Thursday, 12 September 2013

On This Day in Math - September 12



One began to hear it said that World War I was the chemists' war, World War II was the physicists' war, World War III (may it never come) will be the mathematicians' war.
~Davis, Philip J. and Hersh, Reuben, The Mathematical Experience, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1981.


The 255th day of the year; 255= 28-1 and is the fourth Mersene number that is not a prime. 255 is a also a repdigit in base 2 (11111111) in base 4 (3333), and in base 16 (FF). (What is the next number that is a repdigit in base two and base 4?) John D Cook has a nice overview of Mersene Numbers and Mersene Primes

&    255 is the number of levels on the Pac-Man arcade machine prior to the "kill screen" rendering game over... why 255? *Jim Wilder@wilderlab

EVENTS
1662: 1st Astronomer Royal's 1st recorded observation: John Flamsteed (aged 16) observes solar eclipse *Thony Christie ‏@rmathematicus


1876 Johns Hopkins University, the first true graduate school in the U.S., formally opened its doors with an address—and without the benefit of a prayer—by the evolutionist T. H. Huxley. A Presbyterian minister wrote “It is bad enough to invite Huxley. It were better to have asked God to be present. It would have been absurd to ask them both.” *VFR

1883 Sylvester writes to Jonhs Hopkins President Gilman of his intent to resign his chair effective January 1 of the following year. He had grown lonely for his homeland and was hoping for a position at Oxford.

1933 Leo Szilard formulates an idea for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
On a miserable, wet, quintessentially English autumn day, at the intersection where Russell Square meets Southampton Row, Leó Szilárd waited irritably at a traffic light waiting for it to change from red to green. He had just attended a lecture by the great English physicist Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford, known to many as the father of nuclear physics, was discussing the newly prophesied release of energy from atoms, most notably by science-fiction pioneer H G Wells in his book The World Set Free (inspired by Sir Fred Soddy's book, The Interpretation of Radium, When Well's wrote The World Set Free in 1914, he dedicated the novel to Soddy). In his baritone voice, Rutherford, the acknowledged master of the atomic domain, dismissed this fanciful idea as nonsense. Any thought of releasing the energy locked in atoms, he said, was “moonshine”. {I love this story, but many accounts say he had only read the article which appeared in The Times Newspaper that morning and not attended Rutherford's talk.
Szilard realized as he stepped off that curb was that if we found an element that when bombarded by one neutron would release two neutrons, it could lead to a chain reaction that could possibly release vast amounts of energy.

Ironically, when the first atomic bomb test was conducted in the New Mexico desert in the deathly stillness of the morning, in the midst of war and hope, the flash was so bright that it would have been seen reflected off the moon. It was, literally, “moonshine”. The rest was history. *Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar, Scientific American Blogs

In 1958, Jack Kilby demonstrated his invention of a miniaturized electronic circuit to his supervisor at Texas Instruments, now recognised as the first integrated circuit to be built and operated. On 6 Feb 1959, he applied for a patent, which was eventually issued on 23 Jun 1964. *TIS

1959 The Soviet spaceship LUNA 2 was launched. It was the first spacecraft to land on the moon. Exactly eleven years later, LUNA 12 was launched. It was the first spacecraft to land on the moon, collect samples, and return to Earth.*VFR

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered perhaps the most famous space speech ever given. Speaking at the stadium of Rice University, the text of his speech included these memorable lines, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency." (the entire text of his speech is here)*TIS



BIRTHS

1725 Guillaume-Joseph-Hyacinthe-Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil de la Galaziere(12 Sep 1725; 22 Oct 1792) was a French astronomer. He discovered what are now known as the Messier objects M32, M36 and M38, as well as the nebulosity in M8, and he was the first to catalogue the dark nebula sometimes known as Le Gentil 3 (in the constellation Cygnus).&Wik He attempted to observe the transit of Venus across the sun by travelling to India in 1761. He failed to arrive in time due to an outbreak of war. He stayed in India to see the next transit which came eight years later. This time, he was denied a view because of cloudy weather, and so returned to France. There, he found his heirs had assumed he was dead and taken his property.*TIS A more detailed blog about his life is at Renaissance Mathematicus

1771 Antoine-André-Louis Reynaud (12 Sept 1771, 24 Feb 1844) Reynaud published a number of extremely influential textbooks. He published a mathematics manual for surveyors as well as Traité d'algèbre, Trigonométrie rectiligne et sphérique, Théorèmes et problèmes de géométrie and Traité de statistique. His best known texts, however, were his editions of Bézout's Traité d'arithmétique which appeared in at least 26 versions containing much original work by Reynaud.
It appears that Reynaud became interested in algorithms when he was working with de Prony. At this time de Prony was very much involved in trying to get his logarithmic and trigonometric tables published and it seems to have made Reynaud think about analysing algorithms. Certainly Reynaud, although his results in this area were rather trivial, must get the credit for being one of the first people to give an explicit analysis of an algorithm, an area of mathematics which is of major importance today. *SAU

1838 Arthur von Auwers (12 Sep 1838; 24 Jan 1915) Georg Friedrich Julius Arthur von Auwers was a German astronomer known for his life's work making extremely accurate catalogs of stellar positions and motions. He also researched solar and stellar parallaxes, making a new reduction of James Bradley's 18th century Greenwich observations and measurements of star distances. Auwers also observed double stars, and accurately calculated the orbits of the Sirius and Procyon systems before the faint companions to the bright stars were seen. He redetermined the distance to the sun several times, making use of transits of Venus and an approach of a minor planet.*TIS

1851 Sir Franz Arthur Friedrich Schuster FRS (12 September 1851 – 17 October 1934) He discovered and photographed a comet during an eclipse in Egypt: first time a comet discovered in this way has been photographed. *NSEC Schuster is perhaps most widely remembered for his periodogram analysis, a technique which was long the main practical tool for identifying statistically important frequencies present in a time series of observations. He first used this form of harmonic analysis in 1897 to disprove C. G. Knott's claim of periodicity in earthquake occurrences. He went on to apply the technique to analysing sunspot activity. This was an old interest. In 1875 Stewart's friend and Roscoe's cousin, the economist Jevons, reported, "Mr. A Schuster of Owens College has ingeniously pointed out that the periods of good vintage in Western Europe have occurred at intervals somewhat approximating to eleven years, the average length of the principal sun-spot cycle."
Schuster is credited by Chandrasekhar to have given a fresh start to the radiative transfer problem. Schuster formulated in 1905 a problem in radiative transfer in an attempt to explain the appearance of absorption and emission lines in stellar spectra.*Wik

1877 Georg Karl Wilhelm Hamel (12 September 1877 – 4 October 1954) was a German mathematician with interests in mechanics, the foundations of mathematics and function theory.*Wik

1894 Dorothy Maud Wrinch (12 September 1894 – 11 February 1976) married names Nicholson, Glaser) was a mathematician and biochemical theorist best known for her attempt to deduce protein structure using mathematical principles. *Wik

1897 Irène Joliot-Curie (12 Sep 1897; 17 Mar 1956) French physicist and physical chemist, wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie, who shared the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry "in recognition of their synthesis of new radioactive elements." For example, in their joint research they discovered that aluminium atoms exposed to alpha rays transmuted to radioactive phosphorus atoms. She was the daughter of Nobel Prize winners Pierre and Marie Curie. From 1946, she was director of the Radium Institute, Paris, founded by her mother. She died of leukemia, like her mother, resulting from radiation exposure during research.*TIS

1900 Haskell Brooks Curry (12 Sep 1900; 1 Sep 1982)American mathematician who was a pioneer of modern mathematical logic. His research in the foundations of mathematics led him to the development of combinatory logic. Later, this seminal work found significant application in computer science, especially in the design of programming languages. Curry worked on the first electronic computer, called ENIAC, during WW II. He also formulated a logical calculus using inferential rules. In 1942, he published Curry's paradox, which occurs in naive set theory or naive logics, and allows the derivation of an arbitrary sentence from a self-referring sentence and some apparently innocuous logical deduction rules.*TIS

1921 Pierre Samuel (12 September 1921 – 23 August 2009) was a French mathematician, known for his work in commutative algebra and its applications to algebraic geometry. The two-volume work Commutative Algebra that he wrote with Oscar Zariski is a classic. Other books of his covered projective geometry and algebraic number theory.
He was a member of the Bourbaki group, and filmed some of their meetings. A French television documentary on Bourbaki broadcast some of this footage in 2000.*Wik



DEATHS

1869 Peter Mark Roget (18 Jan 1779, 12 Sep 1869) English physician who, in 1814, invented a "log-log" slide rule for calculating the roots and powers of numbers. After studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, he helped establish a medical school at Manchester, and practiced in London (1808-40). Upon retirement, from age 61 to 73, he produced his famous Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (1852). He was a fellow of the Royal Society from 1815, and its secretary from 1827.*TIS

1888 Richard Anthony Proctor (23 Mar 1837, 12 Sep 1888) English astronomer who first suggested (1873) that meteor impacts caused lunar craters, rather than volcanic action. He studied the motion of stars, their distribution, and their relation to the nebulae. In 1867 he prepared a map of the surface of Mars on which he named continents, seas, bays and straits (in the same manner that Riccioli used on his map of the moon). However, he did not perceive "canals" on the surface, which later Schiaparelli identified. Proctor participated in expeditions of 1874 and 1882 to observe the transit of Venus. He was very successful popularizing astronomy by his writings in books, periodicals, and lectures he gave as far abroad as Australia and America (where he stayed after 1881).*TIS

1894 Josiah Parsons Cooke (October 12, 1827 – September 3, 1894) was an American scientist who worked at Harvard University and was instrumental in the measurement of atomic weights, inspiring America's first Nobel laureate in chemistry, Theodore Richards, to pursue similar research. Cooke's 1854 paper on atomic weights has been said to foreshadow the periodic law developed later by Mendeleev and others. Historian I. Bernard Cohen described Cooke "as the first university chemist to do truly distinguished work in the field of chemistry" in the United States. *Wik

1906 Ernesto Cesaro (12 March 1859 , 12 Sept 1906) died of injuries sustained while aiding a drowning youth. In addition to differential geometry Cesàro worked on many topics such as number theory where, in addition to the topics we mentioned above, he studied the distribution of primes trying to improve on results obtained in this area by Chebyshev. He also contributed to the study of divergent series, a topic which interested him early in his career, and we should note that in his work on mathematical physics he was a staunch follower of Maxwell. This helped to spread Maxwell's ideas to the Continent which was important since, although it it hard to realise this now, it took a long time for scientists to realise the importance of his theories.
Cesàro's interest in mathematical physics is also evident in two very successful calculus texts which he wrote. He then went on to write further texts on mathematical physics, completing one on elasticity. Two further works, one on the mathematical theory of heat and the other on hydrodynamics, were in preparation at the time of his death.
Cesàro died in tragic circumstances. His seventeen year old son went swimming in the sea near Torre Annunziata and got into difficulties in rough water. Cesàro went to rescue his son but sustained injuries which led to his death. *SAU

1918 Maxime Bˆocher (28 Aug 1867, 12 Sep 1918) American mathematician whose reputation was built upon both his teaching and his research in differential equations, series, and higher algebra.*TIS

1933 Leonard James Rogers (30 March 1862, 12 Sept 1933) Rogers was a man of extraordinary gifts in many fields, and everything he did, he did well. Besides his mathematics and music he had many interests; he was a born linguist and phonetician, a wonderful mimic who delighted to talk broad Yorkshire, a first-class skater, and a maker of rock gardens. He did things well because he liked doing them. Music was the first necessity in his intellectual life, and after that came mathematics. He had very little ambition or desire for recognition.
Rogers is now remembered for a remarkable set of identities which are special cases of results which he had published in 1894. Such names as Rogers-Ramanujan identities, Rogers-Ramanujan continued fractions and Rogers transformations are known in the theory of partitions, combinatorics and hypergeometric series. *SAU

2005 Serge Lang (19 May 1927, 12 Sept 2005) a French-born mathematician who spent most of his life in the USA. He is best-known for his outstanding undergraduate text-books.*SAU


Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*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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