Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On This Day in Math - May 23


 (a symbol) We can repudiate completely and 
which we can abandon without regret 
because one does not know 
what this pretended sign signifies
nor what sense one ought to attribute to it. 
Cauchy in 1847 in regard to the square root of negative one..

The 144th day of the year; 144 is the only square of a composite number in the Fibonacci Sequence. *Tanya Khovanova Number Gossip
144 is also the smallest square number which is also a square when its digits are reversed (144 = 12 2 while 441= 212 .

EVENTS
1221 "On the first day of the fifth month (May 23), at noon, the Sun was eclipsed and it was total. All the stars were therefore seen. A short while later the brightness returned. At that time we were on the southern bank of the river. The eclipse (began) at the south-west and (the Sun) reappeared from the north-east. At that place it is cool in the morning and warm in the evening; there are many yellow flowers among the grass. The river flows to the north-east. On both banks there are many tall willows. The Mongols use them to make their tents. [Later] (Ch'ang-ch'un) asked (an astronomer) about the solar eclipse on the first day of the month
(May 23). The man replied: 'Here the Sun was eclipsed up to 7 fen (6/10) at the hour of ch'en (7-9 h)'. The Master continued, 'When we were by the Lu-chu Ho (Kerulen River), during the hour wu (11-13 h) the Sun was seen totally eclipsed and also south-west of Chin-shan the people there said that the eclipse occurred at the hour szu (9-11 h) and reached 7 fen. At each of these three places it was seen differently. According to the commentary on the ch'un-ch'iu by K'ung Ying-ta, when the body (of the Moon) covers the Sun, then there will be a solar eclipse. Now I presume that we must have been directly beneath it; hence we observed the eclipse to be total. On the other hand, those people on the sides (of the shadow) were further away and hence (their view) gradually became different. This is similar to screening a lamp with a fan. In the shadow of the fan there is no light or brightness. Further away from the sides (of the fan) then the light of the lamp gradually becomes greater." Refers to a total solar eclipse of 23 May 1221. From: Ch'ang-ch'un Chen-jen Tao-ts'ang('The Journey of the Adept Ch'ang-ch'un to the West'). *NASA Eclipse Calendar

1576 Brahe is given use of the island of Hveen for an observatory. [Wadsworth] *VFR

1771 Benjamin Franklin visits Joseph Priestley at his home in Leeds just after he begins experimenting with placing mint under a glass to see how long it took to die. Priestly had put insects, small animals, candles etc under glass to measure the time it took to use up the "life force" in the air. To his surprise, the mint flourished in his pneumatic trough. Eventually he would realize that the "spent" air could be rejuvenated by placing a living plant inside the glass. *Steven Johnson, The Invention of Air


1785, a letter from Benjamin Franklin documented his invention of his new bifocal glasses. He was writing from France to a friend describing the solution to carrying around two pairs of glasses to see objects at different distances, with the comment that "I have only to move my eyes up and down as I want to see far or near." Franklin incorporated a two part lens for each eye, each parts having a different focussing power. The invention had limited acceptance at a time when even ordinary spectacles in the colonies already cost as much as $100 per pair. *TIS

1825, the electromagnet in a practical form was first exhibited by its inventor, William Sturgeon, on the occasion of reading a paper, recorded in the Transactions of the Society of Arts for 1825 (Vol xliii, p.38). The publication showed pictures of his set of improved apparatus for electromagnetic experiments, including two electromagnets, one of horse-shoe shape and one  a straight bar. The formed was bent from a rod about 1 foot (30 cm) long and one-half inch (1.3 cm) in diameter, varnished for insulation, then coiled with a single spiral of 18 turns of stout copper wire. In return for the Society's medal and premium, Sturgeon deposited the apparatus in the museum of the Society. Sadly, this was lost after the society's museum was dispersed. *TIS  This would have been the day after his forty-second birthday.  (see May 22)

1933  Max Wasserberg received a patent for a "beach and lawn chair" (U.S. No. 1,911,127). *TIS  Why is this American hero not better known?  

1958 Explorer I, the 1st US satellite in orbit, ceases transmission. *David Dickinson ‏@Astroguyz

1994 Java development begins in earnest:
Sun Microsystems Inc. formally announced its new programs, Java and HotJava at the SunWorld '95 convention. Java was described as a programming language that, combined with the HotJava World Wide Web browser, offered the best universal operating system to the online community. The concept behind the programs was to design a programming language whose applications would be available to a user with any kind of operating system, eliminating the problems of translation between Macintoshes, IBM-compatible computers, and Unix machines. *CHM

BIRTHS

1606 Juan Caramuel Y Lobkowitz (May 23, 1606 in Madrid — September 8, 1682 in Vigevano)  His Mathesis biceps of 1670 expounds the general principle of number systems with an arbitrary base b. Caramuel points out that some of these might be of more use than the decimal system. [DSB 3, 61] *VFR 
Donald Knuth writes in The Art of Computer Programming Volume 2:- The first published discussion of the binary system was given in a comparatively little-known work by a Spanish bishop, Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz, 'Mathesis biceps' (Campaniae, 1670) pp. 45-48: Caramuel discusses the representation of numbers in radices 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 60 at some length, but gave no examples of arithmetic operations in nondecimal systems (except for the trivial operation of adding unity). He loved puzzles and published a collection containing some that he had composed when he was only ten years old. Mathematical puzzles and games of chance form part of Mathesis biceps (1670). He proposed a new method of trisecting an angle and developed a system of logarithms to base 109 where log 1010 = 0 and log 1 = 10. He was the first to publish log tables in Spanish. Among Caramuel's other scientific work ...a system he developed to determine longitude using the position of the moon. He wrote widely on grammar, linguistics and rhetoric but perhaps his most interesting proposal in this area was to argue for the creation of a universal language. *SAU


1820 James Buchanan Eads (May 23, 1820 – March 8, 1887) was an American engineer who built the two-tier triple-arch steel bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 22, he invented a boat and diving bell which enabled walking on the river bottom. In 12 years' time he made a fortune with his salvage boat operation. During the Civil War, he built ironclad warships. After the war, he built the Mississippi River bridge, the first major bridge to use steel and cantilevered construction, which was opened 4 Jul 1874. Each roughly 500-ft span rested on piers built on bedrock about 100 feet beneath the river bottom. He created a year-round navigation channel for New Orleans scoured out with a system of jetties harnessing the river's water flow (1879)*TIS

1887 Thoralf Skolem (23 May 1887 – 23 March 1963)  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.

1908 John Bardeen (23 May 1908; 30 Jan 1991 at age 82) American physicist who was cowinner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in both 1956 and 1972. He shared the 1956 prize with William B. Shockley and Walter H. Brattain for their joint invention of the transistor. With Leon N. Cooper and John R. Schrieffer he was awarded the 1972 prize for development of the theory of superconductors, usually called the BCS-theory (after the initials of their names). *TIS

1917  Edward Norton Lorenz   (May 23, 1917 - April 16, 2008) American mathematician and meteorologist known for pointing out the "butterfly effect" whereby chaos theory predicts that "slightly differing initial states can evolve into considerably different states." In his 1963 paper in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, he cited the flapping of a seagull's wings as changing the state of the atmosphere in even such a trivial way can result in huge changes in outcome in weather patterns. Thus very long range weather forecasting becomes almost impossible. He determined this unexpected result in 1961 while running a computer weather simulation that gave wildly different results from even tiny changes in the input data. *TIS


1946 Dr. H. Paul Shuch (May 23, 1946- ) is an American scientist and engineer who has coordinated radio amateurs to help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Shuch, an aerospace engineer and microwave technologist is believed by colleague Jack Unger to be the creator of the world's first commercial home satellite TV receiver. A visiting professor at Lycoming College and the Heidelberg University of Applied Sciences, Shuch continues to volunteer as the Executive Director Emeritus of The SETI League, Inc. He has taught physics, astronomy, and engineering on various campuses for over three decades.
Shuch is a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran and active instrument flight instructor. He founded Microcomm Consulting in 1975, where in 1978 he designed and produced a commercial home satellite TV receiver.*Wik

1950 Malcolm John Williamson (May 23, 1950 - ) discovered in 1974 what is now known as Diffie-Hellman key exchangeHe was then working at GCHQ.
Williamson studied at Manchester Grammar School, winning first prize in the 1968 British Mathematical Olympiad. He also won a Silver prize at the 1967 International Mathematical Olympiad in Cetinje, Yugoslavia and a Gold prize at the 1968 International Mathematical Olympiad in Moscow. He read mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1971. After a year at Liverpool University, he joined GCHQ, and worked there until 1982.
From 1985 to 1989 Williamson worked at Nicolet Instruments in Madison, Wisconsin where he was the primary author on two digital hearing aid patents. *Wik

DEATHS
1691 Adrien Auzout (28 January 1622 – 23 May 1691) was a French astronomer.
In 1664–1665 he made observations of comets, and argued in favor of their following elliptical or parabolic orbits. (In this he was opposed by his rival Johannes Hevelius.) Adrien was briefly a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences from 1666 to 1668, and a founding member of the French Royal Obseratory. (He may have left the academy due to a dispute.) He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1666. He then left for Italy and spent the next 20 years in that region, finally dying in Rome in 1691. Little is known about his activities during this last period.
Auzout made contributions in telescope observations, including perfecting the use of the micrometer. He made many observations with large aerial telescopes and he is noted for briefly considering the construction of a huge aerial telescope 1,000 feet in length that he would use to observe animals on the Moon. In 1647 he performed an experiment that demonstrated the role of air pressure in function of the mercury barometer. In 1667–68, Adrien and Jean Picard attached a telescopic sight to a 38-inch quadrant, and used it to accurately determine positions on the Earth. The crater Auzout on the Moon is named after him. *Wik

1857 Augustin-Louis Cauchy (21 August 1789 – 23 May 1857)Augustin-Louis Cauchy pioneered the study of analysis, both real and complex, and the theory of permutation groups. He also researched in convergence and divergence of infinite series, differential equations, determinants, probability and mathematical physics.*SAU
A few hours before his death, age 68,  was talking animatedly with the Archbishop of Paris of the charitable works he had in view—for charity was a life long interest of Cauchy. His last words were “Men pass away but their deeds abide.” [Bell, Men of Mathematics, p 293]. *VFR   Cauchy was active in the Saint Vincent de Paul society, Irish relief, and homes for unwed mothers, but he will always be remembered more as the man who refused Abel's paper to the French Academy.

 1889   George Henri Halphen (30 October 1844, Rouen – 23 May 1889, Versailles) was a French mathematician. He did his studies at École Polytechnique (X 1862). He was known for his work in geometry, particularly in enumerative geometry and the singularity theory of algebraic curves, in algebraic geometry. He also worked on invariant theory and projective differential geometry. *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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