his doctoral studies; he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of London in 1963. He joined his former Singapore colleagues Guy and Peter Lancaster as a professor at the University of Calgary in 1967, where he was head of the mathematics department from 1976 to 1980. In 1973, he became Canadian citizen, and in 1976 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
In 1954, while in Singapore, Milner married Esther Stella (Estelle) Lawton, whom he had known as a London student; they had four children. Estelle died of cancer in 1975, and in 1979 Milner remarried Elizabeth Forsyth Borthwick, with whom he had another son.
Milner's interest in set theory was sparked by visits of Paul Erdős to Singapore and by meeting András Hajnal while on sabbatical in Reading. He generalized Chang's ordinal partition theorem for arbitrary finite k. He is also known for the Milner–Rado paradox. *Wik
DEATHS1729 Samuel Clarke was an English clergyman who wrote on mechanics as well as philosophy and metaphysics. Clarke was considered the greatest metaphysician in England when Locke died in 1704. In 1706 Newton asked Clarke to translate his Opticks into Latin. When Newton died in 1727, Clarke was offered the position as master of the Royal Mint but he turned it down, stating that it was not consistent with his role as a clergyman. Although most of his publications were on religion and metaphysics, one of his last works was On the proportion of force to velocity in bodies in motion published a year before his death. He died in the rectory of his church of St James's, Westminster, and was buried five days later in the chancel of the church. *SAU
1765 Alexis Clairaut (sometimes Clairault) was a French mathematician who worked to confirm the Newton-Huygens belief that the Earth was flattened at the poles. He was a child prodigy was studying calculus at age 10 and was admitted to the Academy of Sciences at age 18. He was the first person to estimate the mass of Venus to a close value. He also calculated the return date of Halley's comet. In about 1737, Pierre de Maupertuis led an expedition (including Clairaut) to measure a degree along a meridian in Lapland, while Bouguer and La Condamine went to Peru. The results, even before the Peru expedition had returned, showed that Newton was correct in predicting that the earth was flattened at the poles. He published the results in Théorie de la figure de la Terre in 1743.(various)
A nice brief summary of Clairaut's life and works is here.
Also file this one under "died near birthday".. he was born May 7. (also see 1749 above)
1913 Heinrich Martin Weber (5 May 1842, Heidelberg, Germany – 17 May 1913, Strassburg, Germany, now Strasbourg, France) Weber's main work was in algebra, number theory, analysis and applications of analysis to mathematical physics. This seems a contradiction in terms, for we have now almost said that Weber's main work spans the whole spectrum of mathematics. In fact this is not far from the truth for Weber work was characterised by its breadth across a wide range of topics.*SAU
Weber was born in Heidelberg, Baden, and entered the University of Heidelberg in 1860. In 1866 he became a privatdozent, and in 1869 he was appointed as extraordinary professor at that school. Weber also taught in Zurich at the Federal Polytechnic Institute, today the ETH Zurich, at the University of Königsberg, and at the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg. His final post was at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Universität Straßburg, Alsace-Lorraine, where he died.
1916 Boris Borisovich Golitsyn (2 Mar 1862; 17 May 1916 at age 54) (Prince) Russian physicist known for his work on methods of earthquake observations and on the construction of seismographs. He invented the first effective electromagnetic seismograph in 1906. A seismometer of this type picks up earthquake waves with a pendulum that supports a coil of insulated wire between the poles of a magnet rigidly linked to the earth. The relative motion between the magnet and the coil caused by tremors in the earth generates corresponding electric currents in the coil. The currents can be amplified to operate a pen recorder. *TIS
2001 Jacques-Louis Lions (3 May 1928 – 17 May 2001) was a French mathematician who made contributions to the theory of partial differential equations and to stochastic control, among other areas. He received the SIAM's John Von Neumann prize in 1986. Lions is listed as an ISI highly cited researcher. Lions was elected President of the International Mathematical Union in 1991 and also received the Prize of Japan that same year. In 1992, the University of Houston awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. He was elected president of the French Academy of Sciences in 1996. He has left a considerable body of work, among this more than 400 scientific articles, 20 volumes of mathematics that were translated into English and Russian, and major contributions to several collective works, including the 4000 pages of the monumental Mathematical analysis and numerical methods for science and technology (in collaboration with Robert Dautray), as well as the Handbook of numerical analysis in 7 volumes (with Philippe G. Ciarlet).
His son Pierre-Louis Lions is also a well-known mathematician who was awarded a Fields Medal in 1994.*Wik
*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