Friday 6 September 2013

On This Day in Math - September 6

A good mathematical joke is better, and better mathematics,
than a dozen mediocre papers.

~John E Littlewood

The 249th day of the year. 249 is the index of a Woodall prime. A Woodall number is a number of the form W(n) = n(2n)-1. The first few are 1, 7, 23, 63, 159, 383, ... (Sloane's A003261). W(249) is prime. [Proof left to the reader, ;-} ] W(2)=7; W(3)=23 and W(6)=383 are all prime. What's the index of the next prime Woodall number? ( named after H. J. Woodall who studied them in 1917)
249 = (3!)3 + (2!)3 + (1!)3 (consecutive odd powers) *Derek Orr


1620 149 Pilgrims set sail from England aboard the Mayflower, bound for the New World. *VFR (It is rumored that they made it)

1697 A Letter of Dr. Wallis, Dated Oxford, Sept. 6. 1697. Containing Some Additions to His Letter about Thunder and Lightning, and a Correction of His 109th Chap. of His Algebra to be read to the Royal Society.

1769 Harvard's Hollis Professor John Winthrop writes to Benjamin Franklin to suggest an error in predictions for transit of Venus presented to Royal Society in anticipation of the upcoming transit.
"I find that Mr. Bliss and Mr. Hornsby in their calculations in the Philos. Transact. suppose the phases of the Transit of Venus to be accelerated by the equation for the observation of light, which amounts to 55″ of time. According to my idea of aberration, I should think the Transit would be retarded by it.
(Bliss was Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford and would go on to become Astronomer Royal in 1762; Hornsby would replace him as Savilian Professor of Geometry.) Natl. Archives
1803 On his 37th birthday, John Dalton makes the first notes about his atomic theory in his laboratory notebook. On this date there appears a list in which he sets out the relative weights of the atoms of a number of elements, derived from analysis of water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, etc. by chemists of the time.

1909 Word was received that Admiral Robert Peary had discovered the North Pole five months earlier on April 6, 1909. Question: Where on the Earth, other than the North Pole, can one travel a mile South, a mile East, a mile North, and end up in the same spot? *VFR

1923 At an AMS meeting at Vassar College George Y. Ranich, then of the University of Michigan, gave a talk on the class number of quadratic fields. L. J. Mordell who was in the audience noted he made no reference to a rather pretty paper by one Rabinowitz of Odessa. When Mordell commented on this the speaker blushed and stammered “I am Rabinowitz.” He had changed his name when he moved to the U.S. *VFR

1927 Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler (1883–1966) began the 11th series of Colloquium Lectures at the American Mathematical Society Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, being the first woman to be invited to do so. She spoke on “The theory of quadratic forms in infinitely many variables and applications.” “One hundred twenty-seven persons attended these lectures, the largest number registered for any colloquium so far held, though ... the gradient seems to be on the decrease.” *VFR
The colloquium lectures by Professors Bell and Wheeler were delivered on Tuesday (sixth), Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, and Thursday evening. *AMS Org.

1930 Kurt Godel, a logician who was immediately to become famous, addressed the annual meeting of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung in Konigsberg, on his completeness theorem. Godel solved this problem for his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Hans Hahn in 1929. *VFR

1997 The U.S. Navy commissioned their most advanced ship, the U.S.S. Hopper (DDG 70), on September 6, 1997 named in honor of Grace Hopper. She had been recalled to active duty in August of 1967 to work on the development of COBOL.
“The US Navy recalls Captain Grace Murray Hopper to active duty to help develop the programming language COBOL. With a team drawn from several computer manufacturers and the Pentagon, Hopper -- who had worked on the Mark I and II computers at Harvard in the 1940s -- created the specifications for COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) with business uses in mind. These early COBOL efforts aimed at creating easily-readable computer programs with as much machine independence as possible. Designers hoped a COBOL program would run on any computer for which a compiler existed with only minimal modifications.
Hopper made many major contributions to computer science throughout her very long career, including what is likely the first compiler ever written, "A-0." She appears to have also been the first to coin the word "bug" in the context of computer science, taping into her logbook a moth which had fallen into a relay of the Harvard Mark II computer. She died on January 1, 1992. (*CHM, *Wik, and others)


1766 John Dalton (6 Sep 1766; 27 Jul 1844) English teacher who, from investigating the physical and chemical properties of matter, deduced an Atomic Theory (1803) whereby atoms of the same element are the same, but different from the atoms of any other element. In 1804, he stated his law of multiple proportions by which he related the ratios of the weights of the reactants to the proportions of elements in compounds. He set the atomic weight of hydrogen to be identically equal to one and developed a table of atomic weights for other elements. He was the first to measure the temperature change of air under compression, and in 1801 suggested that all gases could be liquified by high pressure and low temperature. Dalton recognized that the aurora borealis was an electrical phenomenon. *TIS (Dalton was colorblind; a fact that is certainly more commonly known to the French than other nationalities since the French name for the condition, I am told, is le daltonisme)

1811 James Melville Gilliss (6 Sep 1811; 9 Feb 1865) U.S. naval officer and astronomer who founded the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., the first U.S. observatory devoted entirely to research. Gilliss joined the Navy as a midshipman at the age of 15. He taught himself astronomy, at a time when there was no fixed astronomical observatory in the U.S., and very little formal instruction. In 1838, when Charles Wilkes left on the famous South Seas Exploring Expedition, Gilliss became officer-in-charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments, forerunner of the U. S. Naval Observatory. Gilliss's astronomical observations made during this time in connection with determining longitude differences with the Wilkes Expedition, resulted in the first star catalogue published in the United States. *TIS

1830 John Henry Dallmeyer (6 Sep 1830; 30 Dec 1883) German-born British inventor and manufacturer of lenses and telescopes. He introduced improvements in both photographic portrait and landscape lenses, in object glasses for the microscope, and in condensers for the optical lantern. Dallmeyer made photoheliographs (telescopes adapted for photographing the Sun) for Harvard observatory (1864), and the British government (1873). He introduced the "rapid rectilinear" (1866) which is a lens system composed of two matching doublet lenses, symmetrically placed around the focal aperture to remove many of the aberrations present in more simple constructions. He died on board a ship at sea off New Zealand. *TIS

1859 Boris Yakovlevic Bukreev (6 Sept 1859 , 2 Oct 1962) His work was broad and in addition to the areas of complex functions, differential equations, the theory and application of Fuchsian functions of rank zero, and geometry, he published papers on algebra such as On the composition of groups (1900). After 1900 he became interested in the theory of series, publishing papers such as Notes on the theory of series and he also worked on the Calculus of Variations. His vigorous research activity did not prevent him from devoting time to teaching of the highest quality*SAU

1892 Sir Edward Victor Appleton (6 Sep 1892; 21 Apr 1965) was a English physicist who won the 1947 Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the Appleton layer of the ionosphere. From 1919, he devoted himself to scientific problems in atmospheric physics, using mainly radio techniques. He proved the existence of the ionosphere, and found a layer 60 miles above the ground that reflected radio waves. In 1926, he found another layer 150 miles above ground, higher than the Heaviside Layer, electrically stronger, and able to reflect short waves round the earth. This Appleton layer is a dependable reflector of radio waves and more useful in communication than other ionospheric layers that reflect radio waves sporadically, depending upon temperature and time of day.*TIS

1893 Dimitrij Alexandrowitsch Grave born. Among the many books that Grave wrote were Theory of Finite Groups (1910) and A Course in Algebraic Analysis (1932). He also studied the history of algebraic analysis.
Among the honours that were given to him was election to the Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine in 1919, election to the Shevchenko Scientific Society in 1923 and election to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1929.*SAU

1906 Banesh Hoffmann,(September 6, 1906 - August 6, 1986) a physicist, mathematician and author who was a colleague and biographer of Albert Einstein.
In 1935, Mr. Hoffmann joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where he worked with Einstein and a Polish physicist, Leopold Infeld, on a paper, "Gravitational Equations and the Problem of Motion."
While at Oxford, he was invited to go to Princeton and work as research associate to Dr. Oswald Veblen, a mathematics professor. In 1932, he received a doctorate in mathematics and physics from Princeton.
Mr. Hoffman worked as instructor at the University of Rochester from 1932 until 1935 and joined the faculty of Queens College in 1937. He rose to full professor and retired in the late 70s.
Hoffmann had been for the last quarter-century perhaps the best-known critic of multiple-choice testing. In his 1962 book The Tyranny of Testing and other writings, Mr. Hoffmann vehemently opposed standardized tests as superficial measures of a person`s knowledge. He died August 6, 1986 at his home in Flushing, N.Y. He was 79. *Sun Sentinal Obituary

1907 Sir Maurice George Kendall, FBA (6 September 1907 – 29 March 1983) was a British statistician, widely known for his contribution to statistics. The Kendall tau rank correlation is named after him.*Wik He was involved in developing one of the first mechanical devices to produce (pseudo-) random digits, eventually leading to a 100,000-random-digit set commonly used until RAND's (once well-known) "A Million Random Digits With 100,000 Normal Deviates" in 1955.
Kendall was Professor of Statistics at the London School of
Economics from 1949 to 1961. His main work in statistics involved
k-statistics, time series, and rank-correlation methods, including
developing the Kendall's tau stat, which eventually led to a mono-
graph on Rank Correlation in 1948. He was also involved in several
large sample-survey projects.
For many, what Kendall is best known for is his set of books titled
The Advanced Theory of Statistics (ATS), with Volume I first
appearing in 1943 and Volume II in 1946. Kendall later completed a
rewriting of ATS, which appeared in three volumes in 1966, which
were updated by collaborator Alan Stuart and Keith Ord after
Kendall's death, appearing now as "Kendall's Advanced Theory of
Statistics". *David Bee

1908 Louis Essen (6 Sep 1908; 24 Aug 1997) English physicist who invented the quartz crystal ring clock and the first practical atomic clock. These devices were capable of measuring time more accurately than any previous clocks. He built a cesium-beam atomic clock, a device that ultimately changed the way time is measured. Each chemical element and compound absorbs and emits electromagnetic radiation at its own characteristic frequencies. These resonances are inherently stable over time and space. The cesium atom's natural frequency was formally recognized as the new international unit of time in 1967: the second was defined as exactly 9,192,631,770 oscillations or cycles of the cesium atom's resonant frequency, replacing the old second defined in terms of the Earth's motion. *TIS

1940 Elwyn Ralph Berlekamp (September 6, 1940; Dover, Ohio -) is an American mathematician. He is a professor emeritus of mathematics and EECS at the University of California, Berkeley. Berlekamp is known for his work in information theory and combinatorial game theory. While an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was a Putnam Fellow in 1961. With John Horton Conway and Richard K. Guy, he co-authored Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays, leading to his recognition as one of the founders of combinatorial game theory. *Wik


1857 Johann Salamo Christoph Schweigger (8 Apr 1779, 6 Sep 1857)German physicist who invented the galvanometer (1820), a device to measure the strength of an electric current. He developed the principle from Oersted's experiment (1819) which showed that current in a wire will deflect a compass needle. Schweigger realized that suggested a basic measuring instrument, since a stronger current would produce a larger deflection, and he increased the effect by winding the wire many times in a coil around the magnetic needle. He named this instrument a "galvanometer" in honour of Luigi Galvani, the professor who gave Volta the idea for the first battery. Seebeck (1770-1831) named the innovative coil, Schweigger's multiplier. It became the basis of moving coil instruments and loudspeakers.*TIS

1949 James McBride studied at Queen's College Belfast and then taught at various Glasgow schools finishing as Rector of Queen's Park School. He published a number of papers in Geometry and was a founder member of the Euclidean Club. *SAU

1951 Winifred Edgerton Merrill​ made a vast impact on the male orientated world of mathematics. She left behind the Victorian ideal that a wellborn woman should stay at home, and went about continuing her education in mathematics to Ph.D. level. This was a fantastic achievement and Merrill became the first American woman to obtain a Ph.D. in mathematics. *SAU

1956 Witold Hurewicz died (June 29, 1904 - September 6, 1956). Hurewicz is best remembered for two remarkable contributions to mathematics, his discovery of the higher homotopy groups in 1935-36, and his discovery of exact sequences in 1941. His work led to homological algebra. It was during Hurewicz's time as Brouwer's assistant in Amsterdam that he did the work on the higher homotopy groups; "...the idea was not new, but until Hurewicz nobody had pursued it as it should have been. Investigators did not expect much new information from groups, which were obviously commutative..."*Wik

1967 Albert Edward Ingham Studied under Littlewood (who died exactly ten years later) and worked in the distribution of primes. "His book On the distribution of prime numbers published in 1932 was his only book and it is a classic." *SAU

1977 John Edensor Littlewood (9 June 1885, 6 Sept 1977) collaborated with G H Hardy, working on the theory of series, the Riemann zeta function, inequalities and the theory of functions. His famous collaboration with G. H. Hardy lasted for thirty-five years. During the years of this collaboration Littlewood was seldom seen outside Cambridge, in fact there were jokes around that he was the invention of Hardy. *SAU It is said, not entirely in jest, that Landau thought Littlewood was a name Hardy used as a pen-name so as not to seem to dominate English Mathematics. *Ralph P Boas

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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