## Thursday, 24 May 2012

### On This Day in Math - May 24

Hence no force, however great,
can stretch a cord, however fine,
into a horizontal line
which is accurately straight:
there will always be a bending downwards.
~William Whewell

The 145th day of the year; 145= 1!  + 4! + 5!.  There are only four such numbers, called factorion.

EVENTS

997 Al-Bırunı in Kath and Abul-Wafa in Baghdad simultaneously watch a lunar eclipse. The time obtained by this prearranged cooperation allowed them to determine the diﬀerence in longitude between the cities. *VFR

1032 The renowned Arab scientist Ibn Sina noted, “I saw Venus as a spot on the surface of the sun,” This is the first known record of witnessing the transit of Venus. The first recorded observation of a transit of Venus was made by Jeremiah Horrocks from his home at Carr House in Much Hoole, near Preston in England, on 4 December 1639. Kepler predicted the 1761 transit of Venus, the first such prediction in Western recorded history, and one that inspired several astronomical expeditions. *Sky and Telescope
1543 An advance copy of his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was presented to Copernicus. On the same day he died. *VFR

1547 Ferrari replied to Tartaglia’s letter of 21 April 1547 by sending 31 challenge problems of his own. Tartaglia solved all but the ﬁve dealing with cubic equations. *VFR  For more on this "math wars" story, see this Renaissance Mathematicus blog.

1626 Manhattan bought from the Indians for ($24) If invested at 5% *VFR {In 1626 Peter Minuit bought Manhattan island from the local Indians for a load of cloth, beads, hatchets, and other odds and ends then worth 60 Dutch guilders. Estimated to have been worth$24 Dollars at a much later time.  If we convert that to silver prices at the time, you could purchase about 18 Troy ounces of Silver.. Today the price of silver is about $35 per ounce, so .. not such a good investment in that sense... } 1844 Samuel F. B. Morse dispatched the first telegraphic message over an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. The message, taken from the Bible, Numbers 23:23 and recorded on a paper tape, had been suggested to Morse by Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a friend. {Nice to have influential friends, she was the teenage daughter of the Commissioner of Patents. Congress appropriated$30,000  for a telegraph wire to be strung the 80 miles between Washington and Baltimore} ..Morse sent the message from the chamber of the Supreme Court, then in the United States Capitol, to his assistant Albert Vail at the Mount Clair depot in Baltimore in 1844.  *Library of Congress
A photo of the actual tape in the Library of Congress is here

1883 Brooklyn Bridge was opened over the East River, New York City, USA, of a breadth of 1,600 feet, navigable water with a single span. What was then regarded as the greatest engineering feat still stands in service today, and remains the world's only stone-towered, steel cabled bridge. Twice the size of the Niagara Suspension Bridge and four times the longest non-extension spans ever attempted, the total length of this colossal structure is 6,927 ft. The road bed is 80 feet wide, and at an elevation of 186 feet above high water. John Roebling, and after his death his son Washington Roebling, worked on its construction for 13 years. *TIS
Contrary to the New York Times Magazine of 27 March 1983, the cables hang in the shape of parabolas, not catenaries. *VFR

1961 MIT's Clark Begins Work on LINC Computer :
Wes Clark began his work on LINC, or the Laboratory Instrument Computer, at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. His plan was to create a computer for biomedical research, that was easy to program and maintain, that could be communicated with while it operated, and that could process biotechnical signals directly. Building on his previous experience in developing the Whirlwind, TX-0, and other early computers, Clark set to work on one of the earliest examples of a "user friendly" machine -- setting the standard for personal computer design in the following decades. *CHM

1965, Hansard, the official record of all English parliamentary debates, recorded in an Appendix the statement by Mr Jay (President of the Board of Trade) saying he was impressed by the case for adoption of the metric system - by a long-term, gradual, voluntary process - and was arranging for the British Standards Institution to investigate. Eventually, as a member of the European Common Market, the transition to the metric system for trade and commerce became obligatory.*TIS

1973 French mathematicians Jean Guilloud and Mlle. Martine Bouyer computed π on a CDC 7600 computer to one million decimal places, the greatest accuracy to (that) date. The value was not veriﬁed until September 3, 1973. It is published in a 400 page book. *VFR

1983 Marshall Stone received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientiﬁc honor, “for his original synthesis of analysis, algebra and topology into the new, vital area of functional analysis, in modern mathematics.” Notices AMS, v. 30, p. 485, contains more information. *VFR

BIRTHS

1544 William Gilbert (24 May 1544 – 30 November 1603)  English scientist, the "father of electrical studies" and a pioneer researcher into magnetism, who spent years investigating magnetic and electrical attractions. Gilbert coined the names of electric attraction, electric force, and magnetic pole. He became the most distinguished man of science in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Noting that a compass needle not only points north and south, but also dips downward, he thought the Earth acts like a bar magnet. Like Copernicus, he believed the Earth rotates on its axis, and that the fixed stars were not all at the same distance from the earth. Gilbert thought it was a form of magnetism that held planets in their orbits. *TIS  "Gilbert shall live, till Load-stones cease to draw,   Or British Fleets the boundless Ocean awe. ~ John Dryden

1640 John Mayow (24 May 1640 - October 1679 ) English chemist and physiologist who, about a hundred years before Joseph Priestley and Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, identified spiritus nitroaereus (oxygen) as a distinct atmospheric entity. He further recognized the role of oxygen in the combustion of metals. His medical writings include a remarkably correct anatomical description of respiration. *TIS  {It is said that he observed a mouse in a sealed jar with a candle, and as the candle flame was going out, the mouse fainted...}

1686 Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (24 May 1686 – 16 September 1736) German physicist and maker of scientific instruments. He is best known for inventing the alcohol thermometer (1709) and mercury thermometer (1714) and for developing the Fahrenheit temperature scale. He devoted himself to the study of physics and the manufacture of precision meteorological instruments. He discovered, among  other things, that water can remain liquid below its freezing point and that the boiling point of  liquids varies with atmospheric pressure.*TIS

1794 William Whewell,  (24 May 1794 – 6 March 1866)  British scientist, best known for his survey of the scientific method and for creating scientific words. He founded mathematical crystallography and developed Mohr's classification of minerals. He created the words scientist and physicist by analogy with the word artist. They soon replaced the older term natural philosopher. (actually the use of scientist was a very slow process often not well received.)  Other useful words were coined to help his friends: biometry for Lubbock; Eocine, Miocene and Pliocene for Lyell; and for Faraday, anode, cathode, diamagnetic, paramagnetic, and ion (whence the sundry other particle names ending -ion). In metereology, Whewell devised a self-recording anemometer. He was second only to Newton for work on tidal theory. He died as a result of being thrown from his horse*TIS
In a single letter to Faraday on 25 April, 1834;  he invented the terms cathode, anode and ion.  The letter is on display at the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge, UK.

1820  William Chauvenet (24 May 1820, Milford, Pennsylvania - 13 December 1870, St. Paul, Minnesota) was born on a farm near Milford, Pennsylvania, in 1820 and was raised in Philadelphia. Early in life he exhibited a knack for mathematics and all things mechanical, and he attended Yale University. Entering Yale at age 16, he graduated in 1840 with high honors and soon after began his scholarly career by assisting a professor at Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a series of magnetic observations. In 1841 he was appointed professor of mathematics in the U.S. Navy and for a few months served on the U.S. steamer Mississippi, where he taught midshipmen. He later taught at and was instrumental in the establishment of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.*Wik

1903  Władysław Roman Orlicz (May 24, 1903 in Okocim, Austria-Hungary (now Poland) – August 9, 1990 in Poznań, Poland) was a Polish mathematician of Lwów School of Mathematics.  His main interest was topology. *Wik

DEATHS

1543 Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) Polish astronomer who proposed that the planets have the Sun as the fixed point to which their motions are to be referred; that the Earth is a planet which, besides orbiting the Sun annually, also turns once daily on its own axis; and that very slow, long-term changes in the direction of this axis account for the precession of the equinoxes    *TIS     An advance copy of his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was presented to Copernicus. On the same day he died. *VFR  Over 450 years after his death, Copernicus was reburied in the cathedral at Frombork on Poland’s Baltic coast. The astronomer whose ideas were once declared heresy by the Vatican—was reburied with full religious honors.

1843  Sylvestre François Lacroix (April 28, 1765, Paris – May 24, 1843) was the writer of important textbooks in mathematics and through these he made a major contribution to the teaching of mathematics throughout France and also in other countries. He published a two volume text Traité de calcul differéntiel et du calcul intégral (1797-1798) which is perhaps his most famous work. In the first of these volumes Lacroix introduces for the first time the expression "analyic geometry" writing:-
There exists a manner of viewing geometry that could be called géométrie analytique, and which would consist in deducing the properties of extension from the least possible number of principles, and by truly analytic methods.
He expanded his masterpiece to three volumes for the second edition published between 1810 and 1819.
Lacroix's texts had an influence beyond France,... and it was through English translations of Traité élémentaire de calcul differéntiel et du calcul intégral by Babbage, Peacock and Herschel that the 'new continental mathematics' entered universities in Britain. It is interesting that Lacroix held the view that algebra and geometry:-
... should be treated separately, as far apart as they can be, and that the results in each should serve for mutual clarification, corresponding, so to speak, to the text of a book and its translation.
His texts appeared in many editions for over 50 years .  *SAU

1896 Luigi Menabrea (4 Sept 1809 in Chambéry, Savoy, France - 24 May 1896 in St Cassin (near Chambéry), France) was a French-born soldier and engineer who made contributions to elasticity theory and became prime-minister of Italy. *SAU

Credits
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell
*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