Tuesday 13 September 2011

On This Day in Math - Sep 13

Proof is the idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself.
~Sir Arthur Eddington
The 256th day of the year; 256 is the smallest composite to composite power, 44
1844 The term ABELIAN INTEGRAL is found in a letter of Sept. 8, 1844, from William Henry Fox Talbot: "What is the definition of an Abelian Integral? for it appears to me that most integrals possess the Abelian property." The letter was addressed to John Frederick William Herschel, who, in his reply of Sept. 13, 1844, wrote: "I suppose the most general definition of an Abelian Integral might be taken to be this that between ∫(x) and ∫(φ(x)) there shall subsist an algebraical relation between several such functions."  As a postscript, he adds that "a very curious photographic novelty occurred to me a day or 2 ago" in which he describes how to use a negative to create a positive image.(Talbot's original contributions included the concept of a negative from which many positive prints can be made (although the terms negative and positive were coined by Herschel), and the use of gallic acid for developing the latent image. [The Talbot letters are available here. ] *Jeff Miller Web site & Wik

1883 Opening of the University of Texas at Austin and Galveston. *VFR

1959 Lunik II hit the moon, being the first man-made object to do so.In 1959, the first space probe to strike the moon was the Soviet Luna 2, which crashed east of the Sea of Serenity. Thirty-six hours after its launch, it was the first man-made object to reach a celestial body. *TIS On September 15, 1959, the premier of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, presented to the American president Dwight D. Eisenhower a copy of the spherical pennant (used onboard the Luna 2) as a gift. That sphere is located at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.*Wik The actual time of collision was September 13, 1959, 21:02:24 UTC

1983 Osborne Computer declares bankruptcy, two years after producing the first portable computer, the 24-pound Osborne I. Designed by company founder Adam Osborne, the $1,795 machine included software worth about $1,500. The machine featured a 5-inch display, 64 kilobytes of memory, a modem, and two 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drives.
In April 1981, Byte Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Morgan mentioned the Osborne I in an article on Future Trends in Personal Computing. He wrote: I recently had an opportunity to see the Osborne I in action. I was impressed with it's compactness: it will fit under an airplane seat. (Adam Osborne is currently seeking approval from the FAA to operate the unit on board a plane.) One quibble: the screen may be too small for some people's taste.*CHM

2007 Closing date for a prize for a solution to Fermat’s last theorem. Due to inflation the prize of one hundred thousand marks has long been worthless.*VFR (perhaps not completely worthless.) In 1908 The academy of sciences of Gottingen announced a prize of one hundred thousand marks, according to the will of Dr. Paul Wolfskehl, of Darmstadt, for the proof of Fermat’s great theorem. A German industrialist and amateur mathematician, Wolfskehl bequeathed 100,000 marks to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences to be offered as a prize for a complete proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. On 27 June 1908, the Academy published nine rules for awarding the prize. Among other things, these rules required that the proof be published in a peer-reviewed journal; the prize would not be awarded for two years after the publication; and that no prize would be given after 13 September 2007, roughly a century after the competition was begun. Wiles collected the Wolfskehl prize money, then worth $50,000, on 27 June 1997.
Prior to Wiles' proof, thousands of incorrect proofs were submitted to the Wolfskehl committee, amounting to roughly 10 feet (3 meters) of correspondence. In the first year alone (1907–1908), 621 attempted proofs were submitted, although by the 1970s, the rate of submission had decreased to roughly 3–4 attempted proofs per month. According to F. Schlichting, a Wolfskehl reviewer, most of the proofs were based on elementary methods taught in schools, and often submitted by "people with a technical education but a failed career". In the words of mathematical historian Howard Eves, "Fermat's Last Theorem has the peculiar distinction of being the mathematical problem for which the greatest number of incorrect proofs have been published."*Wik

1873 Constantin Caratheodory born. (13 Sep 1873; 2 Feb 1950) He worked on the calculus of variations and the theory of real functions. He is the only modern Greek mathematician “who does not suffer by comparison with the famous names of Greek antiquity.” *VFR.
German mathematician of Greek origin who made important contributions to the theory of real functions and to the theory of point-set measure. He demonstrated that the calculus of variations (the theory of maxima and minima in curves) could be applied not just to smooth curves, but also those with corners. He also contributed to thermodynamics and helped develop Einstein's special theory of relativity. *TIS

1885 Wilhelm Blaschke born. (13 Sep 1885; 17 Mar 1962) German mathematician whose major contributions to geometry concerned kinematics and differential geometry. Kinetic mapping (important later in the axiomatic foundations of various geometries) he both discovered and established it as a tool in kinematics. He also initiated topological differential geometry (the study of invariant differentiable mappings)*TIS

1912 Horace Welcome Babcock (13 Sep 1912; 29 Aug 2003) was a American astronomer, son of Harold Babcock. Working together, they were the first to measure the distribution of magnetic fields over the surface of the Sun. Horace invented and built many astronomical instruments, including a ruling engine which produced excellent diffraction gratings, the solar magnetograph, and microphotometers, automatic guiders, and exposure meters for the 100 and 200-inch telescopes. By combining his polarizing analyzer with the spectrograph he discovered magnetic fields in other stars. He developed important models of sunspots and their magnetism, and was the first to propose adaptive optics.*TIS

1913 Herman Heine Goldstine (September 13, 1913 – June 16, 2004), mathematician, computer scientist and scientific administrator, was one of the original developers of ENIAC, the first of the modern electronic digital computers.*Wik

1920 William Bowen Bonnor is a mathematician and gravitation physicist best known for his research into astrophysics, cosmology and general relativity. For most of his academic career he has been a professor of mathematics at the University of London.*Wik

1923 Peter K Henrici (13 Sept 1923 , 13 March 1987) He made "major contributions to preserving and enriching our mathematical heritage. His books and papers have helped greatly in maintaining numerical analysis as a subject with beauty, order, and structure, in the spirit of the great pioneers of the past. He keeps reminding us to ask what Gauss would have done with a parallel computer - or with a pocket calculator."
"Henrici was truly an internationally recognized numerical analyst, having written 11 books and over 80 research papers. A very cultured person who was also a gifted pianist, he was an outstanding teacher particularly interested in helping younger mathematicians. His lectures showed great polish and inspired many. His guidance and unselfish contributions as an editor have helped make Numerische Mathematik the respected journal it is. For this alone, we owe him a great debt of gratitude." *SAU

1296 Johannes Campanus was an Italian mathematician who published a Latin edition of Euclid's Elements. He also wrote on astronomy.*SAU

1940 Myron Mathisson (15 Dec 1897 , 13 Sept 1940) was a Polish Jew known for his work on the equations of motion of bodies in general relativity and for developing a new method to analyze the properties of fundamental solutions of linear hyperbolic differential equations. In particular, he derived the equations for a spinning body moving in a gravitational field and proved, in a special case, the Hadamard conjecture on the class of equations that satisfy the Huygens principle. His work still exerts influence on current research.*Cornell Univ Library

*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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