Monday 20 May 2024

On This Day in Math - May 20


Mathematicians are like Frenchmen:
whatever you say to them
they translate into their own language
and forthwith it is something entirely different.

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflexions, 1829)

The 140th day of the year; 140 is the sum of the squares of the first seven positive integers. 12 + 22 + 32 + 42 + 52 + 62 + 72 = 140. *Prime Curios

140 is a repdigit in bases 13 (aa), 19(7,7), 27(5,5), 34(4,4), 69(2,2), and 139(1,1). (students should become aware that every number n is a repunit in the base n-1.

There are 140 x 1021 (140 followed by 21 zeroes) different configurations of the Rubik's Cube. *Cliff Pickover@pickover (Would anyone notice if he was one off???)

140 is the character limit on Twitter (or was)

A. J. Meyl proved in 1878 that only three tetrahedral numbers are also perfect squares, The largest of these is T(48) =1402 = 19600:

T1 = 1² = 1
T2 = 2² = 4
T48 = 140² = 19600.

140 is the magic constant of this 5x5 square by *Srinivasa Raghave K  Can you see how to easily make one for day 135, or 145? Jeff Miller's Web site on the Earliest Use of Math Words says that Frenicle de Bessy used the term magic in the title to his book, Des quarrez ou tables magiques, published posthumously in 1693, twenty years after his death. The first use in English was the same year in "A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam."  Appropriate to have de Bessey mentioned here, as he first noted the cubic relation of the Taxi-cab number, 1729 and Srinivasa is a big fan, I believe, of Ramanujan.


1570 Cartographer Abraham Ortelius issues Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. *RMAT

The publication of his atlas in 1570 is often considered as the official beginning of the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography. He was the first person proposing that the continents were joined before drifting to their present positions.

* National Maritime Museum

1608 In a letter to Christopher Clavius, Croation mathematician Marino Ghetaldi says that with his latest parabolic mirror:-
... the sun melts not only lead, but silver.
Ghetaldi had traveled extensively throughout Europe visiting and studying with many of the great science minds, including Viete and Galileo. From Galileo he learned optics and produced a 66cm diameter parabolic mirror which is at the National Maritime Museum in London.

1663 Robert Hooke was one of 98 persons who were declared members at a meeting of the Royal Society. He was admitted to society on 3 Jun 1663, and was peculiarly exempted of all payments. Before the Royal Society had been establish in 1660, Hooke was already distinguished for the invention of various astronomical instruments, and the air-pump he contrived for Charles Boyle (whom he had assisted for several years with chemical experiments at the Philosophical Society, Oxford). He invented a balance or pendulum spring (1656-58), one of the greatest improvements in the construction of timepieces. By 1662, he had been appointed curator of experiments to the Royal Society, and on 11 Jan 1664, awarded a salary of £30 per annum for life for that position.*TIS

1665 Newton's earliest use of dots, "pricked letters," to indicate velocities or fluxions is found on a leaf dated May 20, 1665; no facsimile reproduction of it has ever been made.' The earliest printed account of Newton's fluxional notation appeared from his pen in the Latin edition of Wallis' Algebra [Cajori, History of Mathematical Notations, vol. 2, p. 197] *VFR

1716 In a letter written to Leibniz, May 20, 1716, John Bernoulli discussed the equation : d2y/dx2 = 2y/x2
where the general solution when written in the form
y = x2/a + b2/3x
involves three cases: When b approaches zero the curves are parabolas; when a approaches infinity, they are hyperbolas; otherwise, they are of the third order.   *John E. Sasser, HISTORY OF ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS

Johann Bernoulli

1875 The International Bureau of Weights and Measures established by the International Metric Convention, Sevres, France. The bureau is the repository for the “International Prototype Meter” and the “International Prototype Kilogram.” *SAU= St. Andrews Univ

From 1960 to 1983 the definition used "1,650,763.73 wavelengths of light from a specified transition in krypton-86 ", using the lamp in the image below.

In 1983, the Length was defined as the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum in 1299,792,458 of a second 


And for your (in case you thought that 3D movie technology was new, file)
In 1901, Claude Grivolas, one of Pathe's main shareholders in Paris, France, invented a projector that produced three-dimensional pictures.*TIS  (The glasses in the image are from somewhat later in time.)

1927 At 7:40 a.m., Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, N.Y., aboard the "Spirit of St. Louis" monoplane on his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in France thirty-three and one-half hours later. *TIS

1930 The Institute for Advanced Study incorporated. Two and a half years later Albert Einstein and Oswald Veblen were appointed the first professors. [Goldstein, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 77]*VFR

In 1956, the first hydrogen fusion bomb (H-bomb) to be dropped from an airplane exploded over Namu Atoll at the northwest edge of the Bikini Atoll. The fireball was four miles in diameter. It was designated as "Cherokee," as part of "Operation Redwing."*TIS

1961 France issued a stamp honoring Charles Coulomb (1736–1806) [Scott #B 352].

1964   American radio astronomers Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the ancient light that began saturating the universe 380,000 years after its creation. And they did so pretty much by accident. It is ironic, too, that many researchers -- both theoretical and experimental -- had stumbled on this phenomenon before, but either discounted it or never put it all together. This was partly because, as Steven Weinberg wrote, "in the 1950s, the study of the early universe was widely regarded as not the sort of thing to which a respectable scientist would devote his time." 

Bell Labs' Holmdale Horn Antenna in New Jersey picked up an odd buzzing sound that came from all parts of the sky at all times. The noise puzzled Wilson and Penzias, who did their best to eliminate all possible sources of interference, even removing some pigeons that were nesting in the antenna.


1968 A team of six high school students from Upstate New York went to London to participate in the Fourth British Mathematical Olympiad. This was the first time a team from the U.S. participated in an international mathematical competition. [The College Mathematics Journal, 16 (1985), p. 331] *VFR

Would love a picture of the contestants. surely some proud family took a shot.  

1975 Norway issued a stamp for the centenary of the International Meter Convention in Paris. It pictures Ole Jacob Broch (1818– 1889), the first director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. [Scott #655] *VFR At least ten other countries issued stamps to commemorate the same event, including Bulgaria, Romania, France, the Soviet Union..... but not the USA. (see 1975 below for another)

1975 Sweden issued a stamp picturing a metric tape measure to honor the centenary of the International Meter Convention in Paris. [Scott #1121] *VFR

1990 the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photograph from space, an image of a double star 1,260 light years away. *TIS  

Hubble First Light, *NASA

2012 Solar Eclipse, A total of 154 U.S. national parks will provide views of the eclipse, from partial to full annularity. Many western parks will offer solar observing as a ranger-led program or host a solar party with the help of local amateur astronomy clubs.

Poster advertising viewing the eclipse from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Poster © Tyler Nordgren.

2063 99 year old Johnny Depp rolls down red-carpet in wheel-chair for opening of Pirates of the Caribbean sequel #42, “Sun City Pirates”.


1825 George Phillips Bond ((May 20, 1825 {sometimes given 1826} – February 17, 1865) Astronomer who made the first photograph of a double star, discovered a number of comets, and with his father discovered Hyperion, the eight moon of Saturn.*TIS

His early interest was in nature and birds, but after his elder brother William Cranch Bond Jr. died, he felt obliged to follow his father into the field of astronomy. He succeeded his father as director of Harvard College Observatory from 1859 until his death. His cousin was Edward Singleton Holden, first director of Lick Observatory. 

Bond took the first photograph of a star in 1850 (Vega) and of a double star in 1857 (Mizar); suggested photography could be used to measure a star's magnitude; and discovered numerous comets and calculated their orbits.*Wik

In searching for the first imag of Vega, I came across this which disputes credit to George Bond, " The first telescope of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), "The Great Refractor" was installed in 1847. That telescope was the largest in the United States from its installation until 1867. With it, the first daguerreotype ever made of a star, the bright Vega, was taken by John A. Whipple working under W.C. Bond, following several years of experiments using smaller telescopes."

1861 Henry Seely White (May 20, 1861 - May 20, 1943) worked on invariant theory, the geometry of curves and surfaces, algebraic curves and twisted curves. *SAU He matriculated at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and graduated with honors in 1882 at the age of twenty-one. White excelled at Wesleyan in astronomy, ethics, Latin, logic, mathematics, and philosophy. At the university, John Monroe Van Vleck taught White mathematics and astronomy. Later, Van Vleck persuaded White to continue to study mathematics at the graduate level.[1] Subsequently, White studied at the University of Göttingen under Klein, and received his doctorate in 1891.
White was Mathematics Department Chair at Northwestern University. He left Northwestern to be near his ill mother and became Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Vassar College. He "attributed his interest in geometry both to his work at Wesleyan and Goettingen and to summers spent working on his grandfather’s farm."[2] His particular interests were in the fields of the geometry of curves and surfaces (Curves, Differential geometry of surfaces), algebraic planes and twisted curves (Algebraic Geometry, Algebraic curves, Twisted curves), homeomorphic sets of lines in a plane (line coordinates), the theory of invariants, relativity in mechanics, and correspondences.
In 1915 Seely was elected a Fellow of the United States National Academy of Sciences. Northwestern conferred upon him an LL.D. in the same year. At the time of its 100th anniversary in 1932, Wesleyan conferred upon him an D.Sc. *Wik
Died on his birthday in 1943

1870  Robert Fernand Bernard, Viscount de Montessus de Ballore (20 May 1870, in Villeurbanne – 26 January 1937, in Arcachon) was a French mathematician, known for his work on continued fractions and Padé approximants.

In 1886, Robert obtained his bachelor of science degree. From 1887 to 1889, he attended preparatory classes at l'École des mines de Saint-Étienne. On 8 May 1905, at the Sorbonne, he successfully defended his thesis on continued fractions, written under the supervision of Paul Appell.

Montessus was an editor of the Journal de mathématiques pures et appliquées and the author of numerous mathematical publications. He was a member of the Société mathématique de France and a member of the Société des arts, sciences, belles-lettres et d'agriculture de l'Académie de Mâcon.

1874 Friedrich Moritz Hartogs (20 May 1874, Brussels–18 August 1943, Munich) was a German-Jewish mathematician, known for work on set theory and foundational results on several complex variables. 

Hartogs' main work was in several complex variables where he is known for Hartogs's theorem, Hartogs's lemma (also known as Hartogs's principle or Hartogs's extension theorem) and the concepts of holomorphic hull and domain of holomorphy.

In set theory, he contributed to the theory of well-orders and proved what is also known as Hartogs's theorem: for every set x there is a well-ordered set that cannot be injectively embedded in x. The smallest such set is known as the Hartogs number or Hartogs Aleph of x.*Wik

1901 Machgielis (Max) Euwe (last name is pronounced [ˈøːwə]) (May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981) was a Dutch chess Grandmaster, mathematician, and author. He was the fifth player to become World Chess Champion (1935–37). Euwe also served as President of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, from 1970 to 1978. 

He studied mathematics at the University of Amsterdam under the founder of intuitionistic logic, L.E.J. Brouwer (who later became his friend and for whom he held a funeral oration), and earned his doctorate in 1926 under Roland Weitzenböck. He taught mathematics, first in Rotterdam, and later at a girls' Lyceum in Amsterdam. After World War II, Euwe became interested in computer programming and was appointed professor in this subject at the universities of Rotterdam and Tilburg, retiring from Tilburg University in 1971. He published a mathematical analysis of the game of chess from an intuitionistic point of view, in which he showed, using the Thue–Morse sequence, that the then-official rules (in 1929) did not exclude the possibility of infinite games.*Wik

1901 Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (born 30 May 1908 in Norrköping, Sweden; died 2 April 1995 in Djursholm, Sweden) was a Swedish electrical engineer, plasma physicist and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). He described the class of MHD waves now known as Alfvén waves. He was originally trained as an electrical power engineer and later moved to research and teaching in the fields of plasma physics and electrical engineering. Alfvén made many contributions to plasma physics, including theories describing the behavior of aurorae, the Van Allen radiation belts, the effect of magnetic storms on the Earth's magnetic field, the terrestrial magnetosphere, and the dynamics of plasmas in the Milky Way galaxy.*Wik

1913 William Redington Hewlett (20 May 1913; Ann Arbor, Michigan - 12 Jan 2001 at age 87) was an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Hewlett-Packard Company, a leading manufacturer computers, computer printers, and analytic and measuring equipment. In 1939, he formed a partnership known as Hewlett-Packard Company with David Packard, a friend and Stanford classmate. (The order of their names was determined by a coin toss.) HP's first product was an audio oscillator based on a design developed by Hewlett when he was in graduate school. Eight were sold to Walt Disney for Fantasia. Lesser-known early products were: bowling alley foul-line indicator, automatic urinal flusher, weight-loss shock machine. The company began with $538 intial capital, and its first production facility was a small garage in Palo Alto. *TIS

"In the beginning..."

1946 George Lusztig (born Gheorghe Lusztig; May 20, 1946) is a Romanian-born American mathematician and Abdun Nur Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was a Norbert Wiener Professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1999 to 2009.
He is known for his work on representation theory, in particular for the objects closely related to algebraic groups, such as finite reductive groups, Hecke algebras, p-adic groups, quantum groups, and Weyl groups. He essentially paved the way for modern representation theory. This has included fundamental new concepts, including the character sheaves, the Deligne–Lusztig varieties, and the Kazhdan–Lusztig polynomials.
In 1983, Lusztig was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1985 Lusztig won the Cole Prize (Algebra). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. He received the Brouwer Medal in 1999, the National Order of Faithful Service in 2003 and the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Mathematics in 2008. In 2012, he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society and in 2014 he received the Shaw Prize in Mathematics. In 2022, he received the Wolf Prize in Mathematics. *Wik


1677 John Kersey the elder (Bap. 23 November, 1616–20 May,1677) was an English mathematician, as well as a textbook writer.

Kersey obtained a wide reputation as a teacher of mathematics. At one time he was tutor to the sons of Sir Alexander Denton of Hillesden House, Buckinghamshire. They were both future public figures (Sir Edmund Denton, 1st Baronet as a Member of Parliament for Buckingham, as his father had been, and Alexander Denton as a judge, as well as MP for Buckingham after Edmund).

He was acquainted with John Collins, who persuaded him to write his work on algebra. He was a friend of Edmund Wingate, and edited the second edition of his Arithmetic in 1650, and subsequent issues till 1683.

To his pupils Edmund and Alexander Denton he dedicated his first and principal original work, The Elements of that Mathematical Art, commonly called Algebra, in two folio volumes, dated respectively 1673 and 1674. Both John Wallis and Collins expected much of this work and on its publication it became a standard authority. It was mentioned in the Philosophical Transactions, and was commended by Charles Hutton. Kersey's method of algebra was employed in Cocker's Arithmetick, edition of 1703. The eighth edition of Wingate was edited by Kersey in 1683; in the tenth, published in 1699, he is spoken of as 'late teacher of the Mathematicks'.

Kersey (1673, p.200) is the earliest known reference to the "aliquot formula" which gives the number of divisors of a positive integer as the product of the powers (plus one) of the primes in the prime decomposition of that number. *Wik

1782 William Emerson (14 May 1701 – 20 May 1782), English mathematician, was born at Hurworth, near Darlington, where his father, Dudley Emerson, also a mathematician, taught a school. William himself had a small estate in Weardale called Castle Gate situated not far from Eastgate where he would repair to work throughout the Summer on projects as disparate as stonemasonry and watchmaking. Unsuccessful as a teacher, he devoted himself entirely to studious retirement. Possessed of remarkable energy and forthrightness of speech, Emerson published many works which are singularly free from errata.
He was early influence in the life of Jeremiah Fenwicke Dixon, of Mason-Dixon fame.

In The Principles of Mechanics (1754) he shows a wind-powered vehicle in which the vertically mounted propeller gives direct power to the front wheels via a system of cogs. In mechanics he never advanced a proposition which he had not previously tested in practice, nor published an invention without first proving its effects by a model. He was skilled in the science of music, the theory of sounds, and the ancient and modern scales; but he never attained any excellence as a performer. He died on 20 May 1782 at his native village, where his gravestone bears epitaphs in Latin and Hebrew.

Emerson dressed in old clothes and his manners were uncouth. He wore his shirt back to front and his legs wrapped in sacking so as not to scorch them as he sat over the fire. He declined an offer to become FRS because it would cost too much after all the expense of farthing candles he had been put to in the course of his life of study. Emerson rode regularly into Darlington on a horse like Don Quixote's, led by a hired small boy. In old age, plagued by the stone, he would alternately pray and curse, wishing his soul 'could shake off the rags of mortality without such a clitter-me-clatter.' *Wik

1798 Erland Bring (19 August 1736 – 20 May 1798) was a Swedish mathemaician who made contributions to the algebraic solution of equations.*SAU

At Lund he wrote eight volumes of mathematical work in the fields of algebra, geometry, analysis and astronomy, including Meletemata quaedam mathematematica circa transformationem aequationum algebraicarum (1786). This work describes Bring's contribution to the algebraic solution of equations. *Wik

1943 Henry Seely White, died on his birthday. (see 1861 above)

1947 Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard (7 June 1862 – 20 May 1947), was a German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties. He was a nationalist and anti-Semite; as an active proponent of the Nazi ideology, he had supported Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and was an important role model for the "Deutsche Physik" movement during the Nazi period.
Lenard is remembered today as a strong German nationalist who despised "English physics", which he considered to have stolen its ideas from Germany. He joined the National Socialist Party before it became politically necessary or popular to do so. During the Nazi regime, he was the outspoken proponent of the idea that Germany should rely on "Deutsche Physik" and ignore what he considered the fallacious and deliberately misleading ideas of "Jewish physics", by which he meant chiefly the theories of Albert Einstein, including "the Jewish fraud" of relativity. An advisor to Adolf Hitler, Lenard became Chief of Aryan physics under the Nazis. *Wik

1975 Luiz Henrique Jacy Monteiro (6 November, 1918 - 20 May, 1975) was a Brazilian mathematician who played a major role in the development of Brazilian mathematics in the middle of the 20th century. He did much to introduce modern mathematics to Brazilian school teachers as well as to university students. *SAU

1982  Merle Anthony Tuve (June 27, 1901 – May 20, 1982) was an American geophysicist who was the Chairman of the Office of Scientific Research and Development's Section T, which was created in August 1940. He was founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the main laboratory of Section T during the war from 1942 onward. He was a pioneer in the use of pulsed radio waves whose discoveries opened the way to the development of radar and nuclear energy.

Tuve was born in Canton, South Dakota. He and physicist Ernest Lawrence were childhood friends. 

In 1925, with physicist Gregory Breit, Tuve used radio waves to measure the height of the ionosphere and probe its interior layers. The observations he made provided the theoretical foundation for the development of radar. He was among the first physicists to use high-voltage accelerators to define the structure of the atom. In 1933 he confirmed the existence of the neutron and was also able to measure the binding forces in atomic nuclei.

Tuve proposed that an electronically activated proximity fuze would make anti-aircraft fire far more effective, and led the team of scientists that developed the device, which proved crucial in the allies' victory in World War II. He led in the development of the proximity fuze first at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and then later at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and also made contributions to experimental seismology, radio astronomy, and optical astronomy

Tuve was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1943.[ For his service to the nation during World War II, Tuve received the Presidential Medal for Merit from President Harry S. Truman and was named an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1948. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950. Mount Tuve in Ellsworth Land in Antarctica was named in honor of Merle Anthony Tuve. The Library of Congress holds his papers in more than 400 archival boxes. *Wik

2010 Walter Rudin (May 2, 1921 – May 20, 2010) was an Austrian-American mathematician and professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

In addition to his contributions to complex and harmonic analysis, Rudin was known for his mathematical analysis textbooks: Principles of Mathematical Analysis, Real and Complex Analysis, and Functional Analysis. Rudin wrote Principles of Mathematical Analysis only two years after obtaining his Ph.D. from Duke University, while he was a C. L. E. Moore Instructor at MIT. Principles, acclaimed for its elegance and clarity, has since become a standard textbook for introductory real analysis courses in the United States.

Rudin's analysis textbooks have also been influential in mathematical education worldwide, having been translated into 13 languages, including Russian, Chinese, and Spanish

They are so common and long lived on Campuses that they have their own nicknames; "Baby Rudin" is used for his  Principles of Mathematical Analysis, an undergraduate text.   "Big Rudin" is  for his Real and Complex Analysis, a graduate level text.

In 1970 Rudin was an Invited Speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Nice. He was awarded the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition in 1993 for authorship of the now classic analysis texts, Principles of Mathematical Analysis and Real and Complex Analysis. He received an honorary degree from the University of Vienna in 2006.

In 1953, he married fellow mathematician Mary Ellen Estill, known for her work in set-theoretic topology.  She was appointed as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin in 1971.  The two resided in Madison, Wisconsin, in the eponymous Walter Rudin House, a home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. They had four children. *Wik

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

Sunday 19 May 2024

On This Day in Math - May 19


"Big Mac", the beautiful Mackinac Bridge

We [he and Halmos] share a philosophy about linear algebra: 
we think basis-free,
 we write basis-free,
but when the chips are down we close the office door
and compute with matrices like fury.

Irving Kaplansky honoring Paul Halmos

The 139th day of the year; 139 and 149 are the first consecutive primes differing by 10.
139 = 9*8+7*6+5*4+3*2-1 *Prime Curios

139 is the sum of five consecutive prime numbers( 19+ 23+ 29 +31+ 37)

139 is also a Happy number, if you square the digits and add, then continue to repeat with each result, you will eventually come to the number one.

139 ---- 91----- 82 ------ 68---- 100 ----- 1 

The happy numbers up to 100 are: 1, 7, 10, 13, 19, 23, 28, 31, 32,44, 49, 68, 70, 79, 82, 86, 91, 94, 97, 100,(The earliest I have ever found this term was in an article in The Arithmetic Teacher, Feb 1974. "Happiness is some Intriguing numbers" by Billie Earl Sparks of George Peabody College in Nashville, Tn.)

 Just found a slightly earlier paper, but it gives no information about origin: 

Happy Numbers
Daniel P. Wensing


1662 Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the Navy Board inspects the new Mint in the Tower of London, but will not be allowed to see the ultra secret "edging" machines that engraved an inscription into the edge of the coins to safeguard against the common practice of "clipping" that was common. It was one of the first "milled" currencies in the world.

The rumor that Newton was the originator of this idea is certainly false as he only became director of the mint in 1696.  The country was still in the process of recalling all unmilled coinage at that time, however.

The common meaning of "milling" often just means coins which are produced by some form of machine, rather than by manually hammering coin blanks between two dies (hammered coinage) or casting coins from dies.  Pressing ridges or writing around the edge is often called reeded.  The U S term is most often "grooved".

image:Milled edge of a German 2 euro coin, embossed with Germany's unofficial national motto "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"  *Wik

1673 Leeuwenhoek's first letter to the Royal Society, is published in Philosophical Transactions number 94, "A Specimen of Some Observations Made by a Microscope, Contrived by M. Leewenhoeck in Holland, Lately Communicated by Dr. Regnerus de Graaf." Over the rest of his life, the Society would publish 116 articles containing excerpts from 113 letters. *lensonleeuwenhoek

The letter included his microscopic observations on mold, bees (stingers, eyes), and lice.

1803 Nicholas Fusss , Permanent Secretary of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, writes to Carl Gauss to offer Gauss a position with a salary of 2400 rubles plus free lodgings and heat.  The title would be board counselor, equal to a colonel in the Army, and the old age pension of half salary after twenty years and full salary after thirty  years.His widow and children would also be paid a pension depending on his length of service.  Gauss had graciously refuse the offer on April 3, and Fuss seemed to be offering a chance to change his mind by reminding him of, "some of the advantages you have apparently renounced.."

Fuss was born in Basel, Switzerland. He moved to Saint Petersburg to serve as a mathematical assistant to Leonhard Euler from 1773–1783, and remained there until his death. From 1800–1826, Fuss served as the permanent secretary to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg.

1825 Faraday isolates benzine. In 1825, Faraday started work on a sample of oil that had been sent to him for analysis by the Portable Oil Company of London. He subjected this oil to fractional distillation, a process that proved to be extremely difficult, and it took him some time to resolve the oil into its pure components. By repeated fractional distillation followed by selective fractional freezing, each stage monitored by analysis, he produced a fairly pure sample of what he called bicarburet of hydrogen. Faraday’s notebook records these procedures, which he carried out on 18 and 19 May 1825. Auguste Laurent suggested the name benzene. *Jennifer Wilson, Celebrating Michael Faraday’s Discovery of Benzene, Ambix,Volume 59, Issue 3

1906, the Simplon Tunnel was officially opened as the world's longest railroad tunnel. Cutting through the Alps between Italy and Switzerland, it was officially opened by the King of Italy and the president of the Swiss Republic. The construction of the 12-mile Simplon Tunnel, one of the world's longest rail tunnels was undertaken in the 1890s by Alfred Brandt, head of a German engineering firm, and inventor of an efficient rock drill. The total length of the tunnel is 64,972 feet cut through the solid rock of the Simplon Mountain between the Rhone and the Diveria valley. As a direct route under the mountain, it considerably shortened the surface distance for an important European trade route between Brig, Switzerland and Iselle, Italy. *TIS

The work began on 22 November in 1898.

1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet, the most intimate contact between the Earth and any comet in recorded history. The event was anticipated with dire predictions. Since a few years earlier, astronomers had found the poisonous gas cyanogen in a comet, it was surmised that if Earth passed through the comet's tail everyone would die. Astronomers explained that the gas molecules within the tail were so tenuous that absolutely no ill effects would be noticed. Nevertheless, ignorance bred opportunists selling "comet pills" to the panicked portion of the public to counter the effects of the cyanogen gas. On 20 May, after Earth had passed through the tail, everyone was still alive - with or without taking pills! *TIS New York Times coverage is HALLEY’S COMET BRUSHES EARTH WITH ITS TAIL (banner headline of the newspaper); 350 American astronomers keep vigil; Reactions of fear and prayer repeated; All night services held in many churches; 1881 dire prophecies recalled by comet scare.  

*All That's Interesting

1979 In the Chicago Sun-Times W. F. Buckley wrote “The Rasmussen Report estimates there will be one melt down every 20,000 reactor-years, and one fatality (from cancer) every 50 reactor-years. Conjoin these data (20,000 divided by 50) and you get the figure of 400 deaths per year.” Quoted from the “Hows that again department,” AMM 90 (1983), p 220.*VFR

2006 Apple 'Cube' Shop Opens in Big Apple, NY City:
Apple Computer opened its second retail store in New York City. The 20,000-square foot store is situated in the underground concourse of the General Motors building at 767 Fifth Avenue. New Yorkers stood in line for hours in order to be among the first to enter. Open 24-hours a day, the shop is visible at street level through a 32-foot glass cube. It cost $9 million and was designed by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs.*CHM



1682 Mei Juecheng (19 May 1681 in Xuangcheng, now Xuanzhou City, Anhui province, China - 20 Nov 1763 in China) published Chishui yizhen (Pearls recovered from the Red River). This contained the infinite series expansion for sin(x) which was discovered by James Gregory and Isaac Newton. In fact the Jesuit missionary Pierre Jartoux (1669-1720) (known in China as Du Demei) introduced the infinite series for the sine into China in 1701 and it was known there by the name 'formula of Master Du'.*SAU

1832 Edmond Bour (19 May 1832 in Gray, Haute-Saône, France - 9 March 1866 in Paris, France)Bour made many significant contributions to analysis, algebra, geometry and applied mechanics despite his early death from an incurable disease. His remarkable achievements were cut short at the age of 33 and as a consequence Bour is hardly known in the history of mathematics whereas one feels that if he had been given the chance to continue his outstanding work he would today be remembered as one of the major figures in the subject. *SAU

1862 Gino Benedetto Loria (19 May 1862 in Mantua, Italy -30 Jan 1954 in Genoa, Italy) In his day, Loria was arguably the pre-eminent historian of mathematics in Italy. A full professor of higher geometry at the University of Genoa beginning in 1891, Loria wrote the history of mathematics as a mathematician writing for other mathematicians. He emphasized this approach repeatedly in his works. For instance, in the introduction to his 'Storia delle matematiche dall'alba della civilità al tramonto del secolo XIX' (History of Mathematics from the Dawn of Civilisation to the End of the 19th Century), he stated that general history of mathematics was written "by a mathematician for mathematicians". *SAU

1865  Flora Philip (19 May 1865 – 14 August 1943) was a Scottish mathematician, one of the first women to receive a degree from the University of Edinburgh and the first female member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society.

Philip attended at Tain Academy and then moved to Edinburgh in 1883 to continue her education.[1] At the time, the law prevented women from studying at Scottish universities so she enrolled with the Edinburgh Association for the University Education of Women. In 1885 she was awarded the University of Edinburgh Certificate in Arts by University Principal Sir William Muir, for her studies in English literature, ethics, mathematics and physiology.

In 1889 the Universities (Scotland) Act was passed allowing women to be admitted to Scottish universities for the first time. Philip matriculated at the University of Edinburgh and received her degree for her previous studies. On 13 April 1893 she and seven other women graduated from the University, becoming the first women to do so. A report on the graduation ceremony noted "a large attendance of the general public, many of whom were doubtless draw thither to witness the spectacle, seen for the first time in the history of this university, of ladies taking their places (one lady with distinction) among the graduates

In 1943, the University of Edinburgh marked the fiftieth anniversary of that first group of women graduates, and three of eight attended the ceremony as honoured guests on the platform: Flora Philip, Maude Elizabeth Newbigin, Amelia Hutchison Stirling. Philip died later that year.

1918 Abraham Pais (19 May 1918 - 28 Jul 2000 at age 82) Dutch-American physicist and science historian whose research became the building blocks of the theory of elemental particles. He wrote Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein, which is considered the definitive Einstein biography. In Holland, his Ph.D. in physics was awarded on 9 Jul 1941, five days before a Nazi deadline banning Jews from receiving degrees. Later, during WW II, while in hiding to evade the Gestapo, he worked out ideas in quantum electrodynamics that he later shared when working with Niels Bohr (Jan - Aug 1946). In Sep 1946, he went to the U.S. to work with Robert Oppenheimer at Princeton, where Pais contributed to the foundations of the modern theory of particle physics. *TIS
"To make a discovery is not necessarily the same as to understand a discovery. "  His biography of Einstein is considered one of the finest science biographies written:

1919 Georgii Dmitrievic Suvorov (19 May 1919 in Saratov, Russia - 12 Oct 1984 in Donetske, Ukraine) Suvorov made major contributions to the theory of functions. He worked, in particular, on the theory of topological and metric mappings on 2-dimensional space. Another area on which Suvorov worked was the theory of conformal mappings and quasi-formal mappings. His results in this area, mostly from the late 1960s when he was at Donetsk, are of particular significance. He extended Lavrentev's results in this area, in particular Lavrentev's stability and differentiability theorems, to more general classes of transformations. One of the many innovations in Suvorov's work was new methods which he introduced to help in the understanding of metric properties of mappings with bounded Dirichlet integral. *SAU

1927 Serge Lang  (May 19, 1927 – September 12, 2005) was a French-born mathematician who spent most of his life in the USA. He is best-known for his outstanding undergraduate text-books.*SAU He was a member of the Bourbaki group. Lang was born in Paris in 1927, and moved with his family to California as a teenager, where he graduated in 1943 from Beverly Hills High School. He subsequently graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1946, and received a doctorate from Princeton University in 1951. He held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Columbia University (from 1955, leaving in 1971 in a dispute). At the time of his death he was professor emeritus of mathematics at Yale University. *Wik
Lang's Algebra, a graduate-level introduction to abstract algebra, was a highly influential text that ran through numerous updated editions. His Steele prize citation stated, "Lang's Algebra changed the way graduate algebra is taught...It has affected all subsequent graduate-level algebra books." It contained ideas of his teacher, Artin; some of the most interesting passages in Algebraic Number Theory also reflect Artin's influence and ideas that might otherwise not have been published in that or any form.

1930 Rudolf Emil Kálmán (May 19, 1930 – July 2, 2016) is a Hungarian-American electrical engineer, mathematical system theorist, and college professor, who was educated in the United States, and has done most of his work there. He is currently a retired professor from three different institutes of technology and universities. He is most noted for his co-invention and development of the Kalman filter, a mathematical formulation that is widely used in control systems, avionics, and outer space manned and unmanned vehicles. For this work, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Kálmán with the National Medal of Science on October 7, 2009. *Wik

1962 Richard Lawrence Taylor (born 19 May 1962) is a British mathematician working in the field of number theory. He is currently the Barbara Kimball Browning Professor in Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.

Taylor received the 2002 Cole Prize, the 2007 Shaw Prize with Robert Langlands, and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.One of the two papers containing the published proof of Fermat's Last Theorem is a joint work of Taylor and Andrew Wiles.

In subsequent work, Taylor (along with Michael Harris) proved the local Langlands conjectures for GL(n) over a number field. A simpler proof was suggested almost at the same time by Guy Henniart, and ten years later by Peter Scholze.

Taylor, together with Christophe Breuil, Brian Conrad and Fred Diamond, completed the proof of the Taniyama–Shimura conjecture, by performing quite heavy technical computations in the case of additive reduction.


804 Alcuin of York,(730s or 740s – 19 May 804) was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Saint Martin's at Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found" according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era. *Wik 
 He was born in 735, the year Bede died. As minister of education under Charlemagne, he attempted to reorganize the educational system by popularizing the study of the seven liberal arts and encouraging the study of mathematics as an aid in determining the date of Easter. He wrote the first book of mathematical recreations, Propositiones ad acuendis juvenas (Problems for Sharpening the Minds of Youths), which contained 53 mathematical puzzles, including: A wolf, a goat, and a cabbage must be moved across a river in a boat holding only one besides the ferryman. How must he carry them across so that the goat shall not eat the cabbage, nor the wolf the goat? *VFR (Singmaster asserts this is the first example of a river-crossing problem)

My "Brief History of the River Crossing Problem" is here

1731 Francis Maseres (15 December 1731 – 19 May 1824) was an English lawyer. He is known as attorney general of the Province of Quebec, judge, mathematician, historian, member of the Royal Society, and cursitor baron of the exchequer. *Wik Maseres wrote many mathematical works which show a complete lack of creative ability. He rejected negative numbers and that part of algebra which is not arithmetic, despite writing 150 years after Viète and Harriot. It is probable that Maseres rejected all mathematics which he could not understand. *SAU

1881 Rev U Jessee Kniseley (March 14, 1838 - May 19, 1881) was born in New Philadelphia, Ohio March 14 1838 He was a self made man and in a very great measure self educated. The degree of MA was conferred on him by Marietta College and that of PhD by Wittenberg College in which latter institution he had formerly been a classical and theological student. He also attended Jefferson College Pa but was not a graduate of any college. He was chosen President and Professor of Mathematics of Luther College, an institution of ephemeral existence. Rev Dr Knisely was a Lutheran preacher of marked ability and great eloquence and for fourteen years previous to his death he was the loved pastor of the church of that denomination at Newcomerstown. He was a very fine mathematician and excelled especially in the solution of algebraic and geometrical problems The elegant solution of a Diophantine problem on pp 105 and 106 of the Mathematical Visitor Vol I No 4 and of the celebrated Malfatti's Problem pp 189 and 190 of No 6 are admirable samples of his superior skill in these departments of analysis. Rev Dr Knisely was also a master of language and the author of several works. Copies of his Parser's Manual and Arithmetical Questions for the Recreation of the Teacher and the Discipline of the Pupil are possessed by the writer. It is stated in the Tuscarawas Chroical from which the substance of a portion of this notice is taken that he was also author of Kniseley's Arithmetic and Mrs Knisely states that he had in preparation a work on the Carculus, but of these works the writer knows nothing. His last work was the revision of Ray's Higher Arithmetic and the Key which he completed but a short time before his death. He died May 19, 1881 at the age of 43 years 2 months and 5 days The disease that caused his death was a general prostration of the nervous system. *Artemas Martin, Mathematical Visitor January 1882

Aviation pioneers Ella and Percy Pilcher with their Hawk glider, Glasgow, 1896. Via Philip Jarrett.*Wik

1939 Ella Sophia Gertrude Pilcher (c. 1865, 19 May, 1939) was a pioneering British aviator, and the first woman in the Britain to fly in a glider. She co-created gliders with her younger brother, Percy Pilcher, in the 1890's. She was made an honorary member of the Royal Aeronautical Society (then called Aeronautical Society of Great Britain) in 1899 shortly after her brother died in a glider crash. He had a powered aeroplane completed and scheduled for exhibition only days afterward. In the period from 1896 to 1899 she was often pictured in photos with her brother, but seldom mentioned. One observer did include: "I hope I may be permitted to remark that Mr. Pilcher has been, fortunately, blessed with the possession of a sister, who not only acted as the presiding goddess of the tea-table on the present occasion, but actually made most of the wing surfaces with her own hands."

1942 Sir Joseph Larmor (11 July 1857 Magheragall, County Antrim, Ireland – 19 May 1942 Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland) Irish physicist, the first to calculate the rate at which energy is radiated by an accelerated electron, and the first to explain the splitting of spectrum lines by a magnetic field. His theories were based on the belief that matter consists entirely of electric particles moving in the ether. His elaborate mathematical electrical theory of the late 1890s included the "electron" as a rotational strain (a sort of twist) in the ether. But Larmor's theory did not describe the electron as a part of the atom. Many physicists envisioned both material particles and electromagnetic forces as structures and strains in that hypothetical fluid. *TIS

1979 Ralph Duncan James (1909 Liverpool, England – 19 May 1979 Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada) was an English and Canadian mathematician working on number theory and analysis. *Wik James contributed in a major way towards the development of mathematics in North America. He was Editor-in-Chief of the American Mathematical Monthly from 1957 to 1962. For many years he was on the Editorial Boards of the Canadian Journal of Mathematics and of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics. He also served as President of the Canadian Mathematical Society (then called the Canadian Mathematical Congress) from 1961 to 1963. In fact all the previous presidents had served terms of four years, but James felt that this was too long a period to hold the position so it was reduced to a two year term. He served two terms on the Council of the American Mathematical Society. *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