Monday, 24 September 2012

On This Day in Math - September 24


Scipio Ferro of Bologna well-nigh thirty years ago discovered this rule and handed it on to Antonio Maria Fior of Venice, whose contest with Niccolo Tartaglia of Brescia gave Niccolo occasion to discover it. He [Tartaglia] gave it to me in response to my entreaties, though withholding the demonstration. Armed with this assistance, I sought out its demonstration in [various] forms. This was very difficult.
~Girolamo Cardano

This is the 268th day of the year, 268 is the smallest number whose product of digits is 6 times the sum of its digits. (A good classroom exploration might be to find numbers in which the product of the digits is n x the sum of the digits for various values of n.. more generally, for what percentage of numbers is the sum a factor of the product at all?)


EVENTS

1846 Neptune First observed… “Just after midnight on September 24th of this year, Neptune will be exactly 165 earth years older. It was on that date, back in 1846, that German Astronomer Johann Galle, assisted by graduate student Heinrich Louis d’Arrest, trained the 24 centimeter (9 inch) Fraunhofer Refractor of the Berlin Observatory on a patch of sky near the Aquarius-Capricorn border (see illustration below) and observed the small, blue disk of Neptune. On July 12th of this year, Neptune completed exactly one orbit since its discovery. One hundred and sixty five years ago a series of events played out in France, England and Germany that would culminate in a watershed moment in the history science and astronomy, a discovery that would prove to be unique and unrepeatable. These events were rife with centuries-old rivalries, political conspiracy and intrigue, all mixed together with good mathematics, some good science, some bad science, some luck and much mayhem.” more of this interesting story from Tom Madigan’s website.



BIRTHS

1501 Girolamo Cardano (24 Sep 1501; 21 Sep 1576) Famous for his Ars magna of 1545, which contained detailed and systematics algebraic solutions to cubic and quartic equations. He was one of the most colorful figures in the whole history of mathematics, as is well illustrated in his autobiography, The Book of My Life. *VFR
Italian physician, mathematician, and astrologer who was the first to give a clinical description of typhus fever. His book, Ars magna ("Great Art," 1545) was one of the great achievements in the history of algebra, in which he published the solutions to the cubic and quartic equations. His mechanical inventions included the combination lock, the compass gimbal consisting of three concentric rings, and the universal joint to transmit rotary motion at various angles (as used in present-day vehicles). He contributed to hydrodynamics and held that perpetual motion is impossible, except in celestial bodies. He published two encyclopedias of natural science and introduced the Cardan grille, a cryptographic tool (1550). *TIS


1625 Jan de Witt born. This statesman for the Netherlands wrote, before 1650, one of the first systematic developments of the analytic geometry of the straight line and conics. It was printed in Van Schooten’s second Latin edition of Descartes’ geometry (1659–1661).*VFR A nice short article about his unusual death, and life are at this blog by The Renaissance Mathematicus

1844 Max Noether born (24 September 1844 – 13 December 1921) . One of the leaders of nineteenth century algebraic geometry. Although himself a very distinguished mathematician, his daughter Emmy Noether was to bring greater innovation to mathematics than did her father. *SAU

1870 Georges Claude (24 Sep 1870; 23 May 1960) The French engineer, chemist, and inventor of the neon light, Georges Claude, was born in Paris. He invented the neon light, which was the forerunner of the fluorescent light. Claude was the first to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas, around 1902 and make a neon lamp ("Neon" from Greek "neos," meaning "new gas.") He first publicly displayed the neon lamp on 11 Dec 1910 in Paris. His French company Claude Neon, introduced neon signs to the U.S. with two "Packard" signs for a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles, purchased by Earle C. Anthony for $24,000. *TIS

1891 William F. Friedman (24 Sep 1891; 12 Nov 1969) one of the world's greatest cryptologists, who helped decipher enemy codes from World War I to World War II. He was born as Wolfe Friedman.in Kishinev, Russia. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Originally trained as an agricultural geneticist, he had become interested in cryptology. During World War I, with his wife Elizebeth, he set up a cryptology school for military personnel, which led to appointment by the U.S. as head of the Signal Intelligence Service (1930). He broke the Japanese "Purple" code (1937-40), thus allowing Americans to read much of Japan's secret messages during World War II. *TIS There is a bust of him at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade Maryland on which he is identified as the "Dean of American Cryptology". There is an interesting biography here .

1896 Tadeusz Ważewski (24 September 1896 – 5 September 1972) was a Polish mathematician.
Ważewski made important contributions to the theory of ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, control theory and the theory of analytic spaces. He is most famous for applying the topological concept of retract, introduced by Karol Borsuk to the study of the solutions of differential equations. *Wik
Ważewski studied at the Jagiellonian University in 1914–1920. He started from physics but very quickly turned to mathematics. Ważewski was a pupil of Zaremba.
He spent three years in Paris and got a doctoral diploma from Sorbona.
Ważewski’s research started from topology. In his doctoral dissertation he obtained interesting results on dendrites (locally connected continua not containing simple closed curves). *Ciesielski & Pogoda, EMS Newsletter December 2012

1898 Charlotte Moore Sitterly (24 Sep 1898; 3 Mar 1990) astrophysicist who organized, analyzed, and published definitive books on the solar spectrum and spectral line multiplets. From 1945 to age 90, she conducted this work at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and the Naval Research Laboratory. She detected that technetium, an unstable element (previously known only as a result of laboratory experiments with nuclear reactions) exists in nature. She made major contributions to the compilation of tables for atomic-energy levels associated with optical spectra, which are now standard reference material. As instruments carried in space rockets provided new data in the ultraviolet, she extended these tables beyond the optical range. She was awarded the Bruce Medal in 1990.*TIS

1904 Evan T Davies graduated from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth and then studied in Rome and Paris. After lecturing at King's College London he was appointed to a professorship in Southampton. He worked in Differential Geometry and the Calculus of Variations.*SAU

1906 Pol(idore) Swings, (24 Sep 1906; 1983) Belgian astrophysicist, made spectroscopic studies to identify elements and structure of stars and comets. He discovered the first interstellar molecule, the CH radical (1937). In comet atmospheres he studied the "Swings bands" - certain carbon emission lines. In 1941, with a slit spectrograph he identified a "Swings effect" in the violet CN bands (3875 A) - a fluorescence partly due to solar radiation that shows emmission line excitation differences dependant on the Doppler shift caused by a comet's motion relative to the Sun. He co-authored an Atlas of Cometary Spectra with Leo Haser in 1956. *TIS

1923 Raoul Bott (September 24, 1923 – December 20, 2005) was a Hungarian-born mathematician who made fundamental contributions to topology and differential geometry*SAU

1923 René Thom (September 2, 1923 – October 25, 2002) is known for his development of catastrophe theory, a mathematical treatment of continuous action producing a discontinuous result. *SAU

1930 John Watts Young (24 Sep 1930, ) astronaut who was the commander of the first ever Space Shuttle mission (STS-1, 12 Apr 1981), walked on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission (21 Apr 1972), made the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft with Virgil Grissom. *TIS




DEATHS

1054 Hermann of Reichenau (1013 July 18 – 1054 September 24), was a German mathematician who important for the transmission of Arabic mathematics, astronomy and scientific instruments into central Europe. Hermann introduced three important instruments into central Europe, knowledge of which came from Arabic Spain. He introduced the astrolabe, a portable sundial and a quadrant with a cursor.
His works include De Mensura Astrolabii and De Utilitatibus Astrolabii (some parts of these works may not have been written by Hermann).
Hermann's contributions to mathematics include a treatise dealing with multiplication and division, although this book is written entirely with Roman numerals. He also wrote on a complicated game based on Pythagorean number theory which was derived from Boethius. *SAU

1651 Etienne Pascal died (Clermont, May 2, 1588 - Paris, September 24, 1651). The Pascal limacon is named after him, and not after his famous son who later came blazing on the scene. *VFR Étienne is famed as the discoverer of the curve the Limaçon of Pascal. The curve, so named by Roberval, can be used to trisect an angle. He discovered the curve in around 1637. (Limacon is from the Latin word for a snail the curve is a roulette formed when a circle rolls around the outside of another circle.) In a letter (see Lettre d'Étienne Pascal et Roberval à Fermat, samedi 16 août 1636) he actively argued in favour of Fermat's De maximis et minimis in opposition to Descartes who viewed the work in a very negative light. *SAU

1938 Lew Genrichowitsch Schnirelmann (2 January(15January 1905greg.) in Gomel; 24 September 1938 in Moscaw) . He was a Belarussian mathematician who made important contributions to the Goldbach conjecture. Using these ideas of compactness of a sequence of natural numbers he was able to prove a weak form of the Goldbach conjecture showing that every number is the sum of ≤ 20 primes.*SAU

1945 Hans (Wilhelm) Geiger (30 Sep 1882, 24 Sep  1945) was a German physicist who introduced the Geiger counter, the first successful detector of individual alpha particles and other ionizing radiations. After earning his Ph.D. at the University of Erlangen in 1906, he collaborated at the University of Manchester with Ernest Rutherford. He used the first version of his particle counter, and other detectors, in experiments that led to the identification of the alpha particle as the nucleus of the helium atom and to Rutherford's statement (1912) that the nucleus occupies a very small volume in the atom. Geiger returned to Germany in 1912 and continued to investigate cosmic rays, artificial radioactivity, and nuclear fission. *TIS
1999 Anneli Cahn Lax (23 Feb 1922 in Katowice, Poland - 24 Sept 1999 in New York City, New York, USA) Anneli Cahn was born in Katowice, then a German city, but now part of Poland, on February 23, 1922. Her family fled Hitler’s regime in 1935 and settled in New York. She married Peter Lax, a fellow mathematician,
in 1948. Their lives together included a shared love for mathematics. Perhaps her most important contribution to mathematics was as editor of the New Mathematics Library. The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 was a shock to the American scientific community, a shock felt on every level. Much thought was devoted to the education of a new generation who would accelerate the pace of American scientific productivity. Out of this endeavor grew the New Mathematical Library. The notion was to make accessible to interested high school students, and to a more general public, deep results in mathematics
described by research mathematicians. (This sort of work had long been going on in Eastern Europe.) Lax was asked to take over as general editor for this series, and under her guidance it grew to be the foremost mathematical expository
series in the language. Upon her death it was renamed in her honor. *Mark Saul, Obituary for the AMS VOl 47,#7


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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