Saturday 11 May 2024

On This Day in Math - May 11


A mind which has a taste for scientific inquiry,
and has learned the habit of applying its principles readily to the cases which occur,
has within itself an inexhaustible source of pure and exciting contemplations.

~John Herschel

The 131st day of the year; 131 is the sum of three two-digit primes (31 + 41 + 59) whose concatenation is the decimal expansion of first six digits of pi (3.14159...).

Any ordering of the digits of 131 is still prime. This is called an "absolute" prime.

131 is the sum of three prime numbers that all begin with the same digit. *Prime Curios

bonus: 131 is the 32nd prime and the sum of the digits of both numbers is 5. 32 & 131 is the smallest n, P(n) pair with this property. Such numbers are often called Honaker Primes after G. L. Honaker, Jr, from Prime Curios.  There is only one more such prime that is a  year day.

The reciprocal of 131 repeats with a period of 130 digits, 1/131 =0.007633587786259


1892 Francis Ysidro Edgeworth's first Newmarch lecture. In May and June of 1892 Edgeworth, newly appointed to the Oxford chair and editor of The Economic Journal, gave six Newmarch lectures, "On the Uses and Methods of Statistics."

He was an Anglo-Irish philosopher and political economist who made significant contributions to the methods of statistics during the 1880s. From 1891 onward, he was appointed the founding editor of The Economic Journal.

1894 The Mississippi Weather Almanac lists this date as the date of the "most unusual weather event in the states history." In the little town of Bovina, just a short run from Vicksburg (Grant had his Army make Bovina a field hospital during the siege of Vicksburg) during a hail storm a 6" by 8" gopher turtle fell from the sky encased in ice. (admit it, you just don't find that kind of fascinating science information on your typical blog) * "Queen of the Turtle Derby" by Julia Reed.

According to  Wikipedia, "The gopher tortoise is a representative of the genus Gopherus, which contains the only tortoises native to North America.  

1897 black American inventor, William U. Moody was issued a U.S. design patent for a “game board design.” . It shows a rectangular board with a particular arrangement of partitions in the form of arcs of concentric circles and some other shorter partitions causing a complex route for a ball to travel from one corner to the diagonal corner, presumably, by tilting the board. *TIS
This was one of a number of variants of the most popular maze game of the period. Charles Martin Crandall produced many popular toys from his plant in Pennsylvania, and his "Pigs in Clover", release in 1889, captured the nation in a frenzy. The New York Tribune's March 13, 1889 issue reported Senator William M. Evarts purchased one from a street fakir in order to get rid of him. He took the puzzle home and worked it for hours. The following morning he brought it with him into senate chambers where Senator George Graham Vest stopped by Evarts' desk, borrowed the puzzle and took it to a cloak room. Soon thereafter he was joined by Senators James L. Pugh, James B. Eustis, Edward C. Walthall and John E. Kenna. A page was sent out to buy five of the puzzles and upon his return, the group engaged in a "pig driving contest". About 30 minutes later, Senator Vest announced his accomplishment of driving the last pig in the pen. A few days later a political cartoon in the New York World's March 17, 1889 issue lampooned President Benjamin Harrison's advisors and cabinet members showing the group sitting around playing the game. The caption read "Will Mr. Harrison be able to get all these hungry pigs in the official pen?"

1905 Albert Einstein's paper, "On the motion of small particles suspended in liquids at rest required by the molecular-kinetic theory of heat." (Brownian motion paper) is received by Annalen der Physik, .
"In this paper Einstein reports that the kinetic theory of heat predicts that small particles suspended in water must execute a random motion visible under the microscope. He suspects this motion is Brownian motion but has insufficient datato affirm it. The prediction is a powerful test of the truth of the kinetic theory of heat. A failure to observe the effect would refute the theory. If it is seen and measured, it provides a way to estimate Avogadro's number. The domain in which the effect is observed is one in which the second law of thermodynamics no longer holds, a disturbing result for the energeticists of the time. "  * John D. Norton, Einstein, 1905

Einstein completed six papers in 1905. Each was published by the prestigious German journal Annalen der Physik. Four of the papers were published in 1905 and the other two in 1906. The papers were:

"On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light," completed March 17, 1905. This work includes the light quanta hypothesis and study of the photoelectric effect. This was fundamental in the development of the quantum theory and was the basis of the justification for Einstein receiving the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.

"On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat," completed in May 1905. (above)

"On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," completed in June 1905. This is this paper that founded the special theory of relativity.

"Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content?," completed in September 1905. This is a follow-up to the special relativity paper in which Einstein presents a preliminary version of the equation E=mc^2.

"A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions," completed April 30, 1905 and revised on August 19, 1905. This is Einstein's Ph.D. dissertation work from the University of Zurich. It contains a new method for the determination of molecular sizes and of Avagadro's number.

"On the Theory of Brownian Motion," completed December 19, 1905. This appeared , in 1906. This is a second paper on Brownian motion. *Gardnerr

1920 Oxford University passed a statute admitting women to degrees. *VFR Women had been allowed to take examinations at Oxford since 1883. In 1892 Grace Chisholm took the exam for the Final Honours School in mathematics (as an unofficial candidate) and out-performed all the Oxford students.  She took the test (unofficially) on a challenge, with Isabel Maddison. Both women earned a First Class degree in the Mathematical Tripos examinations.

1928 radio station WGY, in Schenectady, NY, began America’s first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts. The programs lasted from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Most of the viewers were on the technical staff at nearby General Electric, which had designed the system and was using the broadcasts to refine its equipment. A handful of hobbyists who had built their own sets were also able to watch. Those who tuned in had to make constant adjustments, turning two knobs at once to keep the blurry picture discernible on their three-inch-square screens. By the end of 1928, 17 more stations around the country began scheduled broadcasts, designed to test the apparatus rather than attract viewers. *TIS 

Beginning in 1926, Ernst Alexanderson worked on an experimental mechanical television system. This led, on September 11, 1928, to the WGY Players broadcasting the first televised play, an old spy melodrama titled The Queen's Messenger and starring Izetta Jewel and Maurice Randall. Alexanderson's development of a portable and simplified television transmitter made the broadcast possible. The only viewers were newspaper and magazine writers watching the program on a 3x3-inch (7.6 cm) screen located three miles (five kilometers) away in the WGY studio. The broadcasts took place at 1:30 and 11:30 p.m.

WGY Radio Players performing a dramatic scene from William Vaughn Moody's "The Great Divide" (1923)

1940 At the 1940 New York World's Fair Westinghouse displayed a machine, the Nimatron, that played Nim. From May 11, 1940, to October 27, 1940, only a few people were able to beat the machine in that six-week period; if they did, they were presented with a coin that said Nim Champ. It was also one of the first-ever electronic computerized games.

1951,  Jay Forrester files a patent application for the matrix core memory.

"Back when computers still weighed hundreds of pounds and were primarily used by the military, computer memory relied on cathode rays to retrieve information. But the Navy needed a faster computer that could run flight simulations in real time. In stepped a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Led by professor Jay Forrester, the researchers developed a three-dimensional magnetic structure code-named Project Whirlwind. *Wired 

Diagram of a 4×4 plane of magnetic core memory in an X/Y line coincident-current setup. X and Y are drive lines, S is sense, Z is inhibit. Arrows indicate the direction of current for writing. *Wik

1957 Howard F. Fehr, of Columbia University Teachers College, in an address at Syracuse: “A mathematics professor who talks at length affects both ends of the listener—he makes one end feel numb and the other feel dumb.” [Eves, Revisited, p. 151] . *VFR

1959 Eugene P. Wigner delivered a penetrating Courant Lecture at NYU on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” which is well worth reading. *VFR

1979 VisiCalc Introduced. It was the first program operable by inexperienced computer users. As it ran only on the Apple, the company soon was on top of the market. *VFR

1986 A specially designed bicycle set the human powered land speed record of 105.37 km per hour (65.48 miles per hour). *VFR  In September of 2016 the record was shattered by a Canadian team with an enclosed bicycle travelling at 89,6 MPH.  

The bike, named Eta for the Greek symbol used to denote efficiency in engineering, uses a highly aerodynamic shape and coating, an ergonomic reclining position for the rider, and modern composite materials such as carbon fiber weaves to provide as much power transfer as possible through the stiff bike frame. *Popular Mechanics

1997 Garry Kasparov loses in the rematch with IBM's Deep Blue in the first match of what many considered a test of artificial intelligence. The world's best chess player, Kasparov lost the match and $1.1 million purse to the IBM supercomputer, which he had claimed could never surpass human chess ability. After losing the sixth and final game of the match, Kasparov accused IBM of building a machine specifically to beat him. Observers said he was frustrated by Deep Blue's quickness although they expected him to win with unconventional moves. *CHM On February 10, 1996, Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4–2 (wins count 1 point, draws count ½ point). The match concluded on February 17, 1996.
Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded (unofficially nicknamed "Deeper Blue") and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½, ending on May 11. *Wik


1702 Isaac Greenwood. (11 May 1702 Boston, Massachusetts – 22 October 1745 Charleston, South Carolina ) In 1727 he was installed at Harvard as the first Hollis professor of mathematics and natural and experimental philosophy. He strengthened and modernized the science program at Harvard. *VFR
During his tenure, he wrote anonymously the first natively-published American book on mathematics – the Greenwood Book, published in 1729. This book made the first published statement of the short scale value for billion in the United States, which eventually became the value used in most English-speaking countries.
He was removed from the Chair for intemperance (drunkenness) in 1737.
Unable to support his family, he joined the Royal Navy as a chaplain – HMS Rose in 1742, and later HMS Aldborough in 1744. He was released from service in Charleston, South Carolina, on 22 May 1745.
He drank himself to death a few months later on 22 October 1745.*Wik

In his Arithmetick, Greenwood chose to use the short scale value for one billion, i.e. 1 billion = 1000 x 1 million, or 10^9. This standard has been retained by the English speaking countries of the world. The continental countries of Europe use the long scale, i.e. 1 billion = 1 million million, or 10^12.

I recently learned that Greenwood was the first American born Dentist.

1744 José Anastácio da Cunha (May 11, 1744 – January 1, 1787) was a Portuguese mathematician. He is best known for his work on the theory of equations, algebraic analysis, plain and spherical trigonometry, analytical geometry, and differential calculus.

Da Cunha wrote a 21 part encyclopedia of mathematics Principios Mathemáticos which he began to publish in parts from 1782 (it was published as a complete work in 1790) which contained a rigorous exposition of mathematics, in particular a rigorous exposition of the calculus. The book contained the elements of geometry and algebra in addition to the calculus. In all areas da Cunha paid unusual attention to methodology as well as rigour. Struik, reviewing  writes:-

His importance for the history of mathematics is due to his "Principios Mathemáticos", published posthumously in 1790 and translated into French by J M d'Abreu [Racle, Bordeaux, 1811]. This book is characterized by the attempts at rigor, especially in the calculus. Da Cunha develops a criterion for the convergence of a series which he uses to define the exponential function in a rather modern way, and from these develops the binomial series. 

1871 Frank Schlesinger (May 11, 1871 New York City – July 10, 1943 Old Lyme, Connecticut) American astronomer who pioneered in the use of photography to map stellar positions and to measure stellar parallaxes, which could give more precise determinations of distance than visual ones, and with less than one hundredth as much time at the telescope. He designed instruments and mathematical and numerical techniques to improve parallax measurements. He published ten volumes of zone catalogs, including some 150,000 stars. He compiled positions, magnitudes, proper motions, radial velocities, and other data to produce the first edition and, with Louise Jenkins, the second, of the widely-used Bright Star Catalogues, making Yale a leading institution in astrometry. He established a second Yale observatory in South Africa. *VFR

1875  Harriet Quimby (May 11, 1875 – July 1, 1912) Harriet Quimby of Coldwater, Michigan, the first American woman to earn a pilot's license, on August 1, 1911, when she earned license #37 from the Aero Club of America. She later becomes the first woman to fly an airplane across the English Channel.  Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the Titanic ocean liner the day before riveted the interest of the public and filled newspapers.

The Vin Fiz Company, a division of Armour Meat Packing Plant of Chicago, recruited Quimby as the spokesperson for the new grape soda, Vin Fiz  in April 1912. Her distinctive purple aviator uniform and image graced many of the advertising pieces of the day.

1881 Theodore von Karman (May 11, 1881 – May 7, 1963) Hungarian-American aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization.*Wik; He was director of the Institute for Aerodynamics at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) in AACHEN, Nordrhein-Westfalen, in 1913-1934. The main lecture theatre complex is named the Kármán Auditorium and there is a photo and a bust of him in the foyer.

President Kennedy presenting the first National Medal of Science to Theodore von Kármán, 1963 (jfklibrary.ord)

1902  Edna Ernestine Kramer Lassar (May 11, 1902 – July 9, 1984), born Edna Ernestine Kramer, was an American mathematician and author of mathematics books.

Kramer was born in Manhattan to Jewish immigrants. She earned her B.A. summa cum laude in mathematics from Hunter College in 1922. While teaching at local high schools, she earned her M.A. in 1925 and Ph.D. in 1930 in mathematics (with a minor in physics) from Columbia University with Edward Kasner as her advisor.

She wrote The Nature and Growth of Modern Mathematics, A First Course in Educational Statistics, Mathematics Takes Wings: An Aviation Supplement to Secondary Mathematics, and The Main Stream of Mathematics.

Kramer married the French teacher Benedict Taxier Lassar on July 2, 1935. Kramer-Lassar died at the age of 82 in Manhattan of Parkinson's disease

1924 Eugene Borisovich Dynkin ( May 11, 1924 — 14 November 2014) was a Soviet and American mathematician. He has made contributions to the fields of probability and algebra, especially semisimple Lie groups, Lie algebras, and Markov processes. The Dynkin diagram, the Dynkin system, and Dynkin's lemma are named for him.
In 1968, Dynkin was forced to transfer from the Moscow University to the Central Economic Mathematical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He worked there on the theory of economic growth and economic equilibrium. He remained at the Institute until 1976, when he emigrated to the United States. In 1977, he became a professor at Cornell University, where he died in 2014. *Wik

1918 Richard Phillips Feynman (11 May, 1918 – 15 February, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist who was probably the most brilliant, influential, and iconoclastic figure in his field in the post-WW II era. By age 15, he had mastered calculus. He took every physics course at MIT. His lifelong interest was in subatomic physics. In 1942, he went to Los Alamos where Hans Bethe made the 24 year old Feynman a group leader in the theoretical division, to work on estimating how much uranium would be needed to achieve critical mass for the Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project. After the war, he developed Feynman Diagrams, a simple notation to describe the complex behavior of subatomic particles. In 1965, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for work in quantum electrodynamics. *TIS

1924 Antony Hewish FRS FInstP (11 May 1924 – 13 September 2021) was a British radio astronomer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 (together with fellow radio-astronomer Martin Ryle) for his role in the discovery of pulsars. ( Several prominent scientists protested the omission of Bell Burnell, though she maintained that the prize was presented appropriately given her student status at the time of the discovery) He  was also awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969

In late Nov 1967, using a radio telescope, Hewish and Ph.D. student Jocelyn Bell  observed an unusual signal corresponding to a sharp burst of radio energy at a regular interval of approximately one second. It is believed that rapidly rotating neutron stars with intense electromagnetic fields emit radio waves from their north and south poles. From a great distance, these radio emissions are perceived in pulses, similar to the way one sees the light from a lighthouse's rotating lantern. Hewish and Bell's discovery served as the first evidence of this phenomenon.

1930 Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (May 11, 1930 – August 6, 2002) was a Dutch computer scientist. He received the 1972 Turing Award for fundamental contributions to developing programming languages, and was the Schlumberger Centennial Chair of Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin from 1984 until 2000. Among his contributions to computer science are the shortest path-algorithm, also known as Dijkstra's algorithm; Reverse Polish Notation and related Shunting yard algorithm; the THE multiprogramming system, an important early example of structuring a system as a set of layers; Banker's algorithm; and the semaphore construct for coordinating multiple processors and programs. Another concept due to Dijkstra in the field of distributed computing is that of self-stabilization – an alternative way to ensure the reliability of the system. Dijkstra's algorithm is used in SPF, Shortest Path First, which is used in the routing protocols OSPF and IS-IS. *Wik

1958 Kristie Irene Macrakis (March 11, 1958 – November 14, 2022) was an American historian of science, author and professor in the School of History, Technology and Society at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She was the author or editor of five books and was widely known for her work at the intersection of history of espionage and history of science and technology.

Macrakis received her PhD in the history of science at Harvard University. After teaching at Harvard University for a year as a lecturer, Macrakis spent a year in Berlin on an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Chancellor's Scholar for Future Leaders, before taking up a position at Michigan State University where she advanced from Assistant to Full Professor, before taking up a Full Professor position at Georgia Tech.

Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies (2014) and Seduced by Secrets (2008) were her single authored books. Nigel Jones wrote in The Spectator that Prisoners, Lovers and Spies is "beguilingly informative and sweeping survey of hidden communication.]Kirkus Reviews named it one of the best nonfiction books of 2014 and called it "lively...engaging" and "An engrossing study of unseen writing and the picaresque misadventures of those who employ it."

Seduced by Secrets was hailed as the "best book" on the Ministry for State Security by Benjamin Fischer in the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence,[while Joseph Goulden, of the Washington Times, gave it "a five cloak-and-dagger rating. Good reading for the specialist and the layman alike."

Macrakis was also the author of numerous articles, both scholarly and popular. While a graduate student at Harvard she found that the Rockefeller Foundation funded science in Nazi Germany; that work was covered in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 October 1986). Her most widely read popular magazine article is "The Case of Agent Gorbachev," published in American Scientist.

Following a brief illness, Macrakis died on November 14, 2022, at the age of 64.


1610 Matteo Ricci (October 6, 1552; Macerata – May 11, 1610;Beijing )was an Italian Jesuit who went to China as a missionary and introduced the Chinese to Western mathematics.*SAU
There is now a memorial plaque in Zhaoqing to commemorate Ricci's six-year stay there, as well as a "Ricci Memorial Centre", in a building dating from the 1860's. *Wik

1686 Otto von Guericke (originally spelled Gericke) (November 20, 1602 – May 11, 1686 (Julian calendar); November 30, 1602 – May 21, 1686 (Gregorian calendar)) was a German scientist, inventor, and politician. He is best remembered for his invention of the Magdeburg hemispheres, popularized in the writings of Caspar Schott. His major scientific achievements were the establishment of the physics of vacuums, the discovery of an experimental method for clearly demonstrating electrostatic repulsion, and his advocacy of the reality of "action at a distance" and of "absolute space". *Wik

1871 1st Baronet) Sir John (Frederick William) Herschel (7 March 1792 – 11 May 1871) was an English astronomer. As successor to his father, Sir William Herschel, he discovered another 525 nebulae and clusters. John Herschel was a pioneer in celestial photography, and as a chemist contributed to the development of sensitized photographic paper (independently of Talbot). In 1819, he discovered that sodium thiosulphate dissolved silver salts, as used in developing photographs. He introduced the terms positive image and negative image. Being diverse in his research, he also studied physical and geometrical optics, birefringence of crystals, spectrum analysis, and the interference of light and sound waves. To compare the brightness of stars, he invented the astrometer.*TIS [He was buried in Westminster Abbey.]

1957 Théophile Ernest de Donder (19 August 1872 – 11 May 1957) was a Belgian mathematician and physicist famous for his 1923 work in developing correlations between the Newtonian concept of chemical affinity and the Gibbsian concept of free energy.
He received his doctorate in physics and mathematics from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1899, for a thesis entitled Sur la Théorie des Invariants Intégraux (On the Theory of Integral Invariants).
He was professor between 1911 and 1942, at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Initially he continued the work of Henri Poincaré and Élie Cartan. As from 1914 he was influenced by the work of Albert Einstein and was an enthusiastic proponent of the theory of relativity. He gained significant reputation in 1923, when he developed his definition of chemical affinity. He pointed out a connection between the chemical affinity and the Gibbs free energy.
He is considered the father of thermodynamics of irreversible processes. De Donder’s work was later developed further by Ilya Prigogine. De Donder was an associate and friend of Albert Einstein. *Wik

Théophile Ernest de Donder at the 1927 Solvay Conference . Appearing in front of de Donder is Paul Dirac .

1965 Jason John Nassau (29 March 1893 in Smyrna, (now Izmir) Turkey - 11 May 1965 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA) was an American astronomer.
He performed his doctoral studies at Syracuse, and gained his Ph.D. mathematics in 1920. (His thesis was Some Theorems in Alternants.) He then became an assistant professor at the Case Institute of Technology in 1921, teaching astronomy. He continued to instruct at that institution, becoming the University's first chair of astronomy from 1924 until 1959 and chairman of the graduate division from 1936 until 1940. After 1959 he was professor emeritus.
From 1924 until 1959 he was also the director of the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Warner and Swasey Observatory in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a pioneer in the study of galactic structure. He also discovered a new star cluster, co-discovered 2 novae in 1961, and developed a technique of studying the distribution of red (M-class or cooler) stars.*Wik

1897 Odd Hassel (17 May 1897 – 11 May 1981) was a Norwegian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate.

He  shared (with Sir Derek H.R. Barton of Great Britain) the 1969 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work in establishing conformational analysis (the study of the 3-D geometric structure of molecules). A ring of six carbon atoms has two conformations - the chair and boat forms. These easily interchange - about a million times in a second at room temperature. One of the conformations is, however, strongly predominant (about 99%). Hassel carried out fundamental investigations on this system and showed how heavy or bulky groups, attached to the carbon atoms, take up their positions relative to the ring and to each other. Such work is of great importance for predicting the mode of reaction of a certain molecule. *TIS

2012 Fritz Joseph Ursell FRS (28 April 1923 – 11 May 2012) was a British mathematician noted for his contributions to fluid mechanics, especially in the area of wave-structure interactions. He held the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester from 1961–1990, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1972 and retired in 1990.

Ursell came to England as a refugee in 1937 from Germany. From 1941 to 1943 he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor degree in mathematics. *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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