Saturday 26 November 2011

On This Day in Math - Nov 26

One of the chief duties of a mathematician in acting as an advisor to scientists is to discourage them from expecting too much of mathematicians.
~Norbert Wiener

The 330th day of the year; if all the diagonals of an eleven sided polygon were drawn, they would have 330 internal intersections.

1607 John Harvard, founder of Harvard College, born in London. Harvard, the oldest university in the U.S., was named for him in 1639. *VFR (The college was actually founded almost two years before Harvard made his deathbed bequest to fund it. The grateful colony changed the name of the college to honor its benefactor.)

1750 Euler presents his famous “Gem”; Vertices + Faces -2 = Edges in two papers Euler presented several results relating the number of plane angles of a solid to the number of faces, edges, and vertices (he referred to “solid angles”). Euler also classified polyhedra by the number of solid angles they had. According to C. G. J. Jacobi, a treatise with this title was read to the Berlin Academy on November 26, 1750. The proofs were contained in a second paper. According to C. G. J. Jacobi, it might have been read to the Berlin Academy on September 9, 1751. According to the records there, it was presented to the St. Petersburg Academy on April 6, 1752.

1789 President George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving day the first national holiday, acknowledging the nation’s “many and signal favors of Almighty God.” *VFR Washington declared the holiday in an Oct 3 declaration. Other Presidents throughout the years up to the civil war declared days of thanksgiving, not always in the fall. By 1858 proclamations appointing a day of thanksgiving were issued by the governors of 25 states and two territories. President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale(she is known also as the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"), proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. *Wik

1864 Charles Dodgson gives Alice Liddell (rhymes with “fiddle”) a hand-printed copy of Alice’s Adventures under Ground, a work he wrote for her. This was reproduced by Dover in 1965. See 4 July 1862. *VFR

In 1885, the first meteor trail was photographed in Prague, Czechoslovakia. This was part of the Andromedid meteor shower also known as the Bielids because they were caused by Comet Biela. William F. Denning (Bristol, England) noted the activity with rates averaging 100 per hour. On the next evening, 27 Nov, he declared "meteors were falling so thickly as the night advanced that it became almost impossible to enumerate them." Observers with especially clear skies had rates of about one meteor/second or 3600/hour. Meteor showers are produced by small fragments of cosmic debris entering the earth's atmosphere at extremely high speed. The debris originates from the intersection between a planet's orbit and a comet's orbit. *TIS

1894 Norbert Wiener (26 Nov 1894; 18 Mar 1964) U.S. mathematician, who established the science of cybernetics, a term he coined, which is concerned with the common factors of control and communication in living organisms, automatic machines, and organizations. He attained international renown by formulating some of the most important contributions to mathematics in the 20th century. His work on generalised harmonic analysis and Tauberian theorems won the Bôcher Prize in 1933 when he received the prize from the American Mathematical Society for his memoir Tauberian theorems published in Annals of Mathematics in the previous year. His extraordinarily wide range of interests included stochastic processes, quantum theory and during WW II he worked on gunfire control. *TIS Cybernetics, published in 1948, was a major influence on later research into artificial intelligence. In the book, Wiener drew on World War II experiments with anti-aircraft systems that anticipated the course of enemy planes by interpreting radar images. Wiener also did extensive analysis of brain waves and explored the similarities between the human brain and a modern computing machine capable of memory association, choice, and decision making.*CHM  (Wiener is somewhat revered as the ultimate absent-minded professor.  An anecdote, almost certainly exaggerated, I used to share with my classes went something like this: Wiener had moved to a new address, and his wife knowing of his forgetfulness wrote a note with his new address and put it in his coat pocket.  During the day struck by a mathematical muse he whipped out the piece of paper and scribbled notes on the back, then realizing his idea had been wrong, he tossed the piece of paper away and went about his day.  In the afternoon he returned to his old house out of habit and coming up to the empty house remembered that he had moved, but not where.  As he started to leave a young girl walked up and he stopped here.  "Young lady, I am the famous mathematician Wiener.  Do you know where I live?"   The lass replied, "Yes, father, I'll show you the way home."... )

1895 Bertil Lindblad (26 Nov 1895; 26 Jun 1965) Swedish astronomer who contributed greatly to the theory of galactic structure and motion and to the methods of determining the absolute magnitude (true brightness, disregarding distance) of distant stars. He theorized that the areas around the center of a galaxy revolve and this is why it was flattened. Oort later proved that does indeed happen. He studied the structure and dynamics of star clusters, estimated the Milky Way's galactic mass, the period of our Sun's orbit, confirmed Harlow Shapley's direction and approximate distance to the center of the Galaxy, and developed spectroscopic means of distinguishing between giant and main sequence stars.*TIS

1940 Enrico Bombieri (26 Nov 1940, )Italian mathematician who was awarded the Fields Medal in 1974 for his major contributions to the study of the prime numbers, to the study of univalent functions and the local Bieberbach conjecture, to the theory of functions of several complex variables, and to the theory of partial differential equations and minimal surfaces. "Bombieri's mean value theorem", which concerns the distribution of primes in arithmetic progressions which is obtained by an application of the methods of the large sieve. Between 1979 and 1982 Bombieri served on the executive committee of the International Mathematical Union. Bombieri now works in the United States. In 1996 Bombieri was elected to membership of the National Academy of Sciences.*TIS

1896 Benjamin Apthorp Gould (27 Sep 1824, 26 Nov 1896) American astronomer whose star catalogs helped fix the list of constellations of the Southern Hemisphere Gould's early work was done in Germany, observating the motion of comets and asteroids. In 1861 undertook the enormous task of preparing for publication the records of astronomical observations made at the US Naval Observatory since 1850. But Gould's greatest work was his mapping of the stars of the southern skies, begun in 1870. The four-year endeavor involved the use of the recently developed photometric method, and upon the publication of its results in 1879 it was received as a signicant contribution to science. He was highly active in securing the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences. *TIS

1965 Zoárd Geöcze (1873–1916) was a Hungarian mathematician famous for his theory of surfaces (Horváth 2005:219ff). He was born August 23, 1873 in Budapest, Hungary and died November 26, 1916 in Budapest. *Wik

1968 Georgii Nikolaevich Polozii (23 April 1914 in Transbaikal, Russia - 26 Nov 1968 in Kiev, Ukraine) Georgii Polozii studied at Saratov University which had been founded in 1919. He graduated in 1937 and then was appointed to the teaching staff of the university. In 1949 Polozii was appointed to the University of Kiev and he remained at Kiev until his death in 1968.
Polozii's major pure mathematical contributions were to the theory of functions of a complex variable, approximation theory, and numerical analysis. He also made major contributions to mathematical physics and applied mathematics in particular working on the theory of elasticity. *SAU

1977 Ruth Moufang (10 Jan 1905 in Darmstadt, Germany - 26 Nov 1977 in Frankfurt, Germany) Moufang studied projective planes, introducing Moufang planes and non-associative systems called Moufang loops. *SAU

1981 Machgielis Euwe (20 May 1901 in Watergraafsmeer, near Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 26 Nov 1981 in Amsterdam, Holland) Machgielis Euwe is better known by the name Max Euwe, and he is better known as the world chess champion from 1935 to 1937 than as a mathematician. However, Euwe was indeed a very fine mathematician who concentrated more on his mathematics throughout his life than on his chess. In 1929 he published a mathematics paper in which he constructed an infinite sequence of 0's and 1's with no three identical consecutive subsequences of any length. He then used this to show that, under the rules of chess that then were in force, an infinite game of chess was possible. It had always been the intention of the rules that this should not be possible, but the rule that a game is a draw if the same sequence of moves occurs three times in succession was not, as Euwe showed, sufficient. *SAU

1990 Richard Alan Day (9 Oct 1941 in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada - 26 Nov 1990 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada) He spent his whole career at Lakeland University in Thunder Bay, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1975 and to full professor five years later. We have already noted above his research visits to Vanderbuilt University and the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt in 1970-71. He made similar research visits to these two institutions when he took study leave in 1975-76. In 1983-84 he again took study leave, spending part of the year in Darmstadt but on this occasion he spent the remainder of the year at the University of Hawaii. He returned to Hawaii as a Visiting Professor for the winter term of 1987.
Day made many major contributions to lattice theory. One of the first was in the paper A simple solution to the word problem for lattices (1970) where he gave a simple solution to the word problem in free lattices. This paper introduced Day famous doubling construction. *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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