Wednesday 8 June 2011

On This Day in Math - June 8

If you open a mathematics paper at random, 
on the pair of pages before you, you will find a mistake.
~Joseph Doob

1637 The printing of Descartes’ Discours de la Methode, with its important appendix “La G´eom´etrie,” was completed. *VFR In 1637, the book Discourse on Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences, was published by René Descartes, regarded as a major work in science and mathematics. He expresses his disappointment with traditional philosophy and with the limitations of theology; only logic, geometry and algebra hold his respect, because of the utter certainty which they can offer. Ushering in the "scientific revolution" of Galileo and Newton, Descartes' ideas swept aside ancient and medieval traditions of philosophical methods and investigation. *TIS

1724 Euler received his master’s degree in philosophy at age 17, giving a lecture comparing the philosophical ideas of Descartes and Newton. His bachelor’s speech, in the summer of 1722, was “On temperance.” *VFR

1887 Herman Hollerith receives a patent for his punch card calculator. * The Geek Manual (I wonder what age is the lower  threshold for recognition of the term "punch card" as a computer term.)

In 1918, Nova Aquila, the brightest nova since Kepler's nova of 1604, was discovered in the constellation of Aquila the eagle, a 1st magnitude star 6 degrees north of the Scutum star cloud. For the months that it shone, it was the brightest star in the sky, briefly half a million times brighter than the sun, but seen from 1200 light years (70,000 trillion miles) away. Between 1899 and 1936 there were 20 fairly bright novae, and five of those were in this same small area of the sky, the constellation Aquila. Seven years later Nova Aquila had faded to a bluish star apparently much smaller and denser than our sun. (Aquila belonged to Zeus, and was the eagle that carried the mortal Ganymede to the heavens to serve as Zeus' cup bearer.)TIS

1948 Carl Savit, a graduate student at Caltech, appeared in court to demand $1000 from Mottant Company of Chicago for solving the three classical construction problems. This offer was made in an advertisement that neglected to require that compass and straightedge be used. It is not known if he collected. [Mathematics Magazine 61 (1988), p 158].*VFR

1979 The Source, the first computer public information service, goes on line.

2004 The most recent transit of Venus when observed from Earth took place on June 8, 2004. The event received significant attention, since it was the first Venus transit to take place after the invention of broadcast media. No human alive at the time had witnessed a previous Venus transit, since the previous Venus transit took place on December 6, 1882. The next transit of Venus will occur on June 5–June 6 in 2012,. After 2012, the next transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.*Wik Sounds to me like you better plan on the 2012 transit if you want to see one.

1625 Jean Dominique Cassini Italian-born French astronomer who in 1675 discovered Cassini's division, the dark gap subdividing Saturn's rings into two parts. He stated that Saturn's ring, believed by Huygens to be a single body, was actually composed of small particles. Cassini also discovered four of Saturn's moons: Iapetus (Sep 1671), Rhea (1672) and on 21 Mar 1684,* Tethys and Dione. He compiled new tables (1662) on the annual motion of the Sun. He observed shadows of four Galilean satellites on Jupiter (1664), and measured its rotation period by studying the bands and spots on its surface. He determined the period of rotation of Mars (1666), and attempted the same for Venus. His son Jacques was also an astronomer.*TIS

1724 John Smeaton English civil engineer, who coined the term "civil engineering" (to distinguish from military engineers). He built the third Eddystone Lighthouse, Plymouth, Devon, using dovetailed blocks of portland stone (1756-59). He discovered the best mortar for underwater construction to be limestone with a high proportion of clay. Smeaton also constructed the Forth and Clyde Canal in Scotland between the Atlantic and the North Sea; built bridges in towns including Perth, Banff, and Coldstream, Scotland; and completed Ramsgate harbour, Kent. He introduced cast-iron shafts and gearing into wind and water mills, designed large atmospheric pumping engines for mines, and improved the safety of the diving bell.)*TIS

1725 Caspar Wessel was a Norwegian mathematician who invented a geometric way of representing complex numbers which pre-dated Argand. *SAU
His fundamental paper, Om directionens analytiske betegning, was published in 1799 by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Since it was in Danish, it passed almost unnoticed, and the same results were later independently found by Argand and Gauss.
One of the more prominent ideas presented in "On the Analytical Representation of Direction" was that of vectors. Even though this wasn't Wessel's main intention with the publication, he felt that a geometrical concept of numbers, with length and direction, was needed. Wessel's approach on addition was: "Two straight lines are added if we unite them in such a way that the second line begins where the first one ends and then pass a straight line from the first to the last point of the united lines. This line is the sum of the united lines". This is the same idea as used today when summing vectors. Wessel's priority to the idea of a complex number as a point in the complex plane is today universally recognized. His paper was re-issued in French translation in 1899, and in English in 1999 as On the analytic representation of direction (ed. J. Lützen et al.).*Wik

1858 Charlotte Agnas Scott born in Lincoln, England. She attended Girton, the first (1869) college in England for women. In 1880 she took the tripos exam at Cambridge, but because she was a woman, her name could not be announced at the award ceremony. “The man read out the names and when he came to ‘eithth,’ before he could say the name, all the undergraduates called out ‘Scott of Girton,’ and cheered tremendously, shouting her name over and over again with tremendous cheers and waving of hats.” [Women of Mathematics. A Biobibliographic Sourcebook (1987), edited by Louise S. Grinstein and Paul J. Campbell] *VFR

1860 Alicia Boole Stott was the third daughter of George Boole. George Boole died when Alicia was only four years old and she was was brought up partly in England by her grandmother,(Mary Everest Boole was a mathematician educator who was an early advocate of teaching children math through playful activities. It is almost certain she would have exposed her daughters to such activities {pb}) partly in Cork by her great-uncle. When she was twelve years old she went to London where she joined her mother and sisters.
With no formal education she surprised everyone when, at the age of eighteen, she was introduced to a set of little wooden cubes by her brother-in-law Charles Howard Hinton. Alicia Boole experimented with the cubes and soon developed an amazing feel for four dimensional geometry. She introduced the word 'polytope' to describe a four dimensional convex solid.

MacHale, writes:-
She found that there were exactly six regular polytopes on four dimensions and that they are bounded by 5, 16 or 600 tetrahedra, 8 cubes, 24 octahedra or 120 dodecahedra. She then produced three-dimensional central cross-sections of all the six regular polytopes by purely Euclidean constructions and synthetic methods for the simple reason that she had never learned any analytic geometry. She made beautiful cardboard models of all these sections....

After taking up secretarial work near Liverpool in 1889 she met and married Walter Stott in 1890. Stott learned of Schoute's work on central sections of the regular polytopes in 1895 and Alicia Stott sent him photographs of her cardboard models. Schoute came to England and worked with Alicia Stott, persuading her to publish her results which she did in two papers published in Amsterdam in 1900 and 1910.

The University of Groningen honoured her by inviting her to attend the tercentenary celebrations of the university and awarding her an honorary doctorate in 1914.
In 1930 she was introduced to Coxeter and they worked together on various problems. Alicia Stott made two further important discoveries relating to constructions for polyhedra related to the golden section. *Wik

1867 Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Widely regarded as America's most significant architect, Wright transformed twentieth-century
residential design; his influential Prairie School houses and plans for public buildings proved simultaneously innovative, aesthetically striking, and practical. A social visionary, Wright's commitment to a context-driven "organic architecture," which harmonized with both its occupants' needs and the surrounding landscape, underscored his creative genius across a long and productive career.*Library of Congress

1896 Eleanor Pairman graduated from Edinburgh. She went to London where she worked with Karl Pearson and then went to the USA where she gained a doctorate from Radcliffe College.*SAU

1924  Samuel Karlin, who made fundamental contributions to game theory, analysis, mathematical statistics, total positivity, probability and stochastic processes, mathematical economics, inventory theory, population genetics, bioinformatics, and biomolecular sequence analysis, was born in Yonova, Poland, and immigrated to Chicago as a child.
Karlin earned a doctorate in mathematics at age 22 from Princeton in 1947. He taught at Caltech from 1948 to 1956 before moving to Stanford as a Professor of Math and Stat. Overall, Karlin had over 70 PhD students, to whom he was an extraordinary teacher and advisor.(*David Bee)

1955 Tim Berners-Lee English computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees its continued development. In 1984, he took up a fellowship at CERN, to work on distributed real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control. While there , in 1989, he proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web, which permitted people to collaborate by sharing knowledge in a web of hypertext documents. On 6 Aug 1991, the first World Wide Web site was made available to the Internet at large, giving information on a browser and how to set up a Web server. He then expanded its reach, always nonprofit, to become an international mass medium. *TIS

1882 John Scott Russell British civil engineer best known for researches in ship design. He designed the first seagoing battleship built entirely of iron. He was the first to record an observation of a soliton, while conducting experiments to determine the most efficient design for canal boats. In Aug 1834, he observed what he called the "Wave of Translation," a solitary wave formed in the narrow channel of a canal which continues ahead after a canal boat stops. [This is now recognised as a fundamental ingredient in the theory of 'solitons', applicable to a wide class of nonlinear partial differential equations.] He also made the first experimental observation of the "Doppler shift" of sound frequency as a train passes (1848). He designed (with Brunel) the Great Eastern and built it; he designed the Vienna Rotunda and helped to design Britain's first armored warship, the Warrior. *TIS

1998 Maria Reiche German-born Peruvian mathematician and archaeologist who was the self-appointed keeper of the Nazca Lines, a series of desert ground drawings over
1,000 years old, near Nazcain in southern Peru. For 50 years the "Lady of the Lines" studied and protected these etchings of animals and geometric patterns in 60 km (35 mi) of desert. Protected by a lack of wind and rain, the figures are hundreds of feet long best seen from the air. She investigated the Nazca lines from a mathematical point of view. Death at age 95 interrupted her new mathematical calculations: the possibility that the lines predicted cyclical natural phenomena like El Nino, a weather system that for centuries has periodically caused disastrous flooding along the Peruvian coast.

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

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