Tuesday, 2 July 2013

On This Day in Math - July 2

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning,
or of the expectation of good results from any of the trials we hear of. 1895
And in a Letter to Baden-Powell (1896) Radio has no future.
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

The 183rd day of the year; the concatenation of 183 and 184, 183184 is a perfect square. There are no smaller numbers for which the concatenation of two consecutive numbers is square. (Students might seek the next such pair of numbers. They are small enough to be year dates)

1133 First trade security agreement between Pisans and Alibibn Yusof of Morocco.Under such an agreement, Guilielmo, father of Leonardo brought his young son (who would much later be called Fibonacci) to Bugia, where he would learn of the Arabic calculation system that he would introduce to his  homeland in his Liber Abbaci in 1202. *Devlin, The Man of Numbers

1779 One of the earliest mentions of blackboards in Colonial America was in a letter from John Taylor, a tutor at Queens College (to become Rutgers University)to a graduate student, John Bogart, that he was asking to take over his classes while Taylor was away on military duties. "I have spoken to Mr. Briton to make a blackboard.." *Kidwell, Hastings, & Roberts; Tools of American Mathematics Teaching.
1832 Legendre writes to Nathanial Bowditch regarding his translation of LaPlace's "Mecanique Celeste" ,"Your work is not merely a translation with a commentary; I regard it as a new edition, augmented and improved, and such a one as might have come from the hands of the author himself, ... if he had been solicitously studious of being clear."   LaPlace's classic is a very difficult book, and Biot, who helped him prepare it for printing said that Laplace himself would frequently get lost in following his own line of reasoning  and insert, "il est aise a voir" (It is easy to see). *The Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States, F. Cajori

1850 Stokes’s theorem made its first appearance as a postscript to a letter from Sir William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) to Stokes. It first appeared publicly as question 8 on the Smith’s Prize exam for 1854. Stokes drew up this competitive exam, which was taken by the best mathematics students at Cambridge University. By the time Stokes died the theorem was universally known as “Stokes’s theorem.” [Spivak, Calculus on Manifolds, p. viii].

1866 Alfred Russell Wallace writes to Darwin with to suggest a name change for his basic principal of Evolution:
I wish.. to suggest ... adopting Spencer's term, (which he generally uses in preference to Natural Selection, viz, "Survival of the Fittest"
*Mario Livio, Brilliant Blunders, pg 29
1883 Helmholtz writes to Heinrich Hertz to congratulate him on his investigations. "I have read with the greatest interest your investigation on the cathode ray discharge, and cannot refrain from writing to say Bravo!" Hemholtz was not given to token praise, and was the opinion that was most valued by Hertz. *Hertz Miscellaneous Papers

1897 – Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi obtains a patent for radio in London.*Wik

1982 Science (p. 39) reported that Steven Smale had proved that the average-case behavior of the simplex algorithm for linear programming is far better than the worse-case behavior, which is exponential. [Mathematics Magazine 56 (1983), p. 55]. *VFR

1992 On July 2, fearing for the impact that a park service removal of homeowners around Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smokey Mountain Natl Park would have on a variety of local fireflys, Lynn Faust wrote a letter to Professor Steven Stogratz, who had recently written a paper in Science Magazine about synchronized flashing of the firelies (lightning bugs) known to exist in Southeast Asia. Ms. Faust's letter would, in Strogatz's words, "shatter a (scientific) myth that had lasted for decades."
The letter, in Ms. Faust's own hand, can be read here. (My thanks to both Professor Strogatz and Ms. Faust for their cooperation in sharing this letter.)

2011 Simon Chua, 58, received Australia's B. H. Neumann Award for pioneering efforts in training and honing the talent of young Filipino mathematicians for the past 15 years.
The Australian Mathematics Trust (AMT) bestowed the award to Chua on July 2, 2011. The B. H. Neumann Awards are presented annually for "important contributions over many years to the enrichment of mathematics learning in Australia and its region," according to the AMT.
The award is named in honor of Bernhard H. Neumann, the so-called father of Australian mathematics, who “provided outstanding leadership, support and encouragement for mathematics and the teaching of mathematics at all levels."
Chua, who is president and co-founder of the Mathematics Trainers Guild-Philippines (MTG), is the first Asian to receive the award.
Through the MTG, Filipino students have won numerous medals in math competitions abroad including in China, United States, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
In 2006, Chua became the first Filipino to win the Paul Erdos Award from the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions. *MathDL


1622 Rene-Francoise de Sluse (2 July 1622 – 19 March 1685) born. 1830 “It is true that Fourier is of the opinion that the principle object of mathematics is the public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a scientist like him ought to know that the unique object of science is the honor of the human spirit and on this basis a question of [the theory of] numbers is worth as much as a question about the planetary system.” Jacobi to Legendre. Big Kline, p. 1037. VFR

1842 George Thom (2 July 1842 in Forgue near Huntly, Scotland - 20 Dec 1916 in Aberdeen, Scotland) graduated from Aberdeen and then became Principal of Doveton College in Madras, India. He returned to Scotland as Vice-Principal of Chanonry School Aberdeen and then became Rector of Dollar Institution (later to become Dollar Academy). He held this post for 24 years. He was a founder member of the EMS and became the fifth President in 1886. *SAU

1847 Andrew Gray graduated from Glasgow University and was appointed assistant and secretary to Lord Kelvin. He became Professor of Physics at University College Bangor and then returned to Glasgow as Kelvin's successor. He produced many books and papers in both mathematics and physics.*SAU

1852 Birthdate of William Burnside, whose Theory of Groups (1897, 1911) is now a classic. His suspicion that every group of odd order is solvable was proved in 1962 by Walter Feit and John G. Thompson. *VFR He is known mostly as an early contributor to the theory of finite groups. In 1897 Burnside's classic work Theory of Groups of Finite Order was published. The second edition (published in 1911) was for many decades the standard work in the field. A major difference between the editions was the inclusion of character theory in the second.
Burnside is also remembered for the formulation of Burnside's problem (which concerns the question of bounding the size of a group if there are fixed bounds both on the order of all of its elements and the number of elements needed to generate it) and for Burnside's lemma (a formula relating the number of orbits of a permutation group acting on a set with the number of fixed points of each of its elements) though the latter had been discovered earlier and independently by Frobenius and Cauchy.

1862 Sir William Henry Bragg (2 July 1862 – 10 March 1942) was a pioneer British scientist in solid-state physics who was a joint winner (with his son Sir Lawrence Bragg) of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for research on the determination of crystal structures. During the WW I, Bragg was put in charge of research on the detection and measurement of underwater sounds in connection with the location of submarines. He also constructed an X-ray spectrometer for measuring the wavelengths of X-rays. In the 1920s, while director of the Royal Institution in London, he initiated X-ray diffraction studies of organic molecules. Bragg was knighted in 1920. *TIS
1906 Hans Beth, (July 2, 1906 – March 6, 2005) German-born American theoretical physicist who helped to shape classical physics into quantum physics and increased the understanding of the atomic processes responsible for the properties of matter and of the forces governing the structures of atomic nuclei. Bethe did work relating to armour penetration and the theory of shock waves of a projectile moving through air. He studied nuclear reactions and reaction cross sections (1935-38). In 1943, Oppenheimer asked Bethe to be the head of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. After returning to Cornell University in 1946, Bethe became a leader promoting the social responsibility of science. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics (1967) for his work on the production of energy in stars. *TIS

1566 Nostradamus, French astrologer died on this day (b. 1503). I wonder if he predicted THIS in his prophacies.

1591 Vincenzo Galilei ( c. 1520 – 2 July 1591) Italian, music theorist, lutenist and composer, who as the father of Galileo Galilei, adopted experimentation to prove aspects of acoustics, and may thus have influenced his son, Galileo, away from pure, abstract mathematics and towards making experiments and investigation. Vincenzo's discoveries in acoustics included some of the physics of vibrating strings and columns of air. In particular he was the first to show that the ratio of an interval was proportional to string lengths but varied as the square of the tension applied to the strings and as the cubes of volumes of air. He recognized the superiority of equal tempered tuning and compiled a codex of pieces illustrating the use of all 24 major and minor keys as early as 1584.*TIS
1613 Bartholomeo Pitiscus (August 24, 1561 – July 2, 1613) was a Polish theologian who first coined the word Trigonometry. *SAU Pitiscus achieved fame with his influential work written in Latin, called Trigonometria: sive de solutione triangulorum tractatus brevis et perspicuus (1595, first edition printed in Heidelberg), which introduced the word "trigonometry" to the English and French languages, translations of which had appeared in 1614 and 1619, respectively. It consists of five books on plane and spherical trigonometry. Pitiscus is sometimes credited with inventing the decimal point, the symbol separating integers from decimal fractions, which appears in his trigonometrical tables and was subsequently accepted by John Napier in his logarithmic papers (1614 and 1619).*Wik
1621 Thomas Harriot
(Oxford, c. 1560 – London, 2 July 1621) died of a cancerous ulcer on his left nostril. While in America in 1586 he learned to “drink” tobacco smoke from the Indians. This probably makes him the earliest recorded tobacco fatality. He is best known for his contributions to algebra, including the invention of the symbol for less than, \( \lt \) and greater than, \( \gt \) . He might have adopted this symbol from a decoration on an Indian’s back. See C. L. Smith, “On the origin of ‘<’ and ‘>’,” The Mathematics Teacher, 57(1964), 479–481 for a picture of this Indian.*VFR
He also is credited with the mathematical symbol for "therefore" \(\therefore \) His executors posthumously published his Artis Analyticae Praxis on algebra in 1631; Nathaniel Torporley was the intended executor of Harriot's wishes, but Walter Warner in the end pulled the book into shape. It may be a compendium of some of his works but does not represent all that he left unpublished (more than 400 sheets of annotated writing). It isn't directed in a way that follows the manuscripts and it fails to give the full significance of Harriot's writings.*Wik He introduced a simplified notation for algebra and his fundamental research on the theory of equations was far ahead of its time. He was able to solve equations, even with negative or complex roots. However, he published no mathematical work in his lifetime. (Artes analyticae praxis, posthumous, 1631). Especially early in his career, he worked on navigation for his patron Walter Raleigh. Harriot carried out extensive telescopic observations of the satellites of Jupiter and of sunspots. When investigating optics, he discovered the sine law and measured the refractive indices of 13 different substances. He investigated free motion and motion resisted in air, and ballistic curves.*TIS Thomas Harriot was an English mathematician who did outstanding work on the solution of equations, recognising negative roots and complex roots in a way that makes his solutions look almost like a present day solution.*SAU
The solution of quadratic equations by the method of factoring was often referred to as Harriot's method because of his introduction of the method in his writing.
It is not possible today to find Harriot's grave. Although he was buried near the altar of St Christopher le Stocks in London,the church was destroyed in the great fire of 1666. There is a plaque in the entrance hall of the Bank of England, which is close to the site of Harriot's grave. It reproduces the original Latin wording of his epitaph.(p474) An English translation would read:
Stay, traveler, lightly tread;
Near this spot lies all that was mortal
Of that most celebrated man Thomas Harriot.
He was that most learned Harriot . . .
Who cultivated all the sciences and excelled in all . . .
A most studious searcher after truth . . .

1874 Gouverneur Emerson American physician, statistician and agriculturalist who prepared a series of tables of deaths and causes in Philadelphia, during thirty years from 1807. These showed, for example, the excessive mortality of males during childhood. He began practice in Philadelphia on 4 Aug 1820, where yellow fever broke out a few weeks later, with 73 deaths by that fall. Emerson recorded cases, dates, locations, and outcomes. He concluded no current medical treatments was especially effective. When smallpox reappeared there, with 325 deaths in 1824, Emerson drafted a bill for control measures. There were only 6 cases of smallpox in the city in 1825, and 3 in 1826. In retirement, he turned to peach culture, and studied phosphate and guano fertilizers. *TIS

1947 Nikolai Grigorievich Chebotaryov (15 June [O.S. 3 June] 1894 – 2 July 1947) proved his density theorem generalising Dirichlet's theorem on primes in an arithmetical progression*SAU

1963 Seth Barnes Nicholson (November 12, 1891 – July 2, 1963) was an American astronomer best known for discovering four satellites of Jupiter. As a graduate student at the University of California, while photographing the recently- discovered 8th moon of Jupiter with the 36-inch Crossley reflector, he discovered a 9th (1914). During his life career at Mt.Wilson Observatory, he discovered two more Jovian satellites (1938) and the 12th (1951), as well as a Trojan asteroid, and computed orbits of several comets and of Pluto. His main assignment at Mt. Wilson was observing the sun with the 150-foot solar tower telescope, and he produced annual reports on sunspot activity and magnetism for decades. With Edison Pettit, he measured the temperatures of the moon, planets, sunspots, and stars in the early 1920s. *TIS

2002 Daniel Chonghan Hong (3 Mar 1956; 2 Jul 2002 at age 46) Korean theoretical physicist specializing in statistical physics and nonlinear dynamic physics, who with colleague Hugo Caram, originated the void diffusing-void model of granular flow, which is recognized as an effective theoretical treatment for a broad range of dynamical phenomena in granular media. In general, his work ranged from percolation network, viscous fingering, granular flows to traffic equations. He studied and taught in America from 1981, and wrote articles for popular magazines on various topics. He died at the young age of 46 of cardiac arrest. *TIS

Credits :
*CHM=Computer History Museum
*FFF=Kane, Famous First Facts
*NSEC= NASA Solar Eclipse Calendar
*RMAT= The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie
*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

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