Sunday, 25 December 2011

On This Day in Math - Dec 25

God Bless Us, Everyone

The 359th day of the year; 359 is a Sophie Germain prime. If you start with n=89 and iterate 2n+1 you will get a string of primes that includes 359. (How many in all?)

1843 Sir Henry Cole British industrial designer, museum director and writer who produced the first commercial Christmas card.* In 1843, wishing to save much handwriting of seasonal correspondance, Cole introduced the world's first commercial Christmas card. He commissioned artist John Callcott Horsley to make the artwork for 1000 hand-coloured lithographs. (Individuals' homemade Christmas cards had existed earlier.) (See Image at top)

1656 Huygens (who was a bachelor) spent Christmas Day making the first model of a pendulum clock. *VFR

In 1741, the Centigrade temperature scale was devised by astronomer Anders Celsius (1701-44) and incorporated into a Delisle thermometer at Uppsala in Sweden. Celsius divided the fixed-point range of the Fahrenheit scale (the freezing and boiling temperatures of water) into 100 equal divisions, but curiously set the freezing point at 100 and the boiling point at 0. This reverse scaling was changed to match the sense of the other temperature scales after Celsius's death.*TIS

1758 Halley’s comet first sighted after he predicted its return. After Newton explained planetary motion, he suggested that comets could have elongated elliptical orbits. Halley’s comet has eccentricity 0.9675. [UMAP Journal, 4(1983), p. 162] *VFR
In 1758, the predicted return of Halley's comet was first sighted by German farmer and amateur astronomer, Johann Georg Palitzsch, as a faint object in Pisces. Edmund Halley had predicted in 1705 the return of the comet to the Earth's vicinity every 75.5 years. For the first time the scientific prediction had been proven. Halley himself had died 16 years before this new event. Palitzsch also observed the 6 Jun 1761 transit of Venus, when he saw a black band linking Venus and the Sun near the beginning and end of the transit ("black drop effect") and correctly interpreted this as evidence that Venus possessed an atmosphere. He also measured the period of the variation of the brightness of the star Algol. *TIS
The BAYEUX TAPESTRY (Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde) includes a clear picture of Halley's Comet, as shown on the stamp below.
and here is a Blog regarding the return in 1758.

In 1780, Luigi Galvani recorded, "The electric fluid should be considered a means to the nervo-muscular force." He reached this conclusion from work in his laboratory in Bologna, Italy, after a series of experiments and his accidental discovery that muscles are operated by electrical stimulation of nerves. He worked diligently along these lines, but waited for eleven years before he published the results and an ingenious and simple theory. His theory was that of a nervous electric fluid, secreted by the brain, conducted by the nerves, and stored in the muscles. Though his ideas were abandoned by scientists on account of later discoveries, his work opened the way to new research in the physiology of muscle and nerve and pioneered the subject of electrophysiology. *TIS

In 1999, space shuttle Discovery's astronauts finished their mainenance work on the Hubble Space Telescope, installing correcting optics to repair problems due to a design flaw in the mirror. The first images the Hubble Telescope took after its original launch were disappointingly fuzzy, but after this repair mission the instrument returned crisp images of a clarity never before possible from terrestrial observatories *TIS

1642 Isaac Newton born on Julian Calendar. (5 January 1643 New style) *VFR
Born 25 Dec 1642; died 20 Mar 1727. English physicist and mathematician, who made seminal discoveries in several areas of science, and was the leading scientist of his era. His study of optics included using a prism to show white light could be split into a spectrum of colours. The statement of his three laws of motion are fundamental in the study of mechanics. He was the first to describe the moon as falling (in a circle around the earth) under the same influence of gravity as a falling apple, embodied in his law of universal gravitation. As a mathematician, he devised infinitesimal calculus to make the calculations needed in his studies, which he published in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1687)*TIS

1763 Claude Chappe (25 Dec 1763; 23 Jan 1805) French engineer who invented the semaphore visual telegraph. He began experimenting in 1790, trying various types of telegraph. An early trial used telescopes, synchronised pendulum clocks and a large white board, painted black on the back, with which he succeeded in sending a message a few sentences long across a 16km (10mi) distance. To simplify construction, yet still easily visible to read from far away, he changed to using his semaphore telegraph in 1793. Smaller indicators were pivoted at each end of large horizontal member. The two indicators could each be rotated to stand in any of eight equally spaced positions. By setting them at different orientations, a set of corresponding codes was used to send a message.*TIS

1900 Antoni Szczepan Zygmund (25 Dec 1900 in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)
- 30 May 1992 in Chicago, Illinois, USA) Zygmund's work in harmonic analysis has application in the theory of waves and vibrations. He also did major work in Fourier analysis and its application to partial differential equations.*SAU

1905 Gottfried Maria Hugo Köthe (born 25 December 1905 in Graz; died 30 April 1989 in Frankfurt) was an Austrian mathematician working in abstract algebra and functional analysis.*SAU

1921 Piers Bohl (October 23, 1865 – December 25, 1921) was a Latvian mathematician, who worked in differential equations, topology and quasi-periodic functions.
He was born in 1865 in Walk, Livonia, in the family of a poor Baltic German merchant. In 1884, after graduating from a German school in Viljandi, he entered the faculty of physics and mathematics at the University of Tartu. In 1893 Bohl was awarded his Master's degree. This was for an investigation of quasi-periodic functions. The notion of quasi-periodic functions was generalised still further by Harald Bohr when he introduced almost-periodic functions. *Wik

1929 Percy Alexander MacMahon (b. 26 September 1854, Sliema, Malta – 25 December 1929, Bognor Regis, England) was a mathematician, especially noted in connection with the partitions of numbers and enumerative combinatorics. MacMahon was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1890. He received the Royal Society Royal Medal in 1900, the Sylvester Medal in 1919, and the Morgan Medal by the London Mathematical Society in 1923. MacMahon was the President of the London Mathematical Society from 1894 to 1896.
MacMahon is best known for his study of symmetric functions and enumeration of plane partitions; see MacMahon Master theorem. His two volume Combinatory analysis, published in 1915/16, is the first major book in enumerative combinatorics. MacMahon also did pioneering work in recreational mathematics and patented several successful puzzles.*WIK

1930 Eugen Goldstein (5 Sep 1850, 25 Dec 1930) German physicist who discovered and named canal rays (1886) which emerge through holes in the anodes of low-pressure electrical discharge tubes (later shown to be positively charged particles). Earlier, he coined the term "cathode ray" (1876) emitted from a cathode. He was the first to see that they could cast a shadow, and were emitted at right angles to the surface. He also investigated the wavelengths of light emitted by metals and oxides when canal rays impinge on them. When the Berlin Urania, opened in 1889 it had five scientific departments and a "science theatre", it was Goldstein who had recommended the "hall of physics in which the visitor could experiment on his own". Students of his that continued his work included Wien and Stark. *TIS

1941 Theodor Molien​ or Fedor Eduardovich Molin​ (September 10, 1861 - December 25, 1941) was a Baltic-German mathematician. He was born in Riga, Latvia, which at that time was a part of Russian Empire. Molien studied associative algebras and polynomial invariants of finite groups.*Wik

1944 Wilhelm Kutta was a German engineer who is best known for his work on the numerical solution of differential equations (the Runge-Kutta method).*SAU

2000 Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25, 1908 – December 25, 2000) (known to intimates as "Van")[1] was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition. From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continuously affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor of philosophy and a teacher of mathematics, and finally as a professor emeritus who published or revised several books in retirement. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978. A recent poll conducted among philosophers named Quine one of the five most important philosophers of the past two centuries.[2] He won the first Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy in 1993, for "his systematical and penetrating discussions of how learning of language and communication are based on socially available evidence and of the consequences of this for theories on knowledge and linguistic meaning.*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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