Thursday 25 August 2011

On This Day in Math - Aug 25

The lecturer should give the audience full reason to believe that all his powers
have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction.
~Michael Faraday

The 237th day of the year; it would be a singularly uninteresting number (3 x 79) except that the room number in the film, "The Shining" was switched from 217 in the novel to 237 for the film? It seems that the Timberline Lodge had a room 217 but no room 237, so the hotel management asked Kubrick to change the room number because they were afraid their guests might not want to stay in room 217 after seeing the film. *Visual

1609 Galileo leads a procession of Venetian Senators across the Piazza San Marco and up the Campanile for their first look through a telescope. In his words,
"to detect sails and vessels on the sea, so far away that coming under full sail toward the harbor, two hours or more passed before they could be seen without my eyeglass"
*Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way
1664 Hooke writes to Boyle about new experiments he is performing in the damaged steeple of Old St. Pauls.  One involves a 180 foot long pendulum with a four pound weight that swings with a 12 second period. *Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits pg 65

1955 The People’s Republic of China issued stamps honoring the mathematician Tsu Chung-chih (429–500), and astronomers Chang Heng (78–139) and Chong Sui (683–727) and physicist Li Shih-chen (1518–1593). [Scott #246, #245, #247, #248 respectively] *VFR

1959 The National Medal of Science was authorized by act of Congress (73 Stat. L. 431) for out-standing contribution in the physical, biological, mathematical, and engineering sciences on the basis or recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences. President Kennedy made the first presentation February 17, 1963, to the Hungarian-born aerodynamicist Theodor von Karmen. [Kane, p. 373] Godel received one in 1975. Marston Morse did also. Did any other mathematicians? *VFR A list of laureates is here

1976 The Board of Governors of the MAA awarded an honorary life membership to Martin Gardner “for the substantial contributions he has made to the public appreciation of mathematics by his superb exposition in his texts and his column ‘Mathematical Games’ ” in the Scientific American. Gardner was both honored and embarrassed to receive this award, for he had never taken a mathematics course in college. “I consider myself more a journalist and popularizer of mathematics than a genuine mathematician.” While true, he has probability done more than anyone else to popularize mathematics. *VFR

In 1981, the U.S. spacecraftVoyager II came within 63,000 miles (100,000 km) of Saturn's cloud cover, sending back data and pictures of the ringed planet in its closest approach to Saturn, showing not a few, but thousands of rings. Photographs were also sent back of a number of Saturn's moons. The space probe was launched on 20 Aug 1977, and visited Jupiter on 9 Jul 1979, and continued on to Uranus (24 Jan 1986) and Neptune (25 Aug 1989) before leaving the Solar System. Having a nuclear power source, the space probe continues to study ultraviolet sources among the stars, and its fields and particles instruments continue to search for the boundary between the Sun's influence and interstellar space.*TIS

2014 he Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft is now well over halfway through its journey to Pluto. Motoring along at 57,9000 km/hr (36,000 mph), it will travel more than 4.8 billion km (3 billion miles) to fly past Pluto and its moons Nix, Hydra and Charon in July 2015.The next planetary milestone for New Horizons will be the orbit of Neptune, which it crosses on Aug. 25, 2014, exactly 25 years after Voyager 2 made its historic exploration of that giant planet. *Universe Today (Hat tip to David Dickinson@Astroguyz


1561 Philippe van Lansberge was a Flemish clergyman who wrote on mathematics and astronomy. He calculated π to 28 places by a new method. Lansberge's work on astronomy followed Copernicus. He wrote works supporting Copernicus's theories in both 1619 and 1629. However he did not accept Kepler's ellipse theories and he published astronomical tables which he hoped would support Copernicus over Kepler. *SAU He may also have been one of the earliest (1604) to write Q.E.D to abbreviate the Latin phrase "quod erat demonstrandum". *Wik Does anyone have information on what his "new method" for calculating pi was?

1699 Charles-Étienne Camus was a French mathematician who worked on mechanics and cartography and published an important texbook: Cours de mathématiques.*SAU

1844 Thomas Muir born. He is noted for a four volume work on the history of determinants. *VFR He also proved an important lemma about determinants of skew symmetric matrices.

1867 Gury Vasilievich Kolosov was a Russian mathematician who worked on the theory of elasticity.*SAU In 1907 Kolosov derived the solution for stresses around an elliptical hole. It showed that the concentration of stress could become far greater, as the radius of curvature at an end of the hole becomes small compared with the overall length of the hole.*Wik

1867 Hendrik De Vries "Paul Bockstable describes de Vries's contributions:
Even greater emphasis was placed on the historical development of mathematical sciences in the historical writings of Hendrik de Vries (1867-1954), professor at the Municipal University of Amsterdam. His lectures took in algebra and analysis, but from 1921-22 onwards, he focussed increasingly on his preferred field, giving public lectures on the development of geometry. These culminated in a series of articles in the Nieuw Tijdschrift voor Wiskunde (New Journal of Mathematics), which were later collected, together with some other items, in a three volume publication entitled 'Historische Studien' (1926). De Vries wrote in the introduction that he wanted to focus attention on the historical development of very precisely defined topics, even specific problems or theorems. He pointed out the didactic benefits that the historical approach to mathematical problems could offer.
He continued to publish Historical studies, and as examples we give the title of a small number of these later articles: On the contact and intersection of circles and conic sections (1946), How analytic geometry became a science (1948), On the infinite and the imaginary, or "surrealism" in mathematics (1949), and On relations and transformations (1949).*SAU

1880 Joshua Lionel Cowen (25 Aug 1880; 8 Sep 1965) American inventor of electric model trains who founded the Lionel Corporation (1901), which became the largest U.S. toy train manufacturer. At age 18, he had invented a fuse to ignite the magnesium powder for flash photography, which the Navy Department bought from him to be a fuse to detonate submarine mines. He designed an early battery tube light, but without practical application. (His partner, Conrad Hubert, to whom he gave the rights improved it and founded the Eveready Flashlight Company.) At age 22, he created a battery-powered train engine intended only as an eye-catcher for other goods in a store window. To his surprise, many customers wanted to purchase the toy train. Thus he started a model railroad company. *TIS (For Xander)

1898 Helmut Hasse did fundamental work in algebra and number theory. *SAU

1964 Maxim Lvovich Kontsevich (Russian: Макси́м Льво́вич Конце́вич; born 25 August 1964) is a Russian mathematician. He is a professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques and a distinguished professor at the University of Miami. He received the Henri Poincaré Prize in 1997, the Fields Medal in 1998, and the Crafoord Prize in 2008. His work concentrates on geometric aspects of mathematical physics, most notably on knot theory, quantization, and mirror symmetry. His most famous result is a formal deformation quantization that holds for any Poisson manifold. He also introduced knot invariants defined by complicated integrals analogous to Feynman integrals. In topological field theory, he introduced the moduli space of stable maps, which may be considered a mathematically rigorous formulation of the Feynman integral for topological string theory. These results are a part of his "contributions to four problems of geometry" for which he was awarded the Fields Medal in 1998. *Wik

1679 Jonas Moore was an English man of science important for his support of mathematics and astronomy.*SAU He seems to have been the first to use "cot" for the cotangent function. He also founded the Royal Mathematical School at Christ's Hospital with Samual Pepys to train young men in the mathematics of navigation. *Wik He made critical contributions to the draining of the fens in England (making my drive from Lakenheath to Stoke Ferry much easier) and was instrumental in convincing Charles II to create the Royal Observatory and appoint Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal. *The day that Jonas died, Renaissance Mathematicus.

1819 James Watt (19 Jan 1736,25 Aug 1819) Scottish instrument maker and inventor whose steam engine contributed substantially to the Industrial Revolution. In 1763 he repaired the model of Newcomen's steam engine belonging to Glasgow University, and began experiments on properties of steam. The Newcomen engine was simple in design: it acted as a pump and a jet of cold water was used to condense the steam. Watt improved on this design by adding a separate condenser and a system of valves to make the piston return to the top of the cylinder after descending. He took out a patent for the separate condenser in 1769. He later adapted the engine to rotary motion, making it suitable for a variety of industrial purposes, and invented the flywheel and the governor.*TIS

1822 Sir William (Frederick) Herschel (15 Nov 1738, 25 Aug 1822) German-born British astronomer, the founder of sidereal astronomy for the systematic observation of the heavens. In 1773, Herschel made and began using his first telescope. With it he began a project that would continue for the rest of his life: that of systematically studying the sky. Through this study he discovered the planet Uranus, many new nebulae, clusters of stars and binary stars. Herschel hypothesized that nebulae are composed of stars, developed a theory of stellar evolution and was the first person to correctly describe the form of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. He discovered the Saturnian satellites Mimas and Enceladus (1789) and the Uranian satellites Titania and Oberon (1787). He was probably the most famous astronomer of the 18th century.*TIS

1867 Michael Faraday died at Hampton Court, Middlesex, England. English physicist and chemist whose many experiments contributed greatly to the understanding of electromagnetism. Although one of the greatest experimentalists, he was largely self-educated. Appointed by Sir Humphry Davy as his assistant at the Royal Institution, Faraday initially concentrated on analytical chemistry, and discovered benzene in 1825. His most important work was in electromagnetism, in which field he demonstrated electromagnetic rotation and discovered electromagnetic induction (the key to the development of the electric dynamo and motor). He also discovered diamagnetism and the laws of electrolysis. He published pioneering papers that led to the practical use of electricity, and he advocated the use of electric light in lighthouses. *TIS

1908 Antoine-Henri Becquerel (15 Dec 1852, 25 Aug 1908) Antoine-Henri Becquerel was a French physicist who discovered radioactivity. In 1903 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Pierre and Marie Curie. His early researches were in optics, then in 1896 he accidentally discovered radioactivity in fluorescent salts of uranium. He left some uranium mineral crystals in a drawer on a plate in black paper. Later, he developed the plate and found it was fogged, even though the crystals without ultraviolet radiation from sunlight were not fluorescing. Thus the salt was a source of a penetrating radiation. Three years afterwards he showed that it consists of charged particles that are deflected by a magnetic field. Initially, the rays emitted by radioactive substances were named after him. *TIS

1956 George Washington Pierce (11 Jan 1872, 25 Aug 1956) American inventor who was a pioneer in radiotelephony and a noted teacher of communication engineering. He did work that led to the practical application of a variety of experimental discoveries in piezoelectricity and magnetostriction. He developed the Pierce oscillator, which utilizes quartz crystal to keep radio transmissions precisely on the assigned frequency and to provide similar accuracy for frequency meters. His other accomplishments include the mathematical calculation of the radiation properties of radio antennae; invention of the mercury-vapor discharge tube, which was the forerunner of the thyratron; invention of a method of recording sound on film; and sound generation by bats and insects. *TIS

2005 Ruth Aaronson Bari (November 17, 1917 – August 25, 2005) was an American mathematician known for her work in graph theory and homomorphisms. The daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants to the U.S., she was a professor at George Washington University beginning in 1966. She was the mother of environmental activist Judi Bari, science reporter Gina Kolata and art historian Martha Bari.*Wik
*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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