Friday 11 November 2011

On This Day in Math - Nov 11

The British Mathematical Colloquium consists of three days of mathematics
with no dogs and no wives.
~Henry Whitehead

Today is the 315th day of the year; but it's 11/11/11, what else can I say. Unless you live a VERY long time, you have one more such date left to experience.

1572 Tycho Brahe first observed a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia. It provided important evidence to support the Copernican hypothesis as opposed to the “immutable heavens” described by Aristotle. *Amir Aczel, Pendulum , pg 19
(Brahe was at the beginning of his career in 1572, and it was this supernova that inspired him to devote his lifetime to making accurate measurements of the positions of the stars and planets.) For two weeks it was brighter than any other star in the sky and visible in daytime. By month's end, it began to fade but it remained visible to the naked eye for about 16 months until Mar 1574. *TIS

1675 In a manuscript Leibniz struggled with the product and quotient rules for differentiation. At first he thought d(uv)= du dv. *VFR It would not be until the 21st that he completes the product rule. *F Cajori, History of Mathematics, (pg 208) Leibniz had previously used d twelve days earlier in the denominator, but in the margin he explains that dx is the same as his previous x/d, the difference of two neighboring x's.  Within a fortnight he had created the two basic symbols of calculus that have lasted for almost 350 years.

1744 in a letter of November 11, 1744, Cramer gave Euler a complete description of his rule for solving systems of linear equations. This is noteworthy, because Cramer's Rule would not appear in print until six years later, where it was an appendix in his very influential book “Introduction to the analysis of algebraic curves”. Even more interesting is that the passage in Cramer's letter is virtually identical, word for word, to a three-page passage in the Introduction [Cramer 1750, pp. 657-659]. *VFR

1918 Armistice Day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month World War I ended.*VFR

In 1925, the discovery of cosmic rays was announced in Madison, Wisconsin by Robert A. Millikan who coined their name.*TIS After the discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel in 1896, it was generally believed that atmospheric electricity, ionization of the air, was caused only by radiation from radioactive elements in the ground or the radioactive gases or isotopes of radon they produce. In 1909 Theodor Wulf developed an electrometer, a device to measure the rate of ion production inside a hermetically sealed container, and used it to show higher levels of radiation at the top of the Eiffel Tower than at its base. However, his paper published in Physikalische Zeitschrift was not widely accepted. In 1911 Domenico Pacini observed simultaneous variations of the rate of ionization over a lake, over the sea, and at a depth of 3 meters from the surface. Pacini concluded from the decrease of radioactivity underwater that a certain part of the ionization must be due to sources other than the radioactivity of the Earth. *Wik

1954 Algeria issued a stamp honoring Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430). He is best remembered for his quote about mathematicians being in league with the devil. [Scott #261] *VFR (The Quote, "Quapropter bono christiano, sive mathematici, sive quilibet impie divinantium, maxime dicentes vera, cavendi sunt, ne consortio daemoniorum animam deceptam, pacto quodam societatis irretiant." has been translated to "The good Christian should beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell." Some suggest this is a mistranslation. The Latin word 'mathematici' derives from the Greek meaning of 'something learned' and refers mainly to astrologers. This was the chief branch of mathematics at the time but has been replaced in modern times by a plethora of other branches. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, the word "mathematician" still meant astrologer as late as 1710.) *Wik

1979 Greg Maggs and Robert Kolstad complete the world’s longest slide rule. It is 323 feet long and 9.5 inches wide and is located in the University of Illinois College of Law building, Champaign. The previous record, 320 feet 11.1 inches in length completed in March, 1979, by students of Alvirne High School, Hudson, New Hampshire. *Guinness This record was broken in 2001 with a 350 feet 6.6 inch model. To my knowledge, this is currently the World's Longest documented Slide Rule, called The Texas Magnum by Skip Solberg and Jay Francis. It was demonstrated on February 28, 2001 in the Lockeed-Martin Aircraft Assembly Facility at Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Texas Magnum was designed as a traditional Mannheim style slide rule. The A, C, D and L scales are included. *International Slide Rule Museum

1729 Birthdate of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Although he began as a mathematician (under d’Alembert’s influence he wrote the first textbook on the integral calculus in 1752), he became famous as an explorer. He was the first Frenchman to sail around the world. But he was no great navigator, in spite of his mathematical ability. *VFR (The largest of the Solomon Islands is named after him, as is the colorful tropical climbing plant bougainvillaea. (see image at top))

1851 Adolphe-Louis Jacques Bertillon (11 Nov 1851 in Paris, France
- 7 July 1922 in Valmondois, near Paris, France) Bertillon was a French statistician who applied statistics to social sciences. *SAU

1875 Vesto Melvin Slipher (11 Nov 1875; died 8 Nov 1969) American astronomer whose systematic observations (1912-25) of the extraordinary radial velocities of spiral galaxies provided the first evidence supporting the expanding-universe theory. Slipher spectroscopically measured the displacement of their spectral lines by the Doppler effect by which the wavelength of light from an object moving away from an observer will shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. Earlier, Slipher had determined the rotation periods of some of the planets by spectroscopic means. With Lowell (1912), he found Uranus had a rotation period of 10.8 hours. He also produced comparable data for Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn and showed that Venus's period was much longer than expected. *TIS

1904 John Henry Constantine Whitehead (11 November 1904–8 May 1960), known as Henry, was a British mathematician and was one of the founders of homotopy theory. He was born in Chennai (then known as Madras), in India, and died in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1960. *Wik
Whitehead's work in differential geometry culminated in the paper "On the Covering of a Complete Space by the Geodesics Through a Point" (1935), containing pioneering contributions to this area of mathematics. He always retained his interest in geometry but soon focused on topology. He made substantial contributions to combinatorial homotopy and Stiefel manifolds and set up a school of topology at Oxford. *TIS

1911 Caleb Gattegno was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Creator of the Geoboard, and founder of the Cuisenaire Company which manufactures educational manipulatives. *Wik

1930 Hugh Everett III (November 11, 1930 – July 19, 1982) was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, which he termed his "relative state" formulation.
Discouraged by the scorn of other physicists for MWI, Everett ended his physics career after completing his Ph.D. Afterwards, he developed the use of generalized Lagrange multipliers for operations research and applied this commercially as a defense analyst and a consultant. He was married to Nancy Everett née Gore. They had two children: Elizabeth Everett and Mark Oliver Everett, who became frontman of the musical band Eels.

1938 Typhoid Mary (Mary Mallon) , (23 Sep 1869, 11 Nov 1938) famous typhoid carrier in the New York City area in the early 20th century. Fifty-one original cases of typhoid and three deaths were directly attributed to her (countless more were indirectly attributed), although she herself was immune to the typhoid bacillus (Salmonella typhi). The outbreak of Typhus in Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1904 puzzled the scientists of the time because they thought they had wiped out the deadly disease. Mallon's case showed that a person could be a carrier without showing any outward signs of being sick, and it led to most of the Health Code laws on the books today. She died not from typhoid but from the effects of a paralytic stroke dating back to 25 Dec 1932. *TIS

1954 Horatio Carslaw studied at Glasgow and Cambridge. He lectured at the University of Glasgow before moving to a professorship in Sydney, Australia. He worked on a variety of topics in both pure and applied mathematics. *SAU

1967 Lester Randolph Ford, Sr. (October 25, 1886 – 11 November 1967) was an American mathematician, editor of the American Mathematical Monthly from 1942 to 1946, and President of the Mathematical Association of America from 1947 to 1948.
Ford circles are named after him.*Wik (Students, if you are not familiar with Ford Circles, and their rich beautiful history and interesting algebraic and geometric relations, look them up for an interesting exploration. Start here)

*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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