Thursday 24 November 2011

On This Day in Math - Nov 24

Albertus Magnus

To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking hm to perform a postmortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of.
~Fisher, Ronald Aylmer

The 328th day of the year; it is the sum of the first fifteen primes, and is a tau-number since it is divisible by the number of divisors it has.  

Out of order, but it's for Thanksgiving:
1984 From Karen E. Oleson’s bulletin board: (Meal)2 + π = 4U2B Thankful. *Mathematics Teacher 77, p. 592

1639 British astronomers Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree became the first observers to record a transit of Venus. Horrocks was just a teenager, and would die at the tender age of twenty-two, but before he did, he ran up several impressive notches in his scientific portfolio. For more on this event, see this blog by The Renaissance Mathematicus. Applying Kepler's prediction that in 1631, Venus would transit the Sun, Horrocks calculated that these transits occurred not singly but in pairs eight years apart. Thus, Horrocks prepared his equipment for the next transit he had thus predicted for this day. His simple telescope was mounted on a wooden beam, so he could project a solar image onto a piece of paper marked with a six inch graduated circle. From this, he made measurements and calculated that the value for the solar parallax was smaller than previously recorded, and so concluded that the Sun was further away from the Earth than previously thought. *TIS As the image shows, the observation was made at Carr House where he lived at the time.  "Horrocks returned to Toxteth Park (Liverpool) sometime in the summer of 1640 and died suddenly and from unknown causes on 3 January 1641, aged only 22. As expressed by Crabtree, "What an incalculable loss!" *John Wallis  The image is from the

1759 Lagrange wrote Euler that he believes that he had developed the true metaphysics of the calculus; at that time he seems to have been convinced that the use of infinitesimals was rigorous. Lagrange attempted to prove Taylor’s theorem (the power of which he was the first to observe) and then to develop the entire calculus from it. (Cajori, History of Mathematics, 257) *VFR

1789 Lagrange finished his M´ecanique analytique. In this he lays down the law of virtual work, and from that one fundamental principle, by the aid of the calculus of variations, deduces the whole of mechanics, both of solids and fluids.
The object of the book is to show that the subject is implicitly included in a single principle, and to give general formulae from which any particular result can be obtained. The method of generalized co-ordinates by which he obtained this result is perhaps the most brilliant result of his analysis. Instead of following the motion of each individual part of a material system, as D'Alembert and Euler had done, he showed that, if we determine its configuration by a sufficient number of variables whose number is the same as that of the degrees of freedom possessed by the system, then the kinetic and potential energies of the system can be expressed in terms of those variables, and the differential equations of motion thence deduced by simple differentiation. *Wik

1831 Michael Faraday reads the first of a series of papers on "Experimental Research into Electricity." *Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1832 122:125-162;

1836 A total lunar eclipse occurred which Gauss had promised to show, through the observatory telescope to his friend Ribbentrop, confirmed bachelor, campus eccentric, and absent-minded professor of law. Although it was pouring rain that evening Ribbentrop appeared. Gauss explained that observation was impossible, but Ribbentrop countered, “No, I have my umbrella.” [Eves, Squared, 191◦] *VFR

In 1859, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Darwin's groundbreaking book, was published in England to great acclaim. The British naturalist, Charles Darwin detailed the scientific evidence he had collected since his voyage on the Beagle in the 1830's. He presented his idea that species are the result of a gradual biological evolution in which nature encourages, through natural selection, the propagation of those species best suited to their environments. He had been prompted to publish at this time by Charles Lyell, who advised him that Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist working in Borneo, was approaching the same conclusions. Lyell believed Darwin should publish without further delay to establish priority. *TIS

1864 So as not to miss a lecture, George Boole walked the three miles from his home in Ballintemple to Queen’s College in Cork, Ireland, in a pouring rain. He lectured in wet clothes, caught a cold, and died two weeks later at age 49. [MacHale, George Boole, His Life and Work, p 24]. *VFR

1858 Dedekind discovers his cuts and thereby provides the first correct definition of continuity. [Dauben, p. 48] *VFR

1888 On Thanksgiving Day, six members of the mathematics department at Columbia University met to form a society for the purpose of discussing mathematics and reading papers of math¬ematical interest. A month later they christened it the New York Mathematical Society. By 1894 the society had attained a national character, so its name was changed to the American Mathematical Society. The six were J. H. Van Amring, the first president, Thomas Scott Fiske, Rees (a professor), Jacoby and Stabler (fellow students with Fiske) and Maclay (a graduate student). *P. Duren (ed), A Century of Mathematics in America, vol. I, pp. 5, 13.

1918 Richard Courant sat down with Ferdinand Springer and signed a contract for the series of books now famous as the “Yellow Series.” *Constance Reid, Courant in Gottingen and New York, p. 72

1982 Sweden issued five stamps honoring Nobel Prize winners Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, Louis de Broglie, Paul Dirac and Werner Heisenberg. [Scott #1425-9] *VFR Bohr also appears on 500-krone banknote with the portrait of Bohr smoking a pipe since 1997.

1879 Duncan MacLaren Young Sommerville (24 Nov 1879 in Beawar, Rajasthan, India - 31 Jan 1934 in Wellington, New Zealand) Sommerville studied at St Andrews and then had a post as a lecturer there. He left to become Professor of Pure and Applied mathematics at Victoria College, Wellington New Zealand. He worked on non-Euclidean geometry and the History of Mathematics. He became President of the EMS in 1911. *SAU

1909 Gerhard Gentzen (24 Nov 1909 in Greifswald, Germany - 4 Aug 1945 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) Gentzen invented a 'natural deduction' which provided a logic closer to mathematical reasoning than the systems proposed by Frege, Russell and Hilbert.*SAU

1925 Simon van der Meer (24 Nov 1925, )Dutch engineer and physicist who along with Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia, discovered the W particle and the Z particle by colliding protons and antiprotons, for which both men shared the Nobel Prize for Physics. These subatomic particles (units of matter smaller than an atom) transmit the weak nuclear force, one of four fundamental forces in nature. The discovery supported the unified electroweak theory put forward in the 1970's. Working at CERN in Switzerland, Van der Meer improved the design of particle accelerators used produce collisions between beams of subatomic particles. He invented a device that would monitor and adjust the particle beam with correcting magnetic fields by a system of 'kickers' placed around the accelerator ring.*TIS

1926 Tsung Dao Lee (24 Nov 1926, ) Chinese-born American physicist who received (with Chen Ning Yang) the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics for their "penetrating investigation" of violations of the principle of parity conservation (the quality of space reflection symmetry of subatomic particle interactions), which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles. Conservation of parity had previously been regarded as a "law" of nature. (Parity holds that the laws of physics are the same in a right-handed system of coordinates as in a left-handed system.) The theory was subsequently confirmed experimentally by Chien-Shiung Wu in observations of beta decay.*TIS

1944 Veerabhadran Ramanathan (24 Nov 1944, )Indian atmospheric scientist who in 1999 discovered the "Asian Brown Cloud" - wandering layers of air pollution as wide as a continent and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The dark particles in these brown clouds may reduce rainfall, dry the planet’s surface, cool the tropics and reduce sunlight - Global Dimming. In 1975, Ramanathan was the first to demonstrate that CFCs are major greenhouse gases. His calculations showed each CFC molecule in the atmosphere contributes more to the greenhouse effect that over 10,000 molecules of carbon dioxide. In the 1980s, he led a study discovering numerous trace gases contributing to global warming, and a NASA study that demonstrated that clouds had a net global cooling effect on the planet.*TIS

1978 Warren Weaver​ (b. July 17, 1894 in Reedsburg, Wisconsin d. November 24, 1978 in New Milford, Connecticut) was an American scientist, mathematician, and science administrator. He is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of machine translation, and as an important figure in creating support for science in the United States.*Wik

1987 Hans Herbert Schubert (1 May 1908 in Weida, Thüringen Germany - 24 Nov 1987 in Halle, Germany) Schubert was a German mathematician who worked on differential equations. *SAU

2008 John Robert Stallings Jr. (July 22, 1935 – November 24, 2008) was a mathematician known for his seminal contributions to geometric group theory and 3-manifold topology. Stallings was a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley where he had been a faculty member since 1967.  He published over 50 papers, predominantly in the areas of geometric group theory and the topology of 3-manifolds. Stallings' most important contributions include a proof, in a 1960 paper, of the Poincaré Conjecture in dimensions greater than six and a proof, in a 1971 paper, of the Stallings theorem about ends of groups. Stallings was born in the small town of Morrilton, Arkansas.*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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