Monday, 27 August 2012

On This Day in Math - August 27

Questions that pertain to the foundations of mathematics, although treated by many in recent times, 
still lack a satisfactory solution. The difficulty has its main sourse in the ambiguity of language.

Giuseppe Peano,
Opening of the paper Arithmetices principia in which he introduced axioms for the integers.

The 240th day of the year; 240 has more divisors (20 of them) than any previous number. What would be the first number that has more?


In 413 BC, a lunar eclipse caused panic among the sailors of the Athens fleet and thus affected the outcome of a battle in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians were ready to move their forces from Syracuse when the Moon was eclipsed. The soldiers and sailors were frightened by this celestial omen and were reluctant to leave. Their commander, Nicias, consulted the soothsayers and postponed the departure for 27 days. This delay gave an advantage to their enemies, the Syracusans, who then defeated the entire Athenian fleet and army, and killed Nicias.*TIS

1666 John Evelyn makes an on-site visit to Old St. Pauls with Christopher Wren.  "We went about to survey the general decays of that ancient and venerable church, and to set down the particulars in writing, what was fit to be done.."  Five days later the reports would be rendered meaningless by the Great London Fire.  *Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits, pgs 69-70

1760 Leonhard Euler, in his Letters to a German Princess on various topics of physics and philosophy, explains how a surveyor uses a level. As an example he asks which end of the straight line between their homes is higher. He discusses the flow of the rivers that connect their homes, but gives the wrong answer to his question. For discussion of this famous error, see Eves, Adieu, 34 *VFR

1771 Joseph Priestley finds a mint plant rejuvenates "spent" air. He had set out ten days earlier to test the rejuvenating effect of mint growing in a sealed container. He placed a candle in the covered glass and let it burn out in the presence of the mint. On the 27th he would return to the experiment and relight the candle and find, "it burned perfectly well in it." *Steven Johnson, The Invention of Air

1776 Even in the onset of the American Revolution, (Nathan Hale was executed for treason only five days before) future President John Adams, wrote of a visit to the Princeton Orrery: "Here we saw a most beautiful machine--an Orrery or planetarium constructed by Mr. Rittenhouse of Philadelphia. It exhibits almost every motion in the astronomical world."
David Rittenhouse was a renowned American astronomer, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, scientific instrument craftsman, & public official. Rittenhouse was a president of the American Philosophical Society; Treausrer of Pennsylvania; & the first director of the United States Mint. *Barbara Wells Sarudy

1798 Egyptian Institute founded by Napoleon in imitation of the Institut de France *VFR

1911 A century ago, on August 27, 1911, headlines of the New York Times announced that Martians had completed stunning feats of engineering and construction: two 1000-mile-long canals built on Mars in a two-year period.  These canals had not only been seen and sketched by astronomers, but also had been captured photographically, appearing in the photos as “the most marked features on that part of the planet”. *The Renaissance Mathematicus

1947 China (there was only one until 1949) issued four stamps honoring Confucius. [Scott #741-4]. *VFR

1993 Compaq Computer Corp. announced its Presario family of personal computers, intended to be user friendly and cheap. For $1,399, the Presario included a monitor, modem, and software to access the recently popularized online world through Prodigy and America Online. *CHM

1850 Augusto Righi (27 August 1850 – 8 June 1920) was an Italian physicist and a pioneer in the study of electromagnetism. He was born and died in Bologna.
Righi was the first person to generate microwaves,[citation needed] and opened a whole new area of the electromagnetic spectrum to research and subsequent applications. His work L'ottica delle oscillazioni elettriche (1897), which summarised his results, is considered a classic of experimental electromagnetism. Marconi was his student. *Wik

1858 Birthdate of Giuseppe Peano (27 Aug 1858; 20 Apr 1932) Italian mathematician who founded symbolic logic. Through the use of symbols, equations are more easily understood by anyone regardless of their language. For example, Peano introduced symbols to represent "belongs to the set of" and "there exists." In Arithmetics principia (1889), a pamphlet he wrote in Latin, Peano published his first version of a system of mathematical logic, giving his Peano axioms defining the natural numbers in terms of sets. In 1903, Peano unsuccessfully proposed an international, artificial language he called "Latino sine flexione." It was based on Latin without grammar. Its vocabulary comprised words from English, French, German and Latin. *TIS Thony Christie maintains that this may overstate his contribution. "I've been here before. Peano made a substantial contribution to the history of symbolic logic, especially the fact that it was his work that inspired Russell. However I think Boole, Jevons, Demorgan, Venn, McColl, Frege, Peirce, Ladd-Franklin and quite a few others who were doing symbolic logic before Peano might object to him being called its founder. To say nothing of the Stoics! "

1915 Norman Foster Ramsey (27 Aug 1915, )American physicist who shared (with Wolfgang Paul and Hans Georg Dehmelt) the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physics in 1989 for "for the invention of the separated oscillatory fields method and its use in the hydrogen maser and other atomic clocks." His work produced a more precise way to observe the transitions within an atom switching from one specific energy level to another. In the cesium atomic clock, his method enables observing the transitions between two very closely spaced levels (hyperfine levels). The accuracy of such a clock is about one part in ten thousand billion. In 1967, one second was defined as the time during which the cesium atom makes exactly 9,192,631,770 oscillations.*TIS

1923 Jacob Willem "Wim" Cohen (27 August 1923, 12 November 2000) was a Dutch mathematician, well known for over a hundred scientific publications and several books in queueing theory. *Wik

1926 Kristen Nygaard (August 27, 1926, August 10, 2002) was a Norwegian computer scientist, programming language pioneer and politician. He was born in Oslo and died of a heart attack in 2002. Internationally he is acknowledged as the co-inventor of object-oriented programming and the programming language Simula with Ole-Johan Dahl in the 1960s.


1898 John Hopkinson (27 Jul 1849, 27 Aug 1898)British physicist and electrical engineer who worked on the application of electricity and magnetism in devices like the dynamo and electromagnets. Hopkinson's law (the magnetic equivalent of Ohm's law) bears his name. In 1882, he patented his invention of the three-wire system (three phase) for electricity generation and distribution. He presented the principle the synchronous motors (1883), and designed electric generators with better efficiency. He also studied condensers and the phenomena of residual load. In his earlier career, he became (1872) engineering manager of Chance Brothers and Co., a glass manufacturer in Birmingham, where he studied lighthouse illumination, improving efficiency with flashing groups of lights.*TIS

1912 Mikhail Vashchenko-Zakharchenko worked on the theory of linear differential equations, the theory of probability and non-euclidean geometry.*SAU

1958 Ernest Orlando Lawrence (8 Aug 1901, 27 Aug 1958 ) American physicist who was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, the first device for the production of high energy particles. His first device, built in 1930 used a 10-cm magnet. He accelerated particles within a cyclinder at high vacuum between the poles of an electromagnetic to confine the beam to a spiral path, while a high A.C. voltage increased the particle energy. Larger models built later created 8 x 104 eV beams. By colliding particles with atomic nuclei, he produced new elements and artificial radioactivity. By 1940, he had created plutonium and neptunium. He extended the use of atomic radiation into the fields of biology and medicine. Element 103 was named Lawrencium as a tribute to him. *TIS

1988 Max Black​ (24 February 1909, 27 August 1988) was a British-American philosopher and a leading influence in analytic philosophy in the first half of the twentieth century. He made contributions to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics and science, and the philosophy of art, also publishing studies of the work of philosophers such as Frege. His translation (with Peter Geach) of Frege's published philosophical writing is a classic text. *Wik

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