Thursday 9 May 2024

On This Day in Math - May 9


Margarita philosophica of Gregor Reisch *MAA

If you ask a drunkard what number is larger, 2/3 or 3/5, he might not be able to tell you. But if you rephrase the question: What is better, 2 bottles of vodka for 3 people, or 3 bottles of vodka for 5 people, he will tell you right away.
Israel Gelfand (from Love and Math, by Edward Frenkel)

The 129th day of the year; 129 is the smallest number with four representations as a sum of three positive (but not necessarily distinct) squares: 129 = 1+ 8+ 8= 2+ 2+ 11= 2+ 5+ 10= 4+ 7+ 8.

129 is also the sum of the first ten primes.

129 is the smallest sum of distinct seventh powers (17 + 27).

And if you've not spent some time in Western Ky, and perhaps even if you have, you might not guess where the official Banana Capital of the US is. It's in the little town of Fulton, Ky, along the train route from New Orleans to Chicago, and Fulton had the distinction of being the place where Union Fruit company chose to pause the trains bringing fresh bananas along the way to re-ice them for the rest of their journey.At one time over 70% of Bananas shipped into the US came through Fulton. About 13 miles away is the even smaller town of Wingo, formerly called Wingo Station ( because it set along the same New Orleans and Ohio rail line passing through Fulton. And what they have in common other than that, is the reason I mention them today, they are on the ends of Ky Route 129. They are just a pretty spring drive of 40 miles from here in Possum Trot.

"Oh, the humanity, and all the passengers screaming around here!"  Herbert Morrison broadcasting live over WLS Chicago from NAS Lakehurst New Jersey as he reported on the burning of the Hydrogen filled Zeppelin, The Hindenburg, on May 6, 1937 (that was the 126th day of that year), but it's number was LZ129..  



1562 In the evening Don Carlos, son of Phillip II of Spain, and heir to the throne lay dying from a fall on a staircase a month earlier. In hopes of a miracle, the king prayed, and then caused, or allowed, the body of a 15th-Century priest from the village to be brought and laid by his son. Within days the young man recovered, and the grateful father commissioned the royal clockmaker, Juanelo Turriano, to create one of the first human form automatons in Europe, the praying monk. The incredible wind up device would walk lifelike in a square, nodding his head as his mouth moves in prayer, sometimes beating his chest, and kissing his cross and rosary. The device is now in the Smithsonian, and it still works.
For more about the story read here,  and more pictures of the automaton just search Praying Monk on your favorite search engine. 

1664 Hooke speaks to Royal Society on finding the Giant Red Spot on Jupiter OUHOS Collections ‏@OUHOSCollection


1694 Johann Bernoulli, in a letter to Leibniz, introduced the term and the explicit process of “sepera­tio indeterminatarum” or separation of variables for solving differential equations. He published it in Acta eruditorum in November, 1694. [Ince, 531] *VFR In 1691 the inverse problem of tangents led Leibniz to the implicit discovery of the method of separation of variables.

In mathematics, separation of variables is any of several methods for solving ordinary and partial differential equations, in which algebra allows one to rewrite an equation so that each of two variables occurs on a different side of the equation.

1831 Galois party toast will lead to his arrest. Derbyshire describes the events in "Unknown Quantity, a real and imaginary history of Algebra."

1848 “Proficiency in Algebra, the elements of geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, will give you the art of developing truth by the skillful use of the reasoning powers, and, besides, store your mind with a species of knowledge of daily practical utility to a lawyer. ... It is the helm of the mind, stering it over the shortest route from the point of departure to the destination—from cause to effect.” So wrote the American soldier Albert Sidney Johnston (1803–1862) to his son. From William Preston Johnston (the son), The Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston (1878),p. 162, as quoted by Florian Cajori in Mathematics in Liberal Education (1928), p. 103. *VFR 

Johnston was the highest-ranking officer on either side killed during the entire U S Civil War.(  at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862)

1854  There is a "letter from Rankine to Thomson of 9 May 1854 in which he suggests more reasonably that the leading term in the departure from the perfect-gas laws is linear in the density, or (1/V). This turned out to be so .."  (JAMES JOULE, WILLIAM THOMSON AND THE CONCEPT OF A PERFECT GAS by J. S. ROWLINSON)

1914 Think of all the work that mothers do in raising their children. Mothers need to be celebrated! President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 9, 1914, the first Mother's Day. He asked Americans on that day to give a public "thank you" to their mothers and all mothers.
Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia wanted to remember her own mother along with all mothers. Anna’s mother had been very active in working to improve the health of people in her community. Jarvis’s mother also organized a Mother’s Friendship event in her community to bring confederate and union soldiers together for a peaceful celebration. Many other women such as Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth Smith also fought for peace and encouraged mothers to speak out. Anna Jarvis convinced her mother’s church to celebrate Mother’s Day on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and campaigned for a national day honoring mothers. Because of Jarvis’s hard work, Woodrow Wilson chose that date for the national holiday. (Library of Congress web site) This year it's May 12... Happy Birthday to Mom's everywhere.

On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother's death, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, today the International Mother's Day Shrine, in Grafton, West Virginia, marking the first official observance of Mother's Day.

1926 Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett became the first men to fly over the North Pole. *TIS

1972 100 high school students took the first U.S.A. Mathematical Olympiad. The purpose was to discover secondary school students with superior mathematical talent. One of the five problems on the exam was: “A random number selector can only select one of the nine integers 1, 2,..., 9, and it makes these selections with equal probability. Determine the probability that after n selections (for n larger than 1), the product of the n numbers selected will be divisible by 10.” For the winners, the other problems, and the solutions, see AMM 80 (1973), pp 276–281. *VFR

2013 Surfs Up, Sun's Not, in Hawaii, at least for a moment. Solar Eclipse in Honolulu *Carey Johnson ‏@TheTelescopeGuy

2016 It happens only a little more than once a decade – and the next chance to see it is TODAY!. Throughout the U.S., sky watchers can watch Mercury pass between Earth and the sun in a rare astronomical event known as a planetary transit. Mercury will appear as a tiny black dot as it glides in front of the sun’s blazing disk over a period of seven and a half hours. Three NASA satellites will be providing images of the transit and one of them will have a near-live feed. *NASA


1746  Gaspard Monge, (9 May 1746 – 28 July 1818) noted geometer, son of a peddler and knife grinder   at Beaune, France. Today there is a statue of him in his home town. (I stumbled across it while visiting vineyards).*VFR One of the founders of descriptive geometry (the mathematics of projecting solid figures onto a plane, upon which modern engineering drawing is based) and the application of the techniques of analysis to the theory of curvature. The latter ultimately led to the revolutionary work of Georg Riemann on geometry and curvature. He became a close friend of Napoleon and was appointed minister for the navy (1792-93), but was stripped of all honours on the restoration of the Bourbons. He died in poverty. *TIS
As an active Jacobin, he was acting head of the government on the day Louis XVI was executed.  He was also Minister of the Navy. He was in official disfavor when he died and had been expelled from the Academy in 1816 (along with Lazare Carnot), but his students erected a monument with a bust. MONGE was buried in the cemetery of Père Lachaise (Mausoleum at right below) but in 1989, he was translated to the Panthéon.

1785 James Pollard Espy (9 May 1785, 24 Jan 1860) American meteorologist who was one of the first to collect meteorological observations by telegraph. He gave apparently the first essentially correct explanation of the thermodynamics of cloud formation and growth. Every great atmospheric disturbance begins with a rising mass of heated, thus less dense air. While rising, the air mass dilates and cools. Then, as water vapor precipitates as clouds, latent heat is liberated so the dilation and rising continues until the moisture of the air forming the upward current is practically exhausted. The heavier air flows in beneath, and, finding a diminished pressure above it, rushes upward with constantly increasing violence. Water vapour precipitated during this atmospheric disturbance results in heavy rains.*TIS

1808 John Scott Russell (9 May 1808, Parkhead, Glasgow – 8 June 1882, Ventnor, Isle of Wight)  British civil engineer best known for researches in ship design. He designed the first seagoing battleship built entirely of iron. He was the first to record an observation of a soliton, while conducting experiments to determine the most efficient design for canal boats. In Aug 1834, he observed what he called the "Wave of Translation," a solitary wave formed in the narrow channel of a canal which continues ahead after a canal boat stops. [This is now recognised as a fundamental ingredient in the theory of 'solitons', applicable to a wide class of nonlinear partial differential equations.] He also made the first experimental observation of the "Doppler shift" of sound frequency as a train passes (1848). He designed (with Brunel) the Great Eastern and built it; he designed the Vienna Rotunda and helped to design Britain's first armored warship, the Warrior. *TIS

1876 Gilbert Ames Bliss (9 May 1876, Chicago – 8 May 1951, Harvey, Illinois) did important work in the calculus of variations. Throughout his career at Chicago he stressed the importance of a strong union between teaching and research. *VFR  This is another one who died within a week of their birthday (he died on May 8). 

1898 Arend Heyting 
(May 9, 1898 – July 9, 1980) is important in the development of intuitionistic logic and algebra.He was a student of Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer at the University of Amsterdam, and did much to put intuitionistic logic on a footing where it could become part of mathematical logic. Heyting gave the first formal development of intuitionistic logic in order to codify Brouwer's way of doing mathematics. The inclusion of Brouwer's name in the Brouwer–Heyting–Kolmogorov interpretation is largely honorific, as Brouwer was opposed in principle to any formalisation of intuitionistic logic (and went as far as calling Heyting's work a "sterile exercise").   *Wik

1936 Alexandre Aleksandrovich Kirillov (May 9,1936) is a Soviet and Russian mathematician, renowned for his works in the fields of representation theory, topological groups and Lie groups. In particular he introduced the orbit method into representation theory.
Kirillov studied at Moscow State University where he was a student of Israel Gelfand. His Ph.D. (kandidat) dissertation Unitary representations of nilpotent Lie groups 1962 was so successful that he was awarded the much higher degree of Doctor of Science instead. At the time he was the youngest Doctor of Science in the Soviet Union. He worked at the Moscow State University until 1994 when he became the Francis J. Carey Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania.
During his school years, Kirillov was a winner of many mathematics competitions, and he is still an active organizer of Russian mathematical contests. Kirillov is an author of many popular school-oriented books and articles.
In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
Kirillov's son, Alexander Kirillov, Jr., is also a mathematician, working on the representation theory of Lie groups at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. *Wik

1950 Esteban Terrades i Illa (15 September 1883;Barcelona,- 9 May 1950,Madrid,) was a Spanish mathematician, scientist and engineer. He researched and taught widely in the fields of mathematics and the physical sciences, working not only in his native Catalonia, but also in the rest of Spain and in South America. He was also active as a consultant in the Spanish aeronautics, electric power, telephone and railway industries. *Wik

1965  Karen Ellen Smith (born 1965 in Red Bank, New Jersey) is an American mathematician who works on commutative algebra and algebraic geometry. She is the Keeler Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan. She won the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics for her development of tight closure methods in commutative algebra and especially for her application of these methods in algebraic geometry.


1525 Gregor Reisch (born at Balingen in Württemberg, about 1467; died at Freiburg, Baden, 9 May 1525) was a German Carthusian humanist writer. He is best known for his Margarita philosophica, which first appeared at Freiburg in 1503. It is an encyclopedia of knowledge intended as a text-book for youthful students, and contains in twelve books Latin grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, physics, natural history, physiology, psychology, and ethics. The usefulness of the work was increased by numerous woodcuts and a full index. *Wik
Image of Calculating-Table by Gregor Reisch: Margarita Philosophica, 1503. The woodcut shows Arithmetica instructing an algorist and an abacist (inaccurately represented as Boethius and Pythagoras). There was keen competition between the two from the introduction of the Algebra into Europe in the 12th century until its triumph in the 16th.

1778  Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac,(6 December 1778 – 9 May 1850)) a French chemist, is well known to modern chemists for two laws, one relating the volume of a gas to its temperature (volume increases linearly with temperature), and the second, called the law of combining volumes, which states that when two gases combine, their volumes are in the ratios of small whole numbers. This latter law, announced in 1808, demonstrated, for example, that when one combines hydrogen and oxygen to form water, it takes exactly two volumes of hydrogen for every one volume of oxygen. The law of combining volumes could be used to support John Dalton's atomic theory, published the very same year, for if water consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, then one might well expect that you would need two volumes of hydrogen for every one of oxygen (assuming that equal volumes of gases contain equal numbers of particles, and Amadeo Avogadro would offer this up as his own law, Avogadro's hypothesis, in 1811).

For the non-chemist, Gay-Lussac's career as a balloonist might be of more interest. With fellow chemist Jean-Baptiste Biot, Gay-Lussac made a balloon ascent of some 4 miles in 1804, collecting atmospheric samples all the way, and the next year he made a solo ascent and went even higher, setting an altitude record of some 23,000 feet that would stand for another 60 years. He also determined that the composition of the atmosphere does not change with altitude.

In 1867, Louis Figuier published an image of the Biot/Gay-Lussac ascent that has proved quite enduring in ballooning lore ; the illustration has been much copied, even appearing on a tea card . Gay-Lussac has also been featured on a French postage stamp . He was buried in the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris . *Linda Hall Org

1931 Albert Abraham Michelson (December 19, 1852 – May 9, 1931) German-born American physicist who accurately measured the speed of light and received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Physics "for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations" he carried out with them. He designed the highly accurate Michelson interferometer and used it to establish the speed of light as a fundamental constant. With Edward Morley, he also used it in an attempt to measure the velocity of the earth through the ether (1887). The experiment yielded null results that eventually led Einstein to his theory of relativity. He measured the standard meter bar in Paris to be 1,553,163.5 wavelengths of the red cadmium line (1892-3). *TIS  There is a marker near the place where the experiment was done.  It says, "Near this spot, in July 1887, Dr. Albert A. Michelson of Case and Dr. Edward W. Morley of Western Reserve University conducted the world-famous Michelson-Morley experiment, one of the outstanding scientific achievements of the 19th century and a cornerstone of modern physics. In commemoration, this tablet has been set in stone by both colleges on December 19, 1952, the 100th anniversary of Dr. Michelson's birth.

2021  Marion Walter (July 30, 1928 – May 9, 2021) was an internationally-known mathematics educator and professor of mathematics at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. 

Marion Ilse Walter was born in Berlin and escaped the Nazis on the Kindertransport to England. She emigrated to the United States in 1948 and after earning her doctorate, founded the Mathematics Department at Simmons College. She published over 40 journal articles, several children's books, and the popular book The Art of Problem Posing.

There is a theorem named after her, called Marion Walter's Theorem or just Marion's Theorem as it is affectionately known.

This theorem, first stated by Walter in 1994, is the following:

Let  ABC be any triangle. Trisect each side, so that AB has C1 and C2  as the two trisection points and similarly for the other two sides. Draw the lines A  A1,  A A2, and similarly lines B B1 , B B2 , C C1, C C2.

These lines define an hexagonal region in the middle of triangleABC. Then the area of the hexagonal region is 1/10 the area of ABC.

1945 John Henry Coates, FRS (26 January 1945 – 9 May 2022) is a mathematician who held (1986-2012) the position of Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1985, and was President of the London Mathematical Society from 1988 to 1990. The latter organisation awarded him the Senior Whitehead Prize in 1997, for "his fundamental research in number theory and for his many contributions to mathematical life both in the UK and internationally".
Since 1986 Coates has worked in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS) of the University of Cambridge. In the last ten years he has focused on the study of various aspects of non-commutative Iwasawa theory, for instance, the study of the arithmetic of elliptic curves in nonabelian infinite extensions.*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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