Tuesday, 19 July 2011

On This Day in Math - July 19

[The infinitesimals] neither have nor can have theory; in practise it is a dangerous instrument in the hands of beginners ... anticipating, for my part, the judgement of posterity, I would predict that this method will be accused one day, and rightly, of having retarded the progress of the mathematical sciences.
~Francois Servois

The 200th day of the year; 200 is the smallest unprimeable number - it can not be turned into a prime number by changing just one of its digits to any other digit. (What would be the next one? What is the smallest odd unprimeable number?)

1595 “God in creating the universe and regulating the order of the cosmos had in view the five regular bodies of geometry as known since the days of Pythagoras and Plato.” So did Kepler record his discovery that the universe was based on the Platonic solids, a conjecture he published in 1596. *VFR

1676   Flamsteed began living at the Observatory with his two servants on July 10.  On 19 July,  his long series of Greenwich observations began? *Rebekah Higgitt, Teleskopos

1799 The Rosetta stone was found by Napoleon’s troops in the Nile delta. It attracted the interest of the learned men with Napoleon, which included several mathematicians, and copies were circulated to scholars. The text is in Greek, hieroglyphics and demotic Egyptian scripts and was deciphered by Thomas Young and Fran¸cois Champollion. The cartouches on the stone, which contained royal names, were the key to decipherment. It is now a prized possession of the British Museum.*VFR

1819 Poisson submitted a paper on the solution of the wave equation. He used the method of power series, but the techniques advocated by Cauchy and Fourier using complex variables and “Fourier analysis” won out. [Ivor Grattan-Guiness, Convolutions in French Mathematics,
1800–1840, pp. 682, 687ff, 1393] *VFR

1895 George Cantor, first uses Aleph-null in a letter to Felix Klein.  Prior to this he had use aleph-one for the first infinite cardinal.   The first part of his Bietrage was already in print, so his letter to Klein is added, almost verbatim, to explain the changes with the publication date still showing March of that year.
*From the Calculus to Set Theory, 1630-1910: An Introductory History, By I. Grattan-Guinness

1983 The first three-dimensional reconstruction of a human head via computed tomography (CT) is published. Michael W. Vannier (Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, St. Louis) and his co-workers J. Marsh (Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Deformities Institute, St. Louis Children's Hospital) and J. Warren (McDonnell Aircraft Company) published the first three-dimensional reconstruction of single computed tomography (CT) slices of the human head. Computer-aided aircraft design techniques were adapted to make the cranial imaging possible. Since then, CT imaging has become a cornerstone of the medical profession.*CHM

1767 Francois-Joseph Servois born. He worked in projective geometry, functional equations and complex numbers. He introduced the word pole in projective geometry. He also came close to discovering the quaternions before Hamilton.
Servois introduced the terms "commutative" and "distributive" in a paper describing properties of operators, and he also gave some examples of noncommutativity. Although he does not use the concept of a ring explicitly, he does verify that linear commutative operators satisfy the ring axioms. In doing so he showed why operators could be manipulated like algebraic magnitudes. This work initiates the algebraic theory of operators.
Servois was critical of Argand's geometric interpretation of the complex numbers. He wrote to Gergonne telling him so in November 1813 and Gergonne published the letter in the Annales de mathématiques in January 1814. Servois wrote:- I confess that I do not yet see in this notation anything but a geometric mask applied to analytic forms the direct use of which seems to me simple and more expeditious.
Considered as a leading expert by many mathematicians of his day, he was consulted on many occasions by Poncelet while he was writing his book on projective geometry Traité des propriétés projective. *SAU

1806 Alexander (Dallas) Bache was Ben Franklin's great grandson. A West Point trained physicist, Bache became the second Superintendent of the Coast Survey (1844-65). He made an ingenious estimate of ocean depth in 1856. He studied records of a tidal wave that had taken 12 hours to cross the Pacific. Knowing that wave speeds depend on depth, he calculated a 2 1/5-mile average depth for the Pacific (within 15% of the right value). Bache created the National Academy of Sciences, securing greater government involvement in science. Through the Franklin Institute he instituted boiler tests to promote safety for steamboats.*TIS

1817 Charles Auguste Briot undertook research on analysis, heat, light and electricity. His first major work on analysis was Recherches sur la théorie des fonctions which he published in the Journal of the École Polytechnique in 1859, and he also published this work as a treatise in the same year. His researches on heat, light and electricity was all based on his theories of the aether. He was strongly influenced in developing these theories by Louis Pasteur, the famous chemist. Of course Pasteur was a great scientist, but Briot had an additional reason to hold him in high esteem for, like himself and his friend Bouquet, Pasteur was brought up in the Doubs region of France.
In 1859 Briot and Bouquet published their important two volume treatise on doubly periodic functions. They published another joint effort in 1875 when their treatise on elliptic functions appeared. In this same year they published a second edition to their two volume work of 1859. In 1879 Briot, this time in a single author work, produced his treatise on abelian functions. The physical motivation for the mathematical theories which gave rise to this work in analysis was published by Briot in 1864 when he published his work on light, Essai sur la théorie mathématique de la lumière and five years later when he published his work on heat, Théorie mécanique de la chaleur.
We noted above that Briot was a dedicated teacher and as such he wrote a great number of textbooks for his students. This was certainly a tradition in France at this time and it was natural for a teacher of Briot's quality to write up his courses as textbooks. He wrote textbooks which covered most of the topics from a mathematics course: arithmetic, algebra, calculus, geometry, analytic geometry, and mechanics. For his outstanding contributions to mathematics the Académie des Sciences in Paris awarded Briot their Poncelet Prize in 1882 shortly before he died. *SAU

1846 Edward Charles Pickering, was born Boston, Mass., U.S. physicist and astronomer. After graduating from Harvard, he taught physics for ten years at MIT where he built the first instructional physics laboratory in the United States. At age 30, he directed the Harvard College Observatory for 42 years. His observations were assisted by a staff of women, including Annie Jump Cannon. He introduced the use of the meridian photometer to measure the magnitude of stars, and established the Harvard Photometry (1884), the first great photometric catalog. By establishing a station in Peru (1891) to make the southern photographs, he published the first all-sky photographic map (1903).*TIS

1894 Aleksandr Yakovlevich Khinchin was a Russian mathematician who contributed to many fields including number theory and probability.Khinchin's book Mathematical Foundations of Information Theory, translated into English from the original Russian in 1957, is important. It consists of English translations of two articles: The entropy concept in probability theory and On the basic theorems of information theory which were both published earlier in Russian. The second of these articles provides a refinement of Shannon's concepts of the capacity of a noisy channel and the entropy of a source. Khinchin generalised some of Shannon's results in this book which was written in an elementary style yet gave a comprehensive account with full details of all the results.*SAU

1913 Mary Cannell born in Liverpool. It was the work which she undertook after she retired which earns her a place as a highly respected historian of mathematics. Her work stemmed from the fact that George Green had worked as a miller near Nottingham. Green was a mathematician who was well known to almost all students of mathematics around the world, yet little was known of his life. Flauvel writes:- ... widespread knowledge of Green himself dates only from the 1970s when Cannell and other Nottingham colleagues worked to restore his windmill and his memory...When I first visited Green's windmill in Nottingham the booklet which I purchased was George Green Miller and Mathematician written in 1988 by Mary Cannell. She produced a major biography of Green, George Green : Mathematician and Physicist 1793-1841 : The Background to His Life and Work in 1993. In addition she wrote research articles on Green's life and work bringing to the world of mathematics an understanding of Green's remarkable life.
Flauvel writes:- She charmed audiences on several continents, promoting interest in Green and early 19th-century mathematical physics, in the clear tones and pure vowels of pre-war English, somewhere between Miss Marple and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. ... Mary Cannell was working on projects of one sort or another - the Green website, the revised edition of the biography, research papers, the catalogue in the university of Nottingham library - right to the end, in days filled with her characteristic energy and enthusiasm. *SAU


1878 Egor Ivanovich Zolotarev produced fundamental work on analysis and number theory. *SAU

1947 John Clark graduated from Edinburgh University and became a teacher at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh. He went on to become Rector of this school. He became Secretary of the EMS in 1891 and President in 1897. *SAU

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

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