Friday, 30 November 2012

On This Day in Math - November 30

Gilbert shall live, till Load-stones cease to draw,
Or British Fleets the boundless Ocean awe.
— John Dryden

The 335th day of the year; 2^335 is the smallest power of two which equals the sum of four consecutive primes. *Prime Curios


In 1609, the modern face of the moon first emerged when Galileo Galilei in Padua turned his telescope toward the moon, noted the irregularities of the crescent face, and made a drawing to record his discoveries. He made at least five more drawings of the moon over the next eighteen days, prepared careful watercolor sketches from these drawings, and then selected four of these to be engraved for his revolutionary Starry Messenger, which appeared the following March. Galileo's treatise announced to an astonished public that the moon was a cratered chunk of elements - a world - and not some globe of quintessential perfection. It was a new land, to be explored, charted, and named. *TIS

1703 Newton made president of the Royal Society, an office he held until his death.*VFR

1710 John Machin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. *SAU
1712 William Jones elected fellow of the Royal Society. In 1706 he introduced the Greek letter π for the ratio of the circumfrence of a circle to a diameter in his book Synopsis palmariarum matheseos (1706). This title is hard to translate. Literally it means a synopsis of the palm leaves of mathematics. Thus it is a compendium of the most praisworthy parts of mathematics. Earlier William Oughtred (1647) and Isaac Barrow (1669) used the same symbol for twice the number. The symbol was not generally used in our sense until Euler, who adopted it in 1737, popularixed π in his Introductio in analysin infinitorum of 1748. See DSB 7, 163, and “The ubiquitous π ” by Dario Castellanos, Mathematics Magazine 61(1988), 67–98, especially p. 91.

1753 Benjamin Franklin received the Copley Medal, the highest honor of the Royal Society of London, for his “curious experiments and observations on electricity.” He was the first American to receive the Copley Medal. Three years later he was elected a member of the Royal Society. *VFR

In 1784, American physician and scientist John Jeffries recorded the first scientific data for free air, to a height of 9,309-ft, during a balloon flight in London, England, including twelve observations of temperature, pressure, and humidity. Jeffries' values agree closely with modern determinations. Jeffries had provided himself with thermometer, barometer, electrometer, hygrometer and timepiece. He also took air samples at different elevations for Cavendish, who subsequently made a chemical analysis of the air. This was the first of two balloon flights Jeffries financed. He flew with Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard, who had experience in balloon flight. On 7 Jan 1785, they made the first balloon crossing of the English Channel.*TIS

1877 Luigi Bianchi received his degree in mathematics. His work on metric differential geometry found application in Einstein’s studies on relativity.*VFR

In 1904, the first electron tube, a diode thermionic valve, was invented by John Ambrose Fleming. The valve consists of a carbon or tungsten filament lamp, to which is added a metal plate (insulated from the filament), and a connecting wire brought through the glass wall of the bulb to a third terminal outside. When battery current is applied to the filament making it incandescent, the space between the filament and the insulated plate will be found to conduct elecrons in only one direction. That means if the valve is connected in a circuit in with an oscillating current, its one-way conductivity will convert the oscillating current into a unidirectional current capable of actuating a telephone receiver. He notified Marconi in a 30 Nov 1904 letter.*TIS

1917 Bose Institute founded. Bose Institute is a research institute in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Plant biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Animal physiology, Immunotechnology and Environmental science. The institute was established in 1917 by Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose, who was the founder of modern scientific research in India. Bose Institute pioneered the concept of inter-disciplinary research in India in synch with global trends. Its alumni have achieved renown in India and the world.
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose founded the Institute on 30'th November 1917 with the following opening speech:
“I dedicate today this Institute as not merely a laboratory but a temple .... In the pursuit of my investigations I was unconsciously led into the border region of physics and physiology. To my amazement, I found boundary lines vanishing, and points of contact emerging, between the realms of the living and the non-living .... The lectures given here will not be mere repetitions of second-hand knowledge. They will announce new discoveries, demonstrated for the first time in these halls. Through regular publication of the work of the Institute, these Indian contributions will reach the whole world. They will become public property. No patents will ever be taken. The spirit of our national culture demands that we should forever be free from the desecration of utilizing knowledge only for personal gain."

In 1954, in Sylacauga, Alabama, USA, Ann Hodges, 32, was bruised on the arm and hip by a meteorite that fell through the roof of her house into her living room. It smashed the case of her wooden radio and struck her as she lay resting on her sofa. The 9-lb (4-kg), 6 in (15 cm) diameter fragment came from a larger, likely more than 150-lb, chondrite meteorite that exploded over central Alabama about 2 pm, according to reports from people in several states that saw a bright flash across the sky. This remains (2006) the only recorded instance of a person being hit by a meteorite. She donated it in 1956 to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, and it is known by her name as the Hodges Meteorite.*TIS

1959 The first two IBM 7090 computers are delivered. Along with the faster version, which IBM released three years later, the series was a popular family of transistorized mainframes. Designed for scientific research and large-scale technological application, the computers were used in such projects as the Mercury and Gemini space flights and the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. *CHM

1967 Ireland issued two stamps to commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. If you have read this book, then you know why this entry is included here; if you haven’t, then you should, and then you would. [Scott #240-241]. *VFR (For one example, see Bob M's comment below, Thanks Bob)


1549 Sir Henry Savile (30 Nov 1549 in Bradley (near Halifax), Yorkshire, England - 19 Feb 1622 in Eton, Berkshire, England) Savile was an English mathematician who founded professorships of geometry and astronomy at Oxford. It is interesting to read Savile's comments in these lectures on why he felt that mathematics at that time was not flourishing. Students did not understand the importance of the subject, Savile wrote, there were no teachers to explain the difficult points, the texts written by the leading mathematicians of the day were not studied, and no overall approach to the teaching of mathematics had been formulated. Of course, as we shall see below, fifty years later Savile tried to rectify these shortcomings by setting up two chairs at the University of Oxford. *SAU

1711 Ebenezer Kinnersley (30 Nov 1711; 4 Jul 1778) English-born American experimenter and inventor who investigated electricity. In 1748 Kinnersley demonstrated that the electric fluid actually passed through water, using a 10-ft long trough of water. In 1751, as one of the earliest popularizers of science, he began delivering lectures on "The Newly Discovered Electrical Fire." His experiments discovered the difference between the electricity that was produced by the glass and sulphur globes, which he communicated to Benjamin Franklin at Philadelphia, since they showed beyond a doubt that the positive and negative theory was correct. He also sought ways to protect buildings from lightning, invented an electric thermometer (c. 1755), and demonstrated that electricity can produce heat.*TIS

1756 Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (30 Nov 1756; 3 Apr 1827) German physicist, known as the "father of acoustics" for his mathematical investigations of sound waves. Chladni figures, seen when thin plates covered in sand at set in vibration, are complex patterns of vibration with nodal lines that remain stationary and retain sand. He demonstrated these to an audience of scientists in 1809. He measured the speed of sound in various gases by determining the pitch of the note of an organ pipe filled with different gases. To determine the speed of sound in solids, Chladni, used analysis of the nodal pattern in standing-wave vibrations in long rods. He performed on the euphonium, an instrument he invented, made of glass and steel bars vibrated by rubbing with a moistened finger. He also investigated meteorites.*TIS

1869 Nils Dalén (30 Nov 1869; 9 Dec 1837)Swedish engineer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1912 for his invention of the automatic sun valve, or Solventil, which regulates a gaslight source by the action of sunlight, turning it off at dawn and on at dusk or at other periods of darkness. It rapidly came into worldwide use for buoys and unmanned lighthouses. While recovering from an accident, convalescing at home, he noticed how much time his wife spent caring for their wood-burning stove. He decided to invent a more efficient and cost-effective stove. In 1922, Dalen's Amalgamated Gas Accumulator Co. patented his design and put the first AGA stoves into production. These stoves produced a radiant heat that kept the kitchen warm. The AGA remains popular today.*TIS (My wife's favorite entry. Her first experience with an AGA was to turn materials for a pie into pure carbonized dust.)

1891 Edward Lindsay Ince (30 Nov 1891 in Amblecote, Staffordshire, England
- 16 March 1941 in Edinburgh, Scotland) Ince graduated from Edinburgh and researched at Edinburgh and Cambridge. He worked at universities in Leeds, Liverpool, Cairo, Edinburgh and Imperial College London before moving back to Edinburgh as Head of Technical Mathematics. He worked on Special Functions. *SAU

1910 Franz Leopold Alt (November 30, 1910 – July 21, 2011) was an Austrian-born American mathematician who made major contributions to computer science in its early days. He was best known as one of the founders of the Association for Computing Machinery, and served as its president from 1950 to 1952. *Wik
1936 Dmitri Victorovich Anosov (November 30, 1936 in Moscow, ) is a Soviet and Russian mathematician, known for his contributions to dynamical systems theory.
He is a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a laureate of the USSR State Prize (1976). He was a student of Lev Pontryagin.*Wik


1603 William Gilbert (24 May 1544, 30 Nov 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

1647 (Francesco) Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598, 30 Nov 1647) Italian mathematician who made developments in geometry that were precursors to integral calculus. Cavalieri's theory of indivisibles, presented in his Geometria indivisibilis continuorum nova (1635) was a development of Archimedes' method of exhaustion incorporating Kepler's theory of infinitesimally small geometric quantities. The area and volume of various geometric figures can easily be found with this method. He was largely responsible for introducing logarithms as a computational tool in Italy through his book Directorium Generale Uranometricum, including logarithms of trigonometric functions for astronomers. He also wrote on optics and astronomy. Galileo thought highly of his writing, and corresponded with him. *TIS

1761 John Dollond (10 Jun 1706, 30 Nov 1761) British maker of optical and astronomical instruments who developed (1758) and patented an achromatic (non- colour- distorting) refracting telescope and a practical heliometer, a telescope used to measure the Sun's diameter and the angles between celestial bodies. In the 1730's, Chester More Hall, an attorney with an interest in telescopes, first discovered that flint glass appeared to have a greater color dispersion than crown glass did at the same magnifications. Hall reasoned that if he cemented the concave face of a flint glass lens to the convex face of a crown glass lens, he could remove the dispersion properties (and thus, chromatic aberration) from both lenses simultaneously. Dollond learned of the technique in the 1750's and developed it.*TIS

1836 Pierre-Simon Girard (Caen, 4 November 1765 – Paris, 30 November 1836) was a French mathematician and engineer, who worked on fluids.
A prodigy who invented a water turbine at age 10, Girard worked as an engineer at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. He was in charge of planning and construction of the Amiens canal and the Ourcq canal. He collaborated with Gaspard de Prony on the Dictionnaire des Ponts et Chaussées (Dictionary of Bridges and Highways). He wrote works on fluids and on the strength of materials.*Wik

1850 Germain Henri Hess (7 Aug 1802, 30 Nov 1850) Swiss-born Russian chemist whose studies of heat in chemical reactions formed the foundation of thermochemistry. He formulated an empirical law, Hess's law of constant heat summation (1840), which states that the heat evolved or absorbed in a chemical process is the same whether the process takes place in one or in several steps. It is explained by thermodynamic theory, which holds that enthalpy is a state function. Chemists have made great use of the law of Hess in establishing the heats of formation of compounds which are not easily formed from their constituent elements. His early investigations concerned minerals and the natural gas found near Baku, and he also discovered the oxidation of sugars to yield saccharic acid.*TIS

1921 Hermann Amandus Schwarz (25 Jan 1843 in Hermsdorf, Silesia (now Poland)
- 30 Nov 1921 in Berlin, Germany) Schwarz worked on the conformal mapping of polyhedral surfaces onto the spherical surface and on a problem of the calculus of variation, namely surfaces of least area. In 1870 he produced work related to the Riemann mapping theorem. Although Riemann had given a proof of the theorem that any simply connected region of the plane can be mapped conformally onto a disc, his proof involved using the Dirichlet problem. Weierstrass had shown that Dirichlet's solution to this was not rigorous, see for details. Schwarz's gave a method to conformally map polygonal regions to the circle. Then, by approximating an arbitrary simply connected region by polygons he was able to give a rigorous proof of the Riemann mapping theorem. Schwarz also gave the alternating method for solving the Dirichlet problem which soon became a standard technique.
His most important work is a Festschrift for Weierstrass's 70th birthday. Schwarz answered the question of whether a given minimal surface really yields a minimal area. An idea from this work, in which he constructed a function using successive approximations, led Émile Picard to his existence proof for solutions of differential equations. It also contains the inequality for integrals now known as the 'Schwarz inequality', *SAU

*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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