Monday, 12 March 2012

On This Day in Math - March 12

Sidereus Nuncius *Wik

If my impressions are correct, our educational planing mill cuts down all the knots of genius, and reduces the best of the men who go through it to much the same standard.
~Simon Newcomb,

The 72nd day of the year;  72 is a pronic, heteromecic, or oblong number (and sometimes pronic is spelled promic).  They are numbers that are the product of two consecutive integers.

1610 Galileo dedicates his Sidereus nuncius to Grandduke Cosmos II. According to Albert Van Helden in his introduction to his translation, "The Dedicatory letter of Sidereus nuncius is dated 12 March 1610, and on the next day Galileo sent an advance, unbound copy, accompanied by a letter, to the Tuscan court."
Thony Christie sent this translation from page 33 of the same book, "Written in Padua on the fourth day before the Ides of March 1610. Your Highnesses's most loyal servant, Galileo Galilei."

1615 Castelli reported to Galileo that the Archbishop of Pisa had demanded he relinquish the letter Galileo had sent him which were the foundation of a heresy charge to the church office by Nicolo Lorini. Galileo had tried to influence Cardinal Ballarmine with a modification of the original he had sent via Peiro Dini in February. *Brody & Brody, The Science Class You Wish You Had
1926 John von Neumann, 22, received his doctorate summa cum laude in mathematics with minors in experimental physics and chemistry from the University of Budapest. *Goldstein, The Computer form Pascal to von Neumann, p. 170

1997 Fairchild Semiconductor Sold: National Semiconductor Corp. completes the sale of its Fairchild Semiconductor business. Many consider Fairchild the "original" Silicon Valley company for its profound and diverse institutional legacy: a survey of over 100 large silicon valley companies in the 1980s found that almost all of them had links to Fairchild, mostly through ex-Fairchild employees who had spun off and started these companies on their own. Fairchild had been founded by Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and six others who left en masse from Shockley Semiconductor, after that firm's founder and co-inventor of the transistor, William Shockley, struggled with a confrontational management style. Noyce and Moore later co-founded Intel Corporation. *CHM

2009 The U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (HRES 224), recognizing March 14, 2009, as National Pi Day .
In 1988 The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organized by Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where Shaw worked as a physicist, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.*Wik

1683 John Theophile Desaguliers (12 Mar 1683, 29 Feb 1744 at age 60)French-English chaplain and physicist who studied at Oxford, became experimental assistant to Sir Isaac Newton. As curator at the Royal Society, his experimental lectures in mechanical philosophy and electricity (advocating, substantiating and popularizing the work of Isaac Newton) attracted a wide audience (In his lectures Newton, it is said, often spoke only to the walls.). In electricity, he coined the terms conductor and insulator. He repeated and extended the work of Stephen Gray in electricity. He proposed a scheme for heating vessels such as salt-boilers by steam instead of fire. He made inventions of his own, such as a planetarium, and improvements to machines, such as Thomas Savery's steam engine (by adding a safety valve, and using an internal water jet to condense the steam in the displacement chambers) and a ventilator at the House of Commons. He was a prolific author and translator. *TIS

1685 Bishop George Berkeley (12 March 1685 in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, Ireland
- 14 Jan 1753 in Oxford, England). In 1734 he published The Analyst, Or a Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician (namely, Edmund Halley). This work was a strong and reasonably justified attack on the foundation of the differential calculus. He called differentials “the ghosts of departed quantities.” *VFR

1824 Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (12 Mar 1824, 17 Oct 1887) German physicist who, with Robert Bunsen, established the theory of spectrum analysis (a technique for chemical analysis by analyzing the light emitted by a heated material), which Kirchhoff applied to determine the composition of the Sun. He found that when light passes through a gas, the gas absorbs those wavelengths that it would emit if heated, which explained the numerous dark lines (Fraunhofer lines) in the Sun's spectrum. In his Kirchhoff's laws (1845) he generalized the equations describing current flow to the case of electrical conductors in three dimensions, extending Ohm's law to calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks. He demonstrated that current flows in a zero-resistance conductor at the speed of light. *TIS

1835 Simon Newcomb (12 Mar 1835; died 11 Jul 1909 at age 74) Canadian-American astronomer and and mathematician who prepared ephemerides (tables of computed places of celestial bodies over a period of time) and tables of astronomical constants. He was an astronomer (1861-77) before becoming Superintendent of the U.S. Nautical Almanac Office (1877-97). During this time he undertook numerous studies in celestial mechanics. His central goal was to place planetary and satellite motions on a completely uniform system, thereby raising solar system studies and the theory of gravitation to a new level. He largely accomplished this goal with the adoption of his new system of astronomical constants at the end of the century. *TIS This astonomer and mathematician
was the most honored scientist of his time. *VFR
Newcomb is buried in Arlington National Cemetery 
Newcomb is often quoted as saying that heavier than air flight was impossible from a statement he made only two months before the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
"The mathematician of today admits that he can neither square the circle, duplicate the cube or trisect the angle. May not our mechanicians, in like manner, be ultimately forced to admit that aerial flight is one of that great class of problems with which men can never cope… I do not claim that this is a necessary conclusion from any past experience. But I do think that success must await progress of a different kind from that of invention."   He also is famously quoted for saying, "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." 

1859 Ernesto Cesaro (12 March 1859 , 12 Sept 1906) died of injuries sustained while aiding a drowning youth. In addition to differential geometry Cesàro worked on many topics such as number theory where, in addition to the topics we mentioned above, he studied the distribution of primes trying to improve on results obtained in this area by Chebyshev. He also contributed to the study of divergent series, a topic which interested him early in his career, and we should note that in his work on mathematical physics he was a staunch follower of Maxwell. This helped to spread Maxwell's ideas to the Continent which was important since, although it it hard to realise this now, it took a long time for scientists to realize the importance of his theories.
Cesàro's interest in mathematical physics is also evident in two very successful calculus texts which he wrote. He then went on to write further texts on mathematical physics, completing one on elasticity. Two further works, one on the mathematical theory of heat and the other on hydrodynamics, were in preparation at the time of his death.
Cesàro died in tragic circumstances. His seventeen year old son went swimming in the sea near Torre Annunziata and got into difficulties in rough water. Cesàro went to rescue his son but sustained injuries which led to his death. *SAU

1925 Leo Esaki (12 Mar 1925, )Japanese physicist who shared (with Ivar Giaever and Brian Josephson) the Nobel Prize in Physics (1973) in recognition of his pioneering work on electron tunneling in solids. From some deceptively simple experiments published in 1958, he was able to lay bare the tunneling processes in solids, a phenomena which had been clouded by questions for decades. Tunneling is a quantum mechanical effect in which an electron passes through a potential barrier even though classical theory predicted that it could not. Dr. Esaki's discovery led to the creation of the Esaki diode, an important component of solid state physics with practical applications in high-speed circuits found in computers and communications networks.*TIS

1945 Vijay Kumar Patodi (March 12, 1945 – December 21, 1976) was an Indian mathematician who made fundamental contributions to differential geometry and topology. He was the first mathematician to apply heat equation methods to the proof of the Index Theorem for elliptic operators.[citation needed] He was a professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai (Bombay). *Wik

1834 Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach (30 May 1800 in Jena, Germany - 12 March 1834 in Erlangen, Germany) His mathematical fame rests entirely on three papers. Most important was this contribution to Euclidean geometry: The circle which passes through the feet of the
altitudes of a triangle touches all four of the circles which are tangent to the three sides; it is internally tangent to the inscribed circle and externally tangent to each of the circles which touches the sides of the triangle externally. *VFR
The circle is also commonly called the Nine-point circle. It passes through the feet of the altitudes, the midpoints of the three sides, and the point half way between the orthocenter and the vertices.
Feuerbach did undertake further mathematical research. He sent a note from Ansbach to the journal Isis (dated 22 October 1826) entitled Einleitung zu dem Werke Analysis der dreyeckigen Pyramide durch die Methode der Coordinaten und Projectionen. Ein Beytrag zu der analytischen Geometrie von Dr. Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach, Prof. d. Math. (Introduction to the analysis of the triangular pyramid, by means of the methods of coordinates and projections. A study in analytic geometry by Dr Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach, Professor of Mathematics). This note announced results which were to appear in full in a later publication and indeed they did in a 48-page booklet Grundriss zu analytischen Untersuchungen der dreyeckigen Pyramide (Foundations of the analytic theory of the triangular pyramid) published in 1827. This is a second major work by Feuerbach and it has been studied carefully by Moritz Cantor who discovered that in it Feuerbach introduces homogeneous coordinates. He must therefore be considered as the joint inventor of homogeneous coordinates since Möbius, in his work Der barycentrische Calcul also published in 1827, introduced homogeneous coordinates into analytic geometry.*SAU
Although he is credited for its discovery, Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach did not entirely discover the nine-point circle, but rather the six point circle, recognizing the significance of the midpoints of the three sides of the triangle and the feet of the altitudes of that triangle. (See Fig. 1, points D, E, F, G, H, and I.) (At a slightly earlier date, Charles Brianchon and Jean-Victor Poncelet had stated and proven the same theorem.) But soon after Feuerbach, mathematician Olry Terquem himself proved the existence of the circle. He was the first to recognize the added significance of the three midpoints between the triangle's vertices and the orthocenter.*Wik

1898 Johann Jakob Balmer (1 May 1825, 12 Mar 1898 at age 72) Swiss mathematician and physicist who discovered a formula basic to the development of atomic theory. Although a mathematics lecturer all his life, Balmer's most important work was on spectral series by giving a formula relating the wavelengths of the spectral lines of the hydrogen atom (1885) at age 60. Balmer's famous formula is λ= hm2/(m2-n2). Wavelengths are accurately given using h = 3.6456 x10-7m, n = 2, and m = 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. He suggested that giving n other small integer values would give other series of wavelengths for hydrogen. Why this prediction agreed with observation was not understood until after his death when the theoretical work of Niels Bohr was published in 1913. *TIS

1946 Leonida Tonelli (19 April 1885 – 12 March 1946) was an Italian mathematician, most noted for creating Tonelli's theorem, usually considered a forerunner to Fubini's theorem. (A result which gives conditions under which it is possible to compute a double integral using iterated integrals. As a consequence it allows the order of integration to be changed in iterated integrals.)*Wik He published 137 papers, all single authored except one in 1915 written in collaboration with Guido Fubini, and a number of important books including Fondamenti di calcolo delle variazioni (2 volumes) (1921, 1923), Serie trigonometriche (1928), and (with E Lindner) Corso di matematica per la Scuola media (3 volumes) (1941, 1942).*SAU

1972 Louis Joel Mordell (28 January 1888 – 12 March 1972) was a U.S. born British mathematician, known for pioneering research in number theory. He was born in Philadelphia, USA, in a Jewish family of Lithuanian extraction. He came in 1906 to Cambridge to take the scholarship examination for entrance to St John's College, and was successful in gaining a place and support.
Having taken third place in the Mathematical Tripos, he began independent research into particular diophantine equations: the question of integer points on the cubic curve, and special case of what is now called a Thue equation, the Mordell equation

y2 = x2 + k.

During World War I he was involved in war work, but also produced one of his major results, proving in 1917 the multiplicative property of Ramanujan's tau-function. The proof was by means, in effect, of the Hecke operators, which had not yet been named after Erich Hecke; it was, in retrospect, one of the major advances in modular form theory, beyond its status as an odd corner of the theory of special functions.
In 1920 he took a teaching position in Manchester College of Technology, becoming the Fielden Reader in Pure Mathematics at the Victoria University of Manchester in 1922 and Professor in 1923. There he developed a third area of interest within number theory, geometry of numbers. His basic work on Mordell's theorem is from 1921/2, as is the formulation of the Mordell conjecture.
In 1945 he returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of St. John's, when elected to the Sadleirian Chair, and became Head of Department. He officially retired in 1953. It was at this time that he had his only formal research students, of whom J. W. S. Cassels was one. His idea of supervising research was said to involve the suggestion that a proof of the transcendence of the Euler–Mascheroni constant was probably worth a doctorate. *Wik

*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*TIS= Today in Science History
*Wik = Wikipedia
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts

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