Monday 13 June 2011

On This Day in Math - June 13

Mathematics is not a careful march
down a well-cleared highway, 
but a journey into a strange wilderness,
where the explorers often get lost.  
Rigour should be a signal to the historian
that the maps have been made,
and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.  
~W.S. Anglin

1611 a publication on the newly discovered phenomenon of sunspots was dedicated. Narratio de maculis in sole observatis et apparente earum cum sole conversione. ("Narration on Spots Observed on the Sun and their Apparent Rotation with the Sun"). This first publication on such observations, was the work of Johannes Fabricius, a Dutch  astronomer who was perhaps the first ever to observe sunspots. On 9 Mar 1611, at dawn, Johannes had used his telescope to view the rising sun and had seen several dark spots on it. He called his father to investigate this new phenomenon with him. The brightness of the Sun's center was very painful, and the two quickly switched to a projection method by means of a camera obscura.

1676 Newton sent Oldenburg the “Epistola prior” for transmission to Leibniz. Among other things it contained the first statement of the binomial theorem for negative and fractional exponents. *VFR This may be the first use of fractional and negative exponents in the modern sense (cajori, 308 pgs 370-371)

1699 John Wallis writes a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting that switching from the Julian to Gregorian calendar might be a mistake and expressing his fear that, "..if we go to alter that, it will be attended with a greater mischief than the present inconvenience. "
In a postscript he comments that Lock's suggestion of omitting the Feb 29 from eleven consecutive leap years would lead to ".. a confusion for four and forty years together, wherein we should agree neither with the old nor with the new account." *Philosophical Transactions, 1699 21, 343-354
In accordance with a 1750 act of Parliament, England and its colonies changed calendars in 1752. *Wik

1771 Lagrange presented, to the Berlin Academy, the first proof of Wilson’s theorem (n is prime iff n divides (n − 1)! + 1). Edward Waring published the theorem in 1770, but Leibniz knew it previously . *VFR

1865 Only three months before his death, Sir William Rowan Hamilton received a letter from the American astronomer, Benjamin Gould, informing him that the newly created U.S. National Academy of Sciences had elected him first on its list of Foreign Associates, thereby signifying that the academy considered him the greatest living scientist. [T. L. Hawkins, Hamilton, p. xv] *VFR

1878 Arthur Cayley addresses the London Mathematical Society brings the four color theorem to a wider audience when printed in the Society’s proceedings (Dave Richeson, Euler’s Gem, pg 132) 
The conjecture was first proposed in 1852 when Francis Guthrie, while trying to color the map of counties of England, noticed that only four different colors were needed. At the time, Guthrie's brother, Fredrick, was a student of Augustus De Morgan at University College. Francis inquired with Fredrick regarding it, who then took it to De Morgan (Francis Guthrie graduated later in 1852, and later became a professor of mathematics in South Africa). According to De Morgan:
"A student of mine [Guthrie] asked me to day to give him a reason for a fact which I did not know was a fact — and do not yet. He says that if a figure be any how divided and the compartments differently coloured so that figures with any portion of common boundary line are differently coloured — four colours may be wanted but not more — the following is his case in which four colours are wanted. Query cannot a necessity for five or more be invented…   *Wik
Others have suggested that Mobius presented the challenge of drawing a map requiring five colors as early as 1840.

1878 Thomas Craig received his Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University under the direction of J. J. Sylvester for a dissertation on “The representation of one surface upon another; and on some points in the theory of the curvature of surfaces.” He was one of the four to receive his degree there (the philosopher Josiah Royce was another). These were the first Ph.D.s offered by Johns Hopkins, a university founded in 1876 to advance graduate education. *VFR

1959 France issued a stamp picturing Jean Le Rond d’Alembert.
D'ALEMBERT (1717 1783) was abandoned by his parents on the steps of Saint Jean le Rond, which was the baptistery of Notre-Dame. Foster parents were found and he was christened with the name of the saint of the church. When he became famous, his mother attempted to reclaim him, but he rejected her.

1983 Pioneer 10, launched 3 March 1972, leaves the solar system, being the first man-made object to do so. It has traveled over three billion miles.

1773 Thomas Young (13 June 1773 – 10 May 1829) was an English polymath. He is famous for having partly deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs (specifically the Rosetta Stone) before Jean-François Champollion eventually expanded on his work. He was admired by, among others, Herschel and Einstein.
Young made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony and Egyptology.*Wik .. For someone as talented as Young, he received relatively few honours. The one which pleased him most was election as a foreign member of the Institute in Paris in 1827. When Young died two years later, Arago gave the eulogy at the Institute saying:-
The death of Young in his own country attracted but little regard. *SAU

1831 James Clerk Maxwell Scottish physicist and mathematician. Maxwell's researches united electricity and magnetism into the concept of the electro-magnetic field. In London, around 1862, Maxwell calculated that the speed of propagation of an electromagnetic field is approximately that of the speed of light. He proposed that the phenomenon of light is therefore an electromagnetic phenomenon. The four partial differential equations, now known as Maxwell's equations, first appeared in fully developed form in Electricity and Magnetism (1873). He died relatively young; some of the theories he advanced in physics were only conclusively proved long after his death. Maxwell's ideas also paved the way for Einstein's special theory of relativity and the quantum theory. *TIS

1871 Ernst Steinitz. In 1910 he gave a general abstract definition of a field. He is responsible for introducing a number of concepts into the Theory of Fields, including prime subfields, separable elements, and perfect fields. *VFR

1868  Wallace Clement Ware Sabine was a U.S. physicist who founded the science of architectural acoustics. After experimenting in the Fogg lecture room at Harvard, to investigate the effect of absorption on the reverberation time, on 29 of October 1898 he discovered the type of relation between these quantities. The duration T of the residual sound to decay below the audible intensity, starting from a 1,000,000 times higher initial intensity is given by: T = 0.161 V/A (V=room volume in m3, A=total absorption in m2). The first auditorium Sabine designed applying his new insight in acoustics, was the new Boston Music Hall, formally opened on 15 Oct 1900. Now known as the Symphony Hall, and still considered one of the world's three finest concert halls.*TIS

1876 William S. Gosset . This brew-master/statistician published under the name “student.”.   He developed the "small sample" or t-test for statistical testing.  Among many things of interest is a remark in Section 1 in the Comment by Persi Diaconis and Erich Lehmann indicating that Laplace was on the verge of first finding the t pdf but 'fell for the easy normal approximation' (quotation and discussion from the 1998 book A History of Mathematical Statistics From 1750 to 1930 by Anders Hald)

1906 Bruno de Finetti, 13 June 1906 - 20 July 1985
De Finetti was born in Innsbruck, Austria, and was a big contributor to subjective/personal probability and Bayesian inference along with L.J. ("Jimmie") Savage (1917-1971), both of whom are discussed briefly in Chapter 13 ("The Bayesian Heresy") of David Salsburg's book The Lady Tasting Tea and in Salsburg's concluding Chapter 29.*David Bee
1928 John Forbes Nash, Jr. (born June 13, 1928) is an American mathematicia whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life. His theories are used in market economics, computing, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, accounting, politics and military theory. Serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University  during the later part of his life, he shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi.
Nash is the subject of the Hollywood movie A Beautiful Mind. The film, loosely based on the biography of the same name, focuses on Nash's mathematical genius and struggle with paranoid schizophrenia*Wik Nash, 86, and his wife Alicia, 82, died in a car crash in a taxi on the New Jersey turnpike on May 23, 2015,.
1916 Silvanus P. Thomson born. In 1910 he published Calculus Made Easy, which was published anonymously until after his death in 1916. It is still in print. *VFR He was a noted physicist and engineer, and a celebrated teacher and writer on electricity and magnetism. He also wrote popular biographies of Faraday and Lord Kelvin. At his death he was professor at City and Guilds Technical College at Finsbury (London)

1939  Hermann Wiener was a German mathematician who worked on the foundations of geometry*SAU

*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History

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