## Friday 7 September 2012

### On This Day in Math - September 7

If there is a problem you can't solve,
then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it.
~George Polya, How to Solve It

The 251st day of the year; 251 is a prime number that is also the sum of three consecutive primes (79 + 83 + 89) and of seven consecutive primes (23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47). In addition, it is the smallest integer that can be the sum of three cubes in two different ways. 251 =23+ 33+63 = 13+53+53

EVENTS

1460 Founding of the University of Basel. Both Bernoulli brothers later taught there. *VFR Johann Bernoulli took over as professor of mathematics, replacing his deceased older brother Jacob.

1715 "Steal This Math Book" , William Johnson, of the Parish of St. Clement Danes, was indicted for feloniously stealing one Whiston's Astronomy, value 5 s. the Goods of Joseph Brown. Brown swore the Prisoner came into his Shop enquiring for some Mathematical Books, and took an Opportunity to steal the Book mention'd in the Indictment, which he afterwards sold to one Chapman in Chancery-lane , where the Book was found; and the Prisoner coming again to offer another Book to sell, he was secur'd. The Prisoner said he bought it of one Mohun , a Scholar of his; but could not prove it. The Jury found him Guilty to the value of 10 d. *Proceedings of the Old Bailey

1844 In a letter to George Boole, Arthur Cayley indicated that he is “much interested” in a paper on quaternions by Sir William Rowan Hamilton: “the remarkable part of which is evidently that the factors of the product are not convertible [commutative], but as he observes, why should they be? ” Hamilton’s discovery of quaternions was an important step in the development of abstract algebra. *Desmond MacHale, George Boole, His Life and Work, Boole Press, Dublin,(1985), p. 57.

1858 "Neither at Olmos nor Piura, did any enceinte woman leave her room during the eclipse, whilst some from curiosity, but more through fear, were in the streets, yet not daring to look upon the sun, lest malady befall them. The somber green light gave them the appearance of corpses, and they apprehended that a plague might be visited upon them. Afterwards, the muleteers told us that their animals stopped eating, and huddled together in evident alarm." Lieut. J M Gillis An Account of the Total Eclipse of the Sun on September 7,*NSEC
1909 The ﬁrst junior high school in the United States, Indianola School, was opened in Columbus,
Ohio. *Ohio and Its Resources, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, p. 7

1923 The AMS adopted a resolution “sanctioning the establishment of a lectureship to be known as the Josiah Willard Gibbs Lectureship, the lecture to deal in semi-popular form with some aspect of mathematics or its applications.” *VFR

1927 The ﬁrst Polish Mathematical Congress opened. *Kuratowski, A Half-Century of Polish Math-ematics, p. 53

1930 Kurt Godel, in a discussion on the foundations of mathematics organized by the Vienna Circle, announced his famous theorem on the incompleteness of arithmetic: There are true but unprovable statements. *VFR

BIRTHS

1707 Georges-Louis Leclerc, (7 September 1707 – 16 April 1788) Compte de Buﬀon born. Buﬀon’s needle experiment uses probability to estimate π. He introduced calculus into probability theory. *VFR A French naturalist, who formulated a crude theory of evolution and was the first to suggest that the earth might be older than suggested by the Bible. In 1739 he was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, a post he occupied until his death. There he worked on a comprehensive work on natural history, for which he is remembered, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière. He began this work in 1749, and it dominated the rest of his life. It would eventually run to 44 volumes, including quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and minerals. He proposed (1778) that the Earth was hot at its creation and, from the rate of cooling, calculated its age to be 75,000 years, with life emerging some 40,000 years ago*TIS

1819 Jean Claude Bouquet (7 Sept 1819 , 9 Sept 1885) was a French mathematician who worked on differential geometry and on series expansions of functions and elliptic functions. *Wik

1884 Georges Jean Marie Valiron (7 September 1884, March 1955) was a French mathematician, notable for his contributions to analysis, in particular, the asymptotic behaviour of entire functions of finite order and Tauberian theorems*Wik

1903 Dudley Ernest Littlewood (7 September 1903, 6 October 1979) was a British mathematician known for his work in group representation theory.*SAU

1912 David Packard (7 Sep 1912; 26 Mar 1996) U.S. entrepreneur and electrical engineer who cofounded the Hewlett-Packard Co., a leading manufacturer computers, computer printers, and analytic and measuring equipment. In 1939, he formed a partnership known as Hewlett-Packard Company with William R. Hewlett, a friend and Stanford classmate. HP's first product was a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator based on a design developed by Hewlett when he was in graduate school. The company's first "plant" was a small garage in Palo Alto, and the initial capital amounted to \$538*TIS

1914 James Alfred Van Allen (7 Sep 1914; 9 Aug 2006)American physicist who discovered the Earth's magnetosphere, two toroidal zones of radiation due to trapped charged particles encircling the Earth (also known as the Van Allen radiation belts). During WWII he gained experience miniaturizing electronics, such as in the proximity fuse of a missile. After the war, he studied cosmic radiation, taking advantage of the unused German stock of V2 rockets launched into the outer regions of the atmosphere, carrying research devices using radio to relay back the data gathered. He was also involved in the early U.S. space program, and he had radiation measuring instruments on the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, launched 31 Jan 1958 with follow-up carried out by satellites Explorer 3 and 4 later the same year*TIS

1948 Cheryl Elisabeth Praeger, AM (born 7 September 1948, ) is an Australian mathematician. She is currently a professor of mathematics at the University of Western Australia. She is best known for her works in group theory, algebraic graph theory and combinatorial designs.*Wik

1955 Efim Isaakovich Zelmanov (7 Sep 1955, --)Russian mathematician who was awarded the 1994 Fields Medal for his work on combinatorial problems in nonassociative algebra and group theory and particularly his solution of the Restricted Burnside problem. His Ph.D. (1980) Ph.D. thesis was on nonassociative algebra, wherein his treatment extending results from the classical theory of finite dimensional Jordan algebras to infinite dimensional Jordan algebras. In 1887, he showed that the Engel identity for Lie algebras implies nilpotence, in the previously unsolved case of infinite dimensions. The Restricted Burnside problem that he solved was a narrower condition arising out of Burnside's 1902 question whether a finitely generated group in which every element has finite order, is finite.*TIS

DEATHS

1682 Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (23 May 1606, 7 Sept 1682) was a Spanish Cistercian who expounded the general principle of numbers to base n pointing out the benefits of some other bases than 10. *SAU

1918 Peter Ludvig Mejdell Sylow died (12 December 1832 – 7 September 1918) . Sylow was a high school teacher who proved, in 1872, what is perhaps the most profound result in the theory of finite groups. The Sylow theorems are a collection of theorems that give detailed information about the number of subgroups of fixed Order of a group that a given finite group contains. The Sylow theorems form a fundamental part of finite group theory and have very important applications in the classification of finite simple groups. *Wik

1936 Peter George Oliver Freund (7 September 1936 - ) is a professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the University of Chicago. He has made important contributions to particle physics and string theory. He is also active as a writer. *Wik
1936 Marcel Grossmann (April 9, 1878 – September 7, 1936) mathematician and a friend and classmate of Albert Einstein. He became a Professor of Mathematics at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, today the ETH Zurich, specializing in descriptive geometry.
It was Grossmann who emphasized the importance of a non-Euclidean geometry called elliptic geometry to Einstein, which was a necessary step in the development of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Abraham Pais's book on Einstein suggests that Grossman mentored Einstein in tensor theory as well.
The community of relativists celebrates Grossmann's contributions to physics by organizing Marcel Grossman meetings every three years.*Wik

1947 Michele Cipolla (28 October 1880; 7 September 1947) was an Italian mathematician, mainly specializing in number theory. He developed (among other things) a theory for sequences of sets and Cipolla's algorithm for finding square roots modulo a prime number. He also solved the problem of binomial congruence. *Wik

1951 Harry Schmidt was a German mathematician who wrote on the application of mathematics to physics. *SAU

1970 Percy Le Baron Spencer (9 Jul 1894, 7 Sep 1970) was the American engineer who invented the microwave oven. In 1940, Sir John Randall and Dr. H. A. Boot invented the magnetron tube to produce radar microwaves. After the war, Dr. Percy Spencer at the Raytheon Company was investigating the magnetron tube. During one experiment, he discovered that a chocolate bar in his pocket had totally melted, though the heating effect of microwaves was known earlier. Dr. Spencer deduced the magnetron radiation had melted the chocolate, not his body heat. This led Spencer to researched cooking food. The first commercial microwave ovens were made for restaurants.*TIS

1985 George P´olya, (December 13, 1888 – September 7, 1985) Professor Emeritus at Stanford died at the age of 97. In 1963, P´olya received the MAA award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics. The George P´olya Award for noteworthy expository articles in the College Mathematics Journal is named in his honor. *VFR Pólya worked in probability, analysis, number theory, geometry, combinatorics and mathematical physics. *Wik (Most of us remember him as an influential educator and his book "How to Solve it")

Credits
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*SAU=St Andrews Univ. Math History
*TIA = Today in Astronomy
*TIS= Today in Science History
*VFR = V Frederick Rickey, USMA
*Wik = Wikipedia
*WM = Women of Mathematics, Grinstein & Campbell

Arjen Dijksman said...

Hi Pat,

Reading Polya's quote, I thought: hey, there something weird in it! I would prefer to find an easy problem that I can solve.

Unknown said...

Yes, what Polya said was "If there is a problem you can't solve,
then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it."

Unknown said...

"[251] is the smallest integer that can be the sum of three cubes in two different ways. 251 = 23+33+63 = 13+53+53" These both sum to 119 and none of them are cubes. Am I missing something?