Saturday, 29 December 2012

On This Day in Math - December 29



Folium of Descartes, *Wiki



Die ganze Zahl schuf der liebe Gott, alles Übrige ist Menschenwerk.
God made the integers, all else is the work of man.

~Leopold Kronecker

The 364th day of the year; 364 is the total number of gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas song: 1+(2+1) + (3+2+1) ... which is a series of triangular numbers.  The sum of the first n triangular numbers can be expressed as (n+2 Choose 3).


EVENTS

1566 A part of Tycho Brahe’s nose was cut off in a duel with another Danish nobleman. The dispute was over a point of mathematics. This he replaced with a prosthesis generally stated to be of silver and gold but containing a high copper content. *VFR
On December 10, 1566, Tycho and the Danish blue blood Manderup Parsbjerg were guests at an engagement party at Prof. Bachmeister in Rostock. The party included a ball, but the festive environment did not keep the two men from starting an argument that went on even over the Christmas period. On December 29, they finished the matter with a rapier duel. During the duel, which started at 7 p.m. in total darkness, a large portion of the nose of Brahe was cut off by his Opponent. It was the most famous cut in science, if not the unkindest. *Neatorama

1692 Huygens, in a letter to L’Hospital, gave the first complete sketch of the folium of Descartes. Although the curve was first discussed 23 August 1638 no complete sketch had previously been given due to a reluctance to use negative numbers as coordinates. *VFR

1763 Makelyne wrote his brother Edmund, reporting his safe arrival on 7 November after “an agreeable passage of 6 weeks”. He noted that he had been “very sufficiently employed in making the observations recommended to me by the Commissioners of Longitude” and that it was at times “rather too fatiguing”.
The Princess Louise sailed for Barbados on 23 September. During the voyage Maskelyne and Charles Green took many lunar-distance observations (with Maskelyne later claiming that his final observation was within half of degree of the truth) and struggled a couple of times with the marine chair. Maskelyne’s conclusion was that the Jupiter’s satellites method of finding longitude would simply never work at sea because the telescope magnification required was far too high for use in a moving ship.
*Board of Longitude project, Greenwich

1790 Obituary for Thomas “Tom” Fuller in the Columbian Centinial , Boston Massachusetts. His mathematical ability and its origin became a dueling point between abolitionists and those supporting slavery. 

Died- Negro Tom, the famous African Calculator, aged 80 years. He was the property of Mrs. Elizabeth Cox of Alexandria. Tom was a very black man. He was brought to this country at the age of 14, and was sold as a slave.... This man was a prodigy. Though he could never read or write, he had perfectly acquired the art of enumeration.... He could multiply seven into itself, that product by seven, and the products, so produced, by seven, for seven times. He could give the number of months, days, weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds in any period of time that any person chose to mention, allowing in his calculation for all leap years that happened in the time; he would give the number of poles, yards, feet, inches, and barley-corns in any distance, say the diameter of the earth's orbit; and in every calculation he would produce the true answer in less time than ninety-nine men out of a hundred would produce with their pens. And, what was, perhaps, more extraordinary, though interrupted in the progress of his calculation, and engaged in discourse necessary for him to begin again, but he would ... cast up plots of land. He took great notice of the lines of land which he had seen surveyed. He drew just conclusions from facts; surprisingly so, for his opportunities. Had his [Thomas Fuller] opportunity been equal to those of thousands of his fellow-men ... even a NEWTON himself, need have ashamed to acknowledge him a Brother in Science.

*Univ of Buffalo Math Dept


In 1927, Krakatoa began a new volcanic eruption on the seafloor along the same line as the cones of previous activity. By 26 Jan 1928, a growing cone had reached sea level and formed a small island called Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakatoa). Sporadic activity continued until, by 1973, the island had reached a height of 622 ft above sea level. It was still in eruption in the early 1980s. The volcano Krakatoa is on Pulau (island) Rakata in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, Indonesia. It had been quiet since its previous catastrophic eruption of 1883. That threw pumice 33 miles high and 36,380 people were killed either by the ash fall or by the resulting tidal wave. The only earlier known eruption was in 1680, and was only moderate.*TIS


1939 Shockley Makes Historic Notebook Entry
William Shockley records in his laboratory notebook that it should be possible to replace vacuum tubes with semiconductors. Eight years later, he, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen at AT&T Bell Laboratories successfully tested the point-contact transistor. Shockley developed much of the theory behind transistor action, and soon postulated the junction transistor, a much more reliable device. It took about ten years after the 1947 discovery before transistors replaced vacuum tubes in computer design as manufacturers learned to make them reliable and a new generation of engineers learned how to use them. *CHM


1947 George Dantzig announced his discovery of the simplex method at the joint annual meeting of the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. The lecture was poorly attended and the result attracted no interest. *Robert Dorfman, “The discovery of linear programming,” Annals of the History of Computing, 6(1984), 283–295, esp. 292.


1979 Edward Lorenz presents a paper at the 139th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with the title, "Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" *TIS  According to Lorenz, upon failing to provide a title for a talk he was to present at the meeting Philip Merilees concocted the title. The idea that one butterfly could have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent events seems first to have appeared in a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel. It seems that Merilees was  was not familiar with Bradbury’s story. *Wik




BIRTHS

1256 Birthdate of Ibn Al-Banna who studied the magic properties of numbers and letters. *VFR He was an Islamic mathematician who wrote a large number of works including an introduction to Euclid's Elements, an algebra text and various works on astronomy.*SAU

1796 Johann Christian Poggendorff (29 December 1796 – 24 January 1877), was a German physicist and science historian born in Hamburg. By far the greater and more important part of his work related to electricity and magnetism. Poggendorff is known for his electrostatic motor which is analogous to Wilhelm Holtz's electrostatic machine. In 1841 he described the use of the potentiometer for measurement of electrical potentials without current draw.
Even at this early period he had conceived the idea of founding a physical and chemical scientific journal, and the realization of this plan was hastened by the sudden death of Ludwig Wilhelm Gilbert, the editor of Gilbert's Annalen der Physik, in 1824 Poggendorff immediately put himself in communication with the publisher, Barth of Leipzig. He became editor of Annalen der Physik und Chemie, which was to be a continuation of Gilbert's Annalen on a somewhat extended plan. Poggendorff was admirably qualified for the post, and edited the journal for 52 years, until 1876. In 1826, Poggendorff developed the mirror galvanometer, a device for detecting electric currents.
He had an extraordinary memory, well stored with scientific knowledge, both modern and historical, a cool and impartial judgment, and a strong preference for facts as against theory of the speculative kind. He was thus able to throw himself into the spirit of modern experimental science. He possessed in abundant measure the German virtue of orderliness in the arrangement of knowledge and in the conduct of business. Further he had an engaging geniality of manner and much tact in dealing with men. These qualities soon made Poggendorff's Annalen (abbreviation: Pogg. Ann.) the foremost scientific journal in Europe.
In the course of his fifty-two years editorship of the Annalen Poggendorff could not fail to acquire an unusual acquaintance with the labors of modern men of science. This knowledge, joined to what he had gathered by historical reading of equally unusual extent, he carefully digested and gave to the world in his Biographisch-literarisches Handworterbuch zur Geschichte der exacten Wissenschaften, containing notices of the lives and labors of mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, and chemists, of all peoples and all ages. This work contains an astounding collection of facts invaluable to the scientific biographer and historian. The first two volumes were published in 1863; after his death a third volume appeared in 1898, covering the period 1858-1883, and a fourth in 1904, coming down to the beginning of the 20th century.
His literary and scientific reputation speedily brought him honorable recognition. In 1830 he was made royal professor, in 1838 Hon. Ph.D. and extraordinary professor in the University of Berlin, and in 1839 member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences. In 1845, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Many offers of ordinary professorships were made to him, but he declined them all, devoting himself to his duties as editor of the Annalen, and to the pursuit of his scientific researches. He died at Berlin on 24 January 1877.
The Poggendorff Illusion is an optical illusion that involves the brain's perception of the interaction between diagonal lines and horizontal and vertical edges. It is named after Poggendorff, who discovered it in the drawing of Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner, in which he showed the Zöllner illusion in 1860. In the picture to the right, a straight black line is obscured by a dark gray rectangle. The black line appears disjointed, although it is in fact straight; the second picture illustrates this fact.*Wik

1856 Birth of Thomas Jan Stieltjes, who did pioneering work on the integral. *VFR Thomas Stieltjes worked on almost all branches of analysis, continued fractions and number theory. *SAU

1861 Kurt Hensel (29 Dec 1861 in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) - 1 June 1941 in Marburg, Germany)  invented the p-adic numbers, an algebraic theory which has proved important in later applications. From 1901 Hensel was editor of the prestigious and influential Crelle's Journal.*SAU

1905 Henri-Gaston Busignies (29 Dec 1905; 20 Jun 1981) French-born American electronics engineer whose invention (1936) of high-frequency direction finders (HF/DF, or "Huff Duff") permitted the U.S. Navy during World War II to detect enemy transmissions and quickly pinpoint the direction from which a radio transmission was coming. Busignies invented the radiocompass (1926) while still a student at Jules Ferry College in Versailles, France. In 1934, he started developing the direction finder based on his earlier radiocompass. Busignies developed the moving target indicator for wartime radar. It scrubbed off the radar screen every echo from stationary objects and left only echoes from moving objects, such as aircraft. *TIS

1911 (Emil) Klaus (Julius) Fuchs (29 Dec 1911; 28 Jan 1988) was a German-born physicist who was convicted as a spy on 1 Mar 1950, for passing nuclear research secrets to Russia. He fled from Nazi Germany to Britain. He was interned on the outbreak of WW II, but Prof. Max Born intervened on his behalf. Fuchs was released in 1942, naturalized in 1942 and joined the British atomic bomb research project. From 1943 he worked on the atom bomb with the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, U.S. By 1945, he was sending secrets to Russia. In 1946, he became head of theoretical physics at Harwell, UK. He was caught, confessed, tried, imprisoned for nine of a 14 year sentence, released on 23 Jun 1959, and moved to East Germany and resumed nuclear research until 1979. *TIS

1944 Joseph W. Dauben (born 29 December 1944, Santa Monica- ) is a Herbert H. Lehman Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University.
His fields of expertise are history of science, history of mathematics, the scientific revolution, sociology of science, intellectual history, 17-18th centuries, history of Chinese science, and the history of botany.
His book Abraham Robinson was reviewed positively by Moshé Machover, but he noted that it avoids discussing any of Robinson's negative aspects, and "in this respect [the book] borders on the hagiographic, painting a portrait without warts."
Dauben in a 1980 Guggenheim Fellow and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences (since 1982).
Dauben is an elected member (1991) of the International Academy of the History of Science and an elected foreign member (2001) of German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.
He delivered an invited lecture at the 1998 International Congress of Mathematicians in Berlin on Karl Marx's mathematical work. *Wik


DEATHS

1720 Maria Winckelmann (Maria Margarethe Winckelmann Kirch (25 Feb 1670 in Panitzsch, near Leipzig, Germany - 29 Dec 1720 in Berlin, Germany) was a German astronomer who helped her husband with his observations. She was the first woman to discover a comet.*SAU

1731 Brook Taylor (18 Aug 1685, 29 Dec 1731) British mathematician, best known for the Taylor's series, a method for expanding functions into infinite series. In 1708, Taylor produced a solution to the problem of the centre of oscillation. His Methodus incrementorum directa et inversa (1715; “Direct and Indirect Methods of Incrementation”) introduced what is now called the calculus of finite differences. Using this, he was the first to express mathematically the movement of a vibrating string on the basis of mechanical principles. Methodus also contained Taylor's theorem, later recognized (1772) by Lagrange as the basis of differential calculus. A gifted artist, Taylor also wrote on basic principles of perspective (1715) containing the first general treatment of the principle of vanishing points.*TIS

1737 Joseph Saurin (1659 at Courtaison – December 29, 1737 at Paris) was a French mathematician and a converted Protestant minister. He was the first to show how the tangents at the multiple points of curves could be determined by mathematical analysis. He was accused in 1712 by Jean-Baptiste Rousseau of being the actual author of defamatory verses that gossip had attributed to Rousseau.*Wik

1891 Leopold Kronecker (7 Dec 1823, 29 Dec 1891) died of a bronchial illness in Berlin, in his 69th year. Kronecker's primary contributions were in the theory of equations. *VFR   
A German mathematician who worked to unify arithmetic, algebra and analysis, with a particular interest in elliptic functions, algebraic equations, theory of numbers, theory of determinants and theory of simple and multiple integrals. However the topics he studied were restricted by the fact that he believed in the reduction of all mathematics to arguments involving only the integers and a finite number of steps. He believed that mathematics should deal only with finite numbers and with a finite number of operations. He was the first to doubt the significance of non-constructive existence proofs, and believed that transcendental numbers did not exist. The Kronecker delta function is named in his honour. *TIS


1941 William James Macdonald (1851 in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died: 29 Dec 1941 in Edinburgh, Scotland) graduated from the University of St Andrews. He taught at Madras College St Andrews, at Merchiston Castle School and at Donald Stewart's College in Edinburgh. He was a pioneer of the introduction of modern geometry to the mathematical curriculum. He was a founder member of the EMS and became the sixth President in 1887. *SAU

1941 Tullio Levi-Civita (29 Mar 1873, 29 Dec 1941) Italian mathematician who was one of the founders of absolute differential calculus (tensor analysis) which had applications to the theory of relativity. In 1887, he published a famous paper in which he developed the calculus of tensors. In 1900 he published, jointly with Ricci, the theory of tensors Méthodes de calcul differential absolu et leures applications in a form which was used by Einstein 15 years later. Weyl also used Levi-Civita's ideas to produce a unified theory of gravitation and electromagnetism. In addition to the important contributions his work made in the theory of relativity, Levi-Civita produced a series of papers treating elegantly the problem of a static gravitational field. *TIS

1989 Adrien Albert (19 November 1907, Sydney - 29 December 1989, Canberra) was a leading authority in the development of medicinal chemistry in Australia. Albert also authored many important books on chemistry, including one on selective toxicity.
He was awarded BSc with first class honours and the University Medal in 1932 at the University of Sydney. He gained a PhD in 1937 and a DSc in 1947 from the University of London. His appointments included Lecturer at the University of Sydney (1938-1947), advisor to the Medical Directorate of the Australian Army (1942-1947), research at the Wellcome Research Institute in London (1947-1948) and in 1948 the Foundation Chair of Medical Chemistry in the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra where he established the Department of Medical Chemistry. He was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.
He was the author of Selective Toxicity: The Physico-Chemical Basis of Therapy, first published by Chapman and Hall in 1951.
The Adrien Albert Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Sydney was established in his honour in 1989.[1] His bequest funds the Adrien Albert Lectureship, awarded every two years by the Royal Society of Chemistry *Wik

1989 Hermann (Julius) Oberth (25 Jun 1894, 29 Dec 1989)  was a German scientist who was one of three founders of space flight (with Tsiolkovsky and Goddard). After injury in WWI, he drafted a proposal for a long-range, liquid-propellant rocket, which the War Ministry dismissed as fanciful. Even his Ph.D. dissertation on his rocket design was rejected by the University of Heidelberg. When he published it as Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (1923; “The Rocket into Interplanetary Space”) he gained recognition for its mathematical analysis of the rocket speed that would allow it to escape Earth's gravitational pull. He received a Romanian patent in 1931 for a liquid-propellant rocket design. His first such rocket was launched 7 May 1931, near Berlin. *TIS



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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