Friday 24 November 2023

On This Day in Math - November 24


Albertus Magnus

To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking hm to perform a postmortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of.
~Fisher, Ronald Aylmer

The 328th day of the year; 328 is the sum of the first fifteen primes. No year day can has more.
It is also is a tau-number since it is divisible by the number of divisors it has.

328 reversed is prime, and it is the sum of the first 15 primes.  It is the last day of the year that will be the sun of the first n primes.

\(328 =18^2 + 2^2 \) and
\(328 = 6^2 + 6^2 + 16^2\)


1639 British astronomers Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree became the first observers to record a transit of Venus. Horrocks was just a teenager, and would die at the tender age of twenty-two, but before he did, he ran up several impressive notches in his scientific portfolio. For more on this event, see

this blog by The Renaissance Mathematicus. Applying Kepler's prediction that in 1631, Venus would transit the Sun, Horrocks calculated that these transits occurred not singly but in pairs eight years apart. Thus, Horrocks prepared his equipment for the next transit he had thus predicted for this day. His simple telescope was mounted on a wooden beam, so he could project a solar image onto a piece of paper marked with a six inch graduated circle. From this, he made measurements and calculated that the value for the solar parallax was smaller than previously recorded, and so concluded that the Sun was further away from the Earth than previously thought. *TIS As the image shows, the observation was made at Carr House where he lived at the time.  "Horrocks returned to Toxteth Park (Liverpool) sometime in the summer of 1640 and died suddenly and from unknown causes on 3 January 1641, aged only 22. As expressed by Crabtree, "What an incalculable loss!" *John Wallis  The image is from the

1713 As the 18th century began, even the devoted Newton supporters were finding themselves drawn to the Leibniz notation used on the continent, although the real break would not come for another hundred years.  But in 1713, even the most devout Newtonians were wavering.  On this date, John Kell, a bitter opponent of Leibniz, would use the \( \int \) for integration, but fiercely continued to use the "pricked numerals" of Newton.  \( \dot {x}\) .  *Philosophical Transactions

1759 Lagrange wrote Euler that he believes that he had developed the true metaphysics of the calculus; at that time he seems to have been convinced that the use of infinitesimals was rigorous. Lagrange attempted to prove Taylor’s theorem (the power of which he was the first to observe) and then to develop the entire calculus from it. (Cajori, History of Mathematics, 257) *VFR

1789 Lagrange finished his M´ecanique analytique. In this he lays down the law of virtual work, and from that one fundamental principle, by the aid of the calculus of variations, deduces the whole of mechanics, both of solids and fluids.
The object of the book is to show that the subject is implicitly included in a single principle, and to give general formulae from which any particular result can be obtained. The method of generalized co-ordinates by which he obtained this result is perhaps the most brilliant result of his analysis. Instead of following the motion of each individual part of a material system, as D'Alembert and Euler had done, he showed that, if we determine its configuration by a sufficient number of variables whose number is the same as that of the degrees of freedom possessed by the system, then the kinetic and potential energies of the system can be expressed in terms of those variables, and the differential equations of motion thence deduced by simple differentiation. *Wik

1831 Michael Faraday reads the first of a series of papers on "Experimental Research into Electricity." *Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1832 122:125-162;

1836 A total lunar eclipse occurred which Gauss had promised to show, through the observatory telescope to his friend Ribbentrop, confirmed bachelor, campus eccentric, and absent-minded professor of law. Although it was pouring rain that evening Ribbentrop appeared. Gauss explained that observation was impossible, but Ribbentrop countered, “No, I have my umbrella.” [Eves, Squared, 191◦] *VFR

1845 After Faraday’s discovery of the a between light and magnetism was announced in the papers, Mrs. Jane Marcet, whose book, Conversations on Chemistry, had been influential in Faraday's youth, wrote to ask Faraday for more information. " I have kept back the proof sheets of the ‘Conversation on Electricity,’ which I was this morning revising, until I receive your answer, in hopes of being able to introduce it in that sheet."
The two kept up correspondence throughout her life, and she would contact him for information on the most recent developments in order to update her "Conversations." The last new edition of Conversations on Chemistry came out in 1853, when Marcet was 84 years old!
A more complete story of the influence she had on Faraday, and their relationship is at the *skullsinthestars blogsite.

1847 Barrister to barrister math; 1837's second Wrangler to 1842's Senior Wrangler: J. J. Sylvester writes to Arthur Cayley to inform him that while reading the second volume of Theorie des Nombres that he had found two examples by Legendre that he thought might be "very congenial" to Cayley's present line of thought, "not doubting that it will turn to good account in your able hands." Although their communication was stil in the "My Dear Sir" stage, Sylvester felt he had found a kindred spirit. *Karen Hunger Parshall, James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World

In 1859, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Darwin's groundbreaking book, was published in England to great acclaim. The British naturalist, Charles Darwin detailed the scientific evidence he had collected since his voyage on the Beagle in the 1830's. He presented his idea that species are the result of a gradual biological evolution in which nature encourages, through natural selection, the propagation of those species best suited to their environments. He had been prompted to publish at this time by Charles Lyell, who advised him that Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist working in Borneo, was approaching the same conclusions. Lyell believed Darwin should publish without further delay to establish priority. *TIS

1864 So as not to miss a lecture, George Boole walked the three miles from his home in Ballintemple to Queen’s College in Cork, Ireland, in a pouring rain. He lectured in wet clothes, caught a cold, and died two weeks later at age 49. [MacHale, George Boole, His Life and Work, p 24]. *VFR

1858 Dedekind discovers his cuts and thereby provides the first correct definition of continuity. [Dauben, p. 48] *VFR

1888 On Thanksgiving Day, six members of the mathematics department at Columbia University met to form a society for the purpose of discussing mathematics and reading papers of mathematical interest. A month later they christened it the New York Mathematical Society. By 1894 the society had attained a national character, so its name was changed to the American Mathematical Society. The six were J. H. Van Amring, the first president, Thomas Scott Fiske, Rees (a professor), Jacoby and Stabler (fellow students with Fiske) and Maclay (a graduate student). *P. Duren (ed), A Century of Mathematics in America, vol. I, pp. 5, 13.  

 Fiske was an American mathematician born in New York City and graduated in 1885 (Ph.D., 1888) from Columbia University, where he was a fellow, assistant, tutor, instructor, and adjunct professor until 1897, when he became professor of mathematics. In 1899 he was acting dean of Barnard College. He was president in 1902–04 of the American Mathematical Society, and he also edited the Bulletin (1891–99) and Transactions (1899–1905) of this society. In 1902 he became secretary of the College Entrance Examination Board. In 1905–06 he also served as president of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics of the Middle States and Maryland.

1918 Richard Courant sat down with Ferdinand Springer and signed a contract for the series of books now famous as the “Yellow Series.” *Constance Reid, Courant in Gottingen and New York, p. 72

1982 Sweden issued five stamps honoring Nobel Prize winners Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, Louis de Broglie, Paul Dirac and Werner Heisenberg. [Scott #1425-9] *VFR Bohr also appears on 500-krone banknote with the portrait of Bohr smoking a pipe since 1997.

1998 America Online announced the acquisition of Netscape Communications in a stock-for-stock transaction worth $4.2 billion. The deal between Netscape and AOL was also a pooling-of-interests transaction and gave Netscape shareholders 0.45 shares of AOL common stock for each share they held. The transaction closed in the spring of 1999, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval. *CHM

2015 President Barack Obama awarded the presidential medal of freedom—America’s highest civilian honor—to a 97-year-old mathematician named Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson. You might not have heard her name in history class, but Katherine did some life-saving work back in 1962. In her job at NASA, she calculated the trajectory for astronaut John Glenn's pioneering space mission to orbit Earth. Katherine co-authored the research and equations that laid out how to send Glenn into orbit and how to bring him back home safely. Johnson is just one part of a cadre of African American women who did crucial calculations for the space workforce during the Cold War. */


1879 Duncan MacLaren Young Sommerville (24 Nov 1879 in Beawar, Rajasthan, India - 31 Jan 1934 in Wellington, New Zealand) Sommerville studied at St Andrews and then had a post as a lecturer there. He left to become Professor of Pure and Applied mathematics at Victoria College, Wellington New Zealand. He worked on non-Euclidean geometry and the History of Mathematics. He became President of the EMS in 1911. *SAU

1909 Gerhard Gentzen (24 Nov 1909 in Greifswald, Germany - 4 Aug 1945 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) Gentzen invented a 'natural deduction' which provided a logic closer to mathematical reasoning than the systems proposed by Frege, Russell and Hilbert.*SAU

1912 Dr. Lyle B. Borst, (Nov 24, 1912 - July 30, 2002) was a nuclear physicist who helped build Brookhaven National Laboratory's nuclear reactor and was an early member of the Manhattan Project.
In 1950, Dr. Borst led the construction of the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor, which was the largest and most powerful reactor in the country and the first to be built solely for research and other peacetime uses of atomic energy.
Within the first nine months of operating the reactor, Dr. Borst announced that it had produced a new type of radioactive iodine, which is used in treating thyroid cancer.
In 1952, based on studies of new types of atomic nuclei created in the reactor, Dr. Borst helped explain the mystery behind giant stars, known as supernovae, that burst with the energy of billions of atomic bombs and flare for several years with the brilliance of several million suns.
Dr. Borst found that beryllium 7, an isotope of beryllium that does not occur naturally on earth, is formed in supernovae by the fusion of two helium nuclei. The fusion takes place after the star has used up its hydrogen supply. This reaction absorbs huge quantities of energy, causing the star to collapse in the greatest cosmic explosion known. *NY Times obit.

Speculation about atomic powered locomotives began at least as early as 1946. But the real beginning of the atomic locomotive was in 1954 with Prof. Lyle Borst's X-12.

The X-12 began as a graduate student project at the University of Utah, but went on to be patented and presented in the popular press and at academic and industrial meetings. Prof. Lyle Borst, the project's leader, had been involved with Fermi in Chicago during the early days of the Manhattan Project. He helped design Brookhaven National Laboratory's Graphite Research Reactor before becoming professor of physics at the University of Utah. He had extensive experience with reactor design, and had been part of early efforts with the Federation of Atomic Scientists to lobby congress to keep control of nuclear weapons in civilian rather than military hands.

1925 Simon van der Meer (24 Nov 1925, )Dutch engineer and physicist who along with Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia, discovered the W particle and the Z particle by colliding protons and antiprotons, for which both men shared the Nobel Prize for Physics. These subatomic particles (units of matter smaller than an atom) transmit the weak nuclear force, one of four fundamental forces in nature. The discovery supported the unified electroweak theory put forward in the 1970's. Working at CERN in Switzerland, Van der Meer improved the design of particle accelerators used produce collisions between beams of subatomic particles. He invented a device that would monitor and adjust the particle beam with correcting magnetic fields by a system of 'kickers' placed around the accelerator ring.*TIS

1926 Tsung Dao Lee (24 Nov 1926, ) Chinese-born American physicist who received (with Chen Ning Yang) the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics for their "penetrating investigation" of violations of the principle of parity conservation (the quality of space reflection symmetry of subatomic particle interactions), which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles. Conservation of parity had previously been regarded as a "law" of nature. (Parity holds that the laws of physics are the same in a right-handed system of coordinates as in a left-handed system.) The theory was subsequently confirmed experimentally by Chien-Shiung Wu in observations of beta decay.*TIS

1944 Veerabhadran Ramanathan (24 Nov 1944, )Indian atmospheric scientist who in 1999 discovered the "Asian Brown Cloud" - wandering layers of air pollution as wide as a continent and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The dark particles in these brown clouds may reduce rainfall, dry the planet’s surface, cool the tropics and reduce sunlight - Global Dimming. In 1975, Ramanathan was the first to demonstrate that CFCs are major greenhouse gases. His calculations showed each CFC molecule in the atmosphere contributes more to the greenhouse effect that over 10,000 molecules of carbon dioxide. In the 1980s, he led a study discovering numerous trace gases contributing to global warming, and a NASA study that demonstrated that clouds had a net global cooling effect on the planet.*TIS


1930 Prosper-René Blondlot (3 July 1849 – 24 November 1930) was a French physicist, best remembered for his mistaken "discovery" of N rays, a phenomenon that subsequently proved to be illusory.
In order to demonstrate that a Kerr cell responds to an applied electric field in a few tens of microseconds, Blondlot, in collaboration with Ernest Bichat, adapted the rotating-mirror method that Léon Foucault had applied to measure the speed of light. He further developed the rotating mirror to measure the speed of electricity in a conductor, photographing the sparks emitted from two conductors, one 1.8 km longer than the other and measuring the relative displacement of their images. He thus established that the speed of electricity in a conductor is very close to that of light.
In 1891, he made the first measurement of the speed of radio waves, by measuring the wavelength using Lecher lines. He used 13 different frequencies between 10 and 30 MHz and obtained an average value of 297,600 km/s, which is within 1% of the current value for the speed of light. This was an important confirmation of James Clerk Maxwell's theory that light was an electromagnetic wave like radio waves.
In 1903, Blondlot announced that he had discovered N rays, a new species of radiation. The "discovery" attracted much attention over the following year until Robert W. Wood showed that the phenomena were purely subjective with no physical origin. The French Academy of Sciences awarded the Prix Leconte (₣50,000) for 1904 to Blondot, although they hedged on the reason, citing the totality of his work rather than the discovery of N-rays.
Little is known about Blondlot's later years. William Seabrook stated in his Wood biography Doctor Wood, that Blondlot went insane and died, supposedly as a result of the exposure of the N ray debacle: "This tragic exposure eventually led to Blondlot's madness and death." Using an almost identical wording this statement was repeated later by Martin Gardner, possibly without having investigated into the subject: "Wood's exposure led to Blondlot's madness and death." However, Blondlot continued to work as a university professor in Nancy until his early retirement in 1910. He died at the age of 81; at the time of the N-ray affair he was nearly 60 years old. *Wik

1978 Warren Weaver​ (b. July 17, 1894 in Reedsburg, Wisconsin d. November 24, 1978 in New Milford, Connecticut) was an American scientist, mathematician, and science administrator. He is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of machine translation, and as an important figure in creating support for science in the United States.*Wik

1980 Henrietta Hill Swope(26 October 1902; Saint Louis, Missouri - 24 November 1980; Pasadena, California)was an American astronomer. She was the eldest child of Gerard and Mary Dayton (Hill) Swope; her mother was the daughter of Thomas Hill, president of Harvard University, 1862-1868. She received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1926 and her A.M. from Radcliffe College in 1928. In 1936, while assistant at the Harvard Observatory (1928-1942), she was a member of the expedition sent jointly by the Harvard Observatory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the solar eclipse in Soviet Central Asia. During World War II she was staff member of the M.I.T. Radiation Laboratory and then served as a mathematician in the Hydrographic Office of the U.S. Department of the Navy. From 1947 to 1952 she taught astronomy at Barnard College and in 1952 was appointed assistant, later research fellow, at the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories in California. After her retirement in 1968, she continued to work at the Observatories.
HHS was a member of the American Astronomical Society; she received the AAS Annie Jump Cannon Prize in 1968 for her research on photometry and variable stars. She was responsible for developing a new yardstick for measuring the universe: calibrating distance by determining the brightness of stars. She received the Distinguished Alumna Award of Barnard College in 1975 and the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 1980.
The Swope Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile is named in her honor, as is asteroid 2168 Swope.

1987 Hans Herbert Schubert (1 May 1908 in Weida, Thüringen Germany - 24 Nov 1987 in Halle, Germany) Schubert was a German mathematician who worked on differential equations. *SAU

2008 John Robert Stallings Jr. (July 22, 1935 – November 24, 2008) was a mathematician known for his seminal contributions to geometric group theory and 3-manifold topology. Stallings was a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley where he had been a faculty member since 1967.  He published over 50 papers, predominantly in the areas of geometric group theory and the topology of 3-manifolds. Stallings' most important contributions include a proof, in a 1960 paper, of the Poincaré Conjecture in dimensions greater than six and a proof, in a 1971 paper, of the Stallings theorem about ends of groups. Stallings was born in the small town of Morrilton, Arkansas.*Wik

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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