Tuesday, 28 August 2012

On This Day in Math - August 28



As long as algebra and geometry have been separated, their progress have been slow and their uses limited; but when these two sciences have been united, they have lent each mutual forces, and have marched together towards perfection.
~Joseph Louis Lagrange

The 241st day of the year; 241 is the larger of a pair of twin primes. The larger of a pair of twin primes is always one more than a multiple of six; the smaller is always one less than a multiple of six.


EVENTS

412 BC The ancient city of Syracuse suffered heavily under siege by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. A turn of events occurred during the Second Battle of Syracuse: on Aug. 28, 412 B.C. a lunar eclipse occurred, causing the superstitious Athenians to delay departure. The Syracuseans took advantage of Athenian indecision and decisively defeated the unprotected Athenian expedition as it sat exposed in the harbor. *listosaur.com

1730 Murder by Unicorn Horn on a Holborn skittle-ground : On the 28th of August 1730, Joseph Hastings died after receiving “several mortal Bruises with an Unicorn’s Horn”, wielded by John Williams of St. Andrew’s Holborn eleven days earlier. The assault occurred on a Holborn skittle-ground, witnessed by several local men.
Williams was angered by Hastings response to his offer to purchase the (probably Narwhale) horn and an argument ensued which led to the beating. More detail at Sloan Letters

In 1789, Sir William Herschel discovered Saturn's moon Enceladus. *TIS

1845 the first issue of the Scientific American was published by Rufus Porter (1792-1884), a versatile if eccentric Yankee, who was by turns a portrait-painter, schoolmaster, inventor and editor. While the paper was still a small weekly journal with a circulation less than 300, he offered it for sale. It was bought for $800 in July 1846 by 20-year-old Alfred Ely Beach (1826-1896) as editor, and Orson Desaix Munn (1824-1907). Together, they built it over the years into a great and unique periodical. Their circulation reached 10,000 by 1848, 20,000 by 1852, and 30,000 by 1853.*TIS

1893 The first day of the Evanston Colloquial lectures by Felix Klein which would continue until 9 September.
*Karen Hunger Parshall, David E. Rowe; The Emergence of the American Mathematical Research Community, 1876-1900

1961 The Board of Governors of the MAA voted to name Dr. Mina S. Rees, (first) Dean of Graduate Studies at the City University of New York, the first recipient of their Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics. From 1946 to 1953 she held several important positions at the Office of Naval Research and was instrumental in getting ONR to adopt the policy that mathematics was part of this country’s total scientific effort and should be properly supported by government-sponsored research programs. [AMM 69(1962), pp. 185-187]. *VFR

1974 Sweden issued a stamp picturing a spool and thread, with the thread stretched to form a string figure of a hyperbola. [Scott #1094]. *VFR

1993, a picture was taken showing the first moon of an asteroid. The asteroid 243 Ida and its newly-discovered moon, Dactyl was imaged by NASA's Galileo spacecraft, about 14 minutes before its closest approach (within 2,400-km or 1,500 miles) to the asteroid. Ida is about 52 km (32 mi) in length and is irregularly shaped. It shows numerous craters, including many degraded craters, indicating Ida's surface is older than previously thought. Dactyl is only about 1.4-km in diameter, and it is spectrally different from Ida data. The picture was released on 26 Mar 1994. Galileo had encountered the first asteroid - 951 Gaspra - on 29 Oct 1991. Galileo continued on its mission to study Jupiter, beginning its orbit of the planet on 7 Dec 1995.*TIS



BIRTHS

1796 Irénée-Jules Bienaymé (28 August 1796, 19 October 1878), was a French statistician. He built on the legacy of Laplace generalizing his least squares method. He contributed to the fields and probability, and statistics and to their application to finance, demography and social sciences. In particular, he formulated the Bienaymé-Chebyshev inequality concerning the law of large numbers and the Bienaymé formula for the variance of a sum of uncorrelated random variables.*Wik

1801 Antoine-Augustin Cournot (28 Aug 1801; 31 Mar 1877) French economist and mathematician, who was the first economist who applied mathematics to the treatment of economic questions. In 1838, he published Recherches sur les principes mathématiques de la théorie des richesses (Researches into the Mathematical Principles of the Theory of Wealth) which was a treatment of mathematical economics. In particular, he considered the supply-and-demand functions. Further, he studied the conditions for equilibrium with monopoly, duopoly and perfect competition. He included the effect of taxes, treated as changes in production costs, and discussed problems of international trade. His definition of a market is still the basis for that presently used in economics. In other work, he applied probability to legal statistics *TIS

1863 Andre-Eugene Blondel (28 Aug 1863; 15 Nov 1938) was a French physicist who invented (1893) the electromagnetic oscillograph, a device that allowed electrical researchers to observe the intensity of alternating currents. In 1894, he proposed the lumen and other new photometric units for use in photometry, based on the metre and the Violle candle. Endorsed in 1896 by the International Electrical Congress, his system is still in use with only minor modifications. Blondel was a pioneer in the high voltage long distance transport of electric power, and also contributed to developments in wireless telegraphy, acoustics, and mechanics. He proposed theories for induction motors and coupling of a.c. generators.*TIS

1867 Maxime Bˆochner born. After receiving his doctorate under Felix Klein in 1891 he returned to Harvard for a lifetime of teaching and research in differential equations. *VFR

1883 Jan A Schouten worked on tensor analysis and its applications.*SAU

1901 Kurt Otto Friedrichs (September 28, 1901 – December 31, 1982) was a noted German American mathematician. He was the co-founder of the Courant Institute at New York University and recipient of the National Medal of Science.*Wik

1911 Shizuo Kakutani (角谷 静夫 Kakutani Shizuo?, August 28 1911, August 17 2004) was a Japanese-born American mathematician, best known for his eponymous fixed-point theorem. *Wik

1912 George Eric Deacon Alcock (August 28, 1912 – December 15, 2000)
George Alcock was an English astronomer. He was one of the most successful visual discoverers of novae and comets. He was also a very good (probably under-respected) teacher of the 4th year at Southfields Junior School in Stanground, Peterborough. In 1953 he decided to start searching for comets and in 1955 began searching for novae. His technique was to memorize the patterns of thousands of stars, so that he would visually recognize any intruder.
In 1959 he discovered comet C/1959 Q1 (Alcock), the first comet discovered in Britain since 1894, and only five days later discovered another, C/1959 Q2 (Alcock). He discovered two more comets in 1963 and 1965. He later discovered his first nova, Nova Delphini 1967 (HR Delphini), which turned out to have an unusual light curve. He discovered two more novas, LV Vul (in 1968) and V368 Sct (in 1970). He found his fifth and final comet in 1983: C/1983 H1 (IRAS-Araki-Alcock). In 1991 he found the nova V838 Her.
Alcock won the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1963 and Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1981. After his death, a plaque was placed in Peterborough Cathedral in his memory. *TIA

1919 Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield (28 Aug 1919; 12 Aug 2004) English electrical engineer who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (with Allan Cormack) for creation of computerised axial tomography (CAT) scanners. He originated the idea during a country walk in 1967 when he realized that the contents of a box could be reconstructed by taking readings at all angles through it. He applied the concept for scanning the brain using hundreds of X-ray beams imaging cross-sections that were reconstructed as high-resolution graphics by a computer program handling complex algebraic calculations. By 1973 his CAT scanner could produce cross-section images of a brain in 4-1/2-min, invaluable for the diagnosis of brain diseases. He later built larger machines able to make a full body scan. *TIS

1939 John Frank Charles Kingman (28 August 1939, )worked in Statistics and made significant advances in queuing theory.
He was N. M. Rothschild and Sons Professor of Mathematical Sciences and Director of the Isaac Newton Institute at the University of Cambridge from 2001 until 2006, when he was succeeded by Sir David Wallace. He is famous for developing the mathematics of the coalescent, a theoretical model of inheritance, which is fundamental to modern population genetics. *Wik

1951 Edward Witten (born August 26, 1951) is an American theoretical physicist with a focus on mathematical physics who is a professor of Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey.
Witten is a researcher in superstring theory, a theory of quantum gravity, supersymmetric quantum field theories and other areas of mathematical physics.[1]
He has made contributions in mathematics and helped bridge gaps between fundamental physics and other areas of mathematics. In 1990 he became the first physicist to be awarded a Fields Medal by the International Union of Mathematics. In 2004, Time magazine stated that Witten was widely thought to be the world's greatest living theoretical physicist. *Wik


DEATHS

2005 George Szekeres (29 May 1911 – 28 August 2005) was a Hungarian-born mathematician who worked for most of his life in Australia on geometry and combinatorics. *SAU
Szekeres worked closely with many prominent mathematicians throughout his life, including Paul Erdős, Esther Szekeres (née Esther Klein), Paul Turán, Béla Bollobás, Ronald Graham, Alf van der Poorten, Miklós Laczkovich, and John Coates.
The so-called Happy Ending problem is an example of how mathematics pervaded George's life. During 1933, George and several other students met frequently in Budapest to discuss mathematics. At one of these meetings, Esther Klein proposed the following problem:

Given five points in the plane in general position, prove that four of them form a convex quadrilateral.

After allowing George, Paul Erdős, and the other students to scratch their heads for some time, Esther explained her proof. Subsequently, George and Paul wrote a paper (1935) that generalizes this result; it is regarded as one of the foundational works in the field of combinatorial geometry. Erdős dubbed the original problem the "Happy Ending" problem because it resulted in George and Esther's marriage in 1937.
George and Esther died within an hour of each other, on the same day, 28 August 2005, in Adelaide, Australia.*Wik

2007 Paul Beattie MacCready (29 Sep 1925, 28 Aug 2007) was an American engineer who invented not only the first human-powered flying machines, but also the first solar-powered aircraft to make sustained flights. On 23 Aug 1977, the pedal-powered aircraft, the Gossamer Condor successfully flew a 1.15 mile figure-8 course to demonstrate sustained, maneuverable manpowered flight, for which he won the £50,000 ($95,000) Kremer Prize. MacCready designed the Condor with Dr. Peter Lissamen. Its frame was made of thin aluminum tubes, covered with mylar plastic supported with stainless steel wire. In 1979, the Gossamer Albatross won the second Kremer Prize for making a flight across the English Channel. *TIS

2011 Anthony Edgar Sale (or Tony Sale) (30 January 1931 - 28 August 2011) led the construction of a Colossus computer replica at Bletchley Park, completed in 2007 *Wik


In 1994, a team led by Tony Sale began a reconstruction of a Colossus at Bletchley Park. Here, in 2006, Sale (right) supervises the breaking of an enciphered message with the completed machine. *Wik Photo





Credits
*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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