Friday 7 June 2024

On This Day in Math - June 7


Go down deep enough into anything 
and you will find mathematics.
~Dean Schlicter

I often quoted a similar idea to my students;
"In any endeavor, at the top of the heap, the bottom line, is math."

The 158th day of the year; 158 is the smallest number such that sum of the number plus its reverse is a non-palindromic prime: 158 + 851 = 1009 and 1009 is a non-palindromic prime. *Number Gossip (What's the next one?)

Middle school # 158 in Bayside, Queens, New York, is called Marie Curie Middle School.

158 is a number in the Perrin sequence, but lovingly called the "skiponacci" sequence after its resemblance to the Fibonacci sequence. Defined by a(n) = a(n-2) + a(n-3) with a(0) = 3, a(1) = 0, a(2) = 2. The pattern starts 3, 0, 2, 3, 2, 5, 5, 7, 10, 12, 17,...     This sequence was mentioned implicitly by Édouard Lucas (1876). In 1899, the same sequence was mentioned explicitly by François Olivier Raoul Perrin158 is the sum of the first nine Mersenne prime exponents. *Wik

158 in base 7 is the first three digits of Pi, 314

The decimal expansion of 100! (the product of the first 100 natural numbers) has 158 digits.


1634  In a letter which he wrote at Dover in England to Mersenne on 7 June 1634, Bernard Frenicle de Bessy describes an experiment to study the trajectory of a body released from the top of the mast of a moving ship. The data which he presents in the letter is quite accurate. Again on a more applied mathematical topic, Frenicle wrote an article which makes comments on Galileo's Dialogue. *SAU

1713 Johan Bernoulli (I) writes to Leibniz from Basil to stir the pot in the great calculus dispute. " nephew (Nikolaus) brought from Paris a single copy of the Commercium Epistolicum... sent from London for distribution to the learned.... you are at once accused by a tribunal consisting,..., of the participants and witnesses themselves.. documents against you are produced, sentence is passed; you lose the case, you are condemned." *The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (Thony Christie points out that this was about "At the same time as Newton was making him a member of the Royal Society <= Embarrassing!" )

1742, the German mathematician Christian Goldbach originally of Brandenburg-Prussia wrote a letter to Leonhard Euler (letter XLIII) in which he proposed the following conjecture:
“Every integer which can be written as the sum of two primes, can also be written as the sum of as many primes as one wishes, until all terms are units.”
He then proposed a second conjecture in the margin of his letter:
“Every integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of three primes.”
He considered 1 to be a prime number, a convention subsequently abandoned. Today the conjecture is usually stated as "Every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes." The two conjectures are now known to be equivalent, but this did not seem to be an issue at the time. A modern version of Goldbach's marginal conjecture is:
Every integer greater than 5 can be written as the sum of three primes.

1753  the British Museum was founded, the world's oldest public national museum, when King George II gave his royal assent to an Act of Parliament to accept the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, a London-based physician, following his death. In his will, he had offered the British nation the collection he built over his lifetime: 71,000 objects, mostly plant and animal specimens. In return, he asked a sum of £20,000 for his heirs (which today would be more than £2,000,000). The museum opened to the public 15 Jan 1759 at Bloomsbury. Its current buildings there date from the mid-19th century. The natural history collection moved to its own museum in 1881. The British Museum set up a laboratory in 1920 for scientific study of objects. *TIS A description of how to attain entry and museum protocol from Nicholson's Journal@ Wm_Nicholson

1759 Benjamin Franklin writes to William Heberden, 7 June 1759 On the electical effects of heated Tourmaline crystals. Tourmaline crystals, brought to Europe from the East by the Dutch early in the eighteenth century, began to attract the attention of electrical scientists when they found that, if heated, they had the power of attracting and repelling ashes and other light substances. Franklin’s letter is the earliest known report on such investigations in England. Since it was not published for ten years, however, or read to the Royal Society, his friends John Canton and Benjamin Wilson, accounts of whose experiments became public later in 1759, gained general priority among English investigators of the subject. *Franklin Papers, Natl.Archives  (Tourmaline was sometimes called the "Ceylonese Magnet" because it could attract and then repel hot ashes due to its pyroelectric properties.)
Tourmalines were used by chemists in the 19th century to polarize light by shining rays onto a cut and polished surface of the gem

1886 Just two-and-a-half years after Winifred Edgerton entered Columbia, she completed her thesis. At the Board of Trustees meeting that day the following motion was made and passed unanimously: “That in consideration of the extraordinary excellence of the scientific work done by Miss Winifred Edgerton, as attested by the Professors who have had the superintendence of her course in practical Astronomy, and the Pure Mathematics in the Graduate Department, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy can be conferred upon Miss Edgerton cum laude”
Winifred Edgerton thus became the first American woman to receive her Ph.D. in mathematics and the first woman to graduate from Columbia University.*Susan E. Kelly and Sarah A. Rozner *AMS Notices,Volume 59, Number 4
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. Her determination to obtain graduate education is an example that many have followed since.  *SAU

1906 The New York Times reported on an early implementation of what might be considered speed bumps in the U.S. town of Chatham, New Jersey, which planned to raise its crosswalks five inches above the road level: "This scheme of stopping automobile speeding has been discussed by different municipalities, but Chatham is the first place to put it in practice". The average automobile's top speed at the time was around 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) The more conventional speed bumps you are familiar with today seem to have been invented by Arthur Holly Compton, a physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1927. He created his "traffic control bumps," in 1953 after noticing the speed at which motorists passed Brookings Hall at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was chancellor. *Wik with HT to arclight ‏@arclight
English Road Sign

(My favorite UK road sign said "Cat's Eyes Removed Ahead".  I was confused about the true meaning for months)

1914   the Alliance was the first vessel to pass through the Panama Canal.*TIS  (I can't find conformation of this quote, but two I did find.)
The Alexandre La Valley, an old French crane boat, reached the Pacific Ocean and became the first self-propelled vessel to cross the Panama Canal. The crane moved through the waterway during the final stages of construction, which would end later that year.  
The S.S. Cristobal became the first passenger vessel to cross the entirety of the Panama Canal on August 3.  

S. S. Cristobal *Grand Circle Cruise Line

1958 France issued a stamp with a portrait of Denis Diderot (1713–1784). [Scott #B 323].

2007 You hear all those "Einstein said",  quotes and you wonder which ones are true, knowing most of them are not.  And the one about, "Life is like riding a bicycle...", well it is mostly true, but they almost always muck it up a little, like the one in the image below.  Einstein wrote it in a letter to his son, Eduard, on February 5, 1930, trying to encourage his son, he wrote "Men are like bicycles, It's only easy to keep your balance when you are on the move".

This letter and one more written to his son on  January 24 of the same year, both signed "Papa" , were sold at Christie"s on June 7, 2000 for 4935 GBP.  


1761 John Rennie (7 June 1761 – 4 October 1821) Scottish engineer and architect who designed London Bridge. After working as a millwright with Andrew Meikle he studied at Edinburgh University (1780-83). He was employed by Boulton & Watt for five years In 1791, he moved to London and started his own engineering company. Over the next few years he became famous as a bridge-builder, including Leeds Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. He was also designed and built docks at Hull, Liverpool, Greenock and Leith and improving the harbours and dockyards at Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth. His last project was London Bridge, though he died in 1821 before it was finished. The bridge was completed by his son, Sir John Rennie.*TIS  This bridge was 1831–1967
*Cornell Library

1862 Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard (7 June 1862 – 20 May 1947), was a German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties. He was a nationalist and anti-Semite; as an active proponent of the Nazi ideology, he had supported Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and was an important role model for the "Deutsche Physik" movement during the Nazi period.
Lenard is remembered today as a strong German nationalist who despised "English physics", which he considered to have stolen its ideas from Germany. He joined the National Socialist Party before it became politically necessary or popular to do so. During the Nazi regime, he was the outspoken proponent of the idea that Germany should rely on "Deutsche Physik" and ignore what he considered the fallacious and deliberately misleading ideas of "Jewish physics", by which he meant chiefly the theories of Albert Einstein, including "the Jewish fraud" of relativity. An advisor to Adolf Hitler, Lenard became Chief of Aryan physics under the Nazis. *Wik

1863  Edward Burr Van Vleck   (June 7, 1863, Middletown, Connecticut – June 3, 1943, Madison, Wisconsin) The son of astronomer John Monroe Van Vleck, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1884, attended Johns Hopkins in 1885-87, and studied at Göttingen (Ph.D., 1893). He was assistant professor and professor at Wesleyan (1895-1906), and after 1906 a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where the mathematics building is named after him. In 1913 he became president of the American Mathematical Society, of whose Transactions he had been first associate editor (1902-05) and then editor (1905-10). He was the author of Theory of Divergent Series and Algebraic Continued Fractions (1903), and of several monographs in mathematical journals. His son, John Hasbrouck van Vleck, was a notable physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1977.
Edward van Vleck was also an important art collector, particularly in the medium of Japanese woodblock prints (principally Ukiyo-e), known as Van Vleck Collection. He began collecting around 1909, but became a serious collector in the late 1920s, when he acquired approximately 4,000 prints that had been owned by Frank Lloyd Wright. His collection, one of the largest in the world outside the Library of Congress, features more than 2,000 prints by Utagawa Hiroshige as well as many prints by Hokusai, and fine examples of shin hanga made well into the 20th century. His collection now resides at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin.*Wik

1868 Sir John Sealy Edward Townsend (7 Jun 1868, 16 Feb 1957 at age 88) British physicist who pioneered in the study of electrical conduction in gases. In 1898 he made the first direct measurement of the unit electrical charge (e). As a postgraduate, he was a research student of J. J. Thomson. In 1897, Townsend developed the falling-drop method for measuring e, using saturated clouds of charged water droplets (extended by Robert Millikan's highly accurate oil-drop method). He was first to explain how electric discharges pass through gases (Electricity in Gases, 1915) whereby motion of electrons in an electric field releases more electrons by collision. These in turn collide releasing even more electrons in a multiplication of charges known as an avalanche. *TIS

1877 Charles Barkla (7 June 1877 to 23 October 1944) was an influential English physicist who became professor of Natural Philosophy in Edinburgh. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1917 for his work on X-ray spectroscopy.
In 1899 Barkla was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, with an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851,[5] to work in the Cavendish Laboratory under the physicist J. J. Thomson (discoverer of the electron). During his first two years at Cambridge, under the directions of Thomson, Barkla studied the velocity of electromagnetic waves along wires of different widths and materials.

After a year and a half at Trinity College, Cambridge, his love of music led him to transfer to King's College, Cambridge, in order to sing in their chapel choir. Barkla's voice was of remarkable beauty and his solo performances were always fully attended.[6] He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903, and then his Master of Arts degree in 1907.[7] He married Mary Esther Cowell in the same year,[8] with whom he had two sons and one daughter.

In 1913, after having worked at the Universities of Cambridge, Liverpool, and King's College London, Barkla was appointed as a Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1913, a position that he held until his death.

Barkla made significant progress in developing and refining the laws of X-ray scattering, X-ray spectroscopy, the principles governing the transmission of X-rays through matter, and especially the principles of the excitation of secondary X-rays. For his discovery of the characteristic X-rays of elements, Barkla was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917. He was also awarded the Hughes Medal of the British Royal Society that same year.

Barkla proposed the J-phenomenon as a hypothetical form of X-ray behaviour similar to X-ray fluorescence but other scientists were not persuaded that this was a different mechanism from other known effects such as Compton scattering and so the theory was not successful.

From 1922 to 1938 he lived at Hermitage of Braid in south-west Edinburgh.

He died in Edinburgh on 23 October 1944.

1890 Werner Schmeidler (7 June 1890 - 1 April 1969. He worked in analysis and applied mathematics.*SAU  He studied mathematics in Göttingen.  From 1939 he was Professor at the Technical University of Berlin , where he held the Chair of Pure and Applied Mathematics until the summer semester 1958. *Wik

1896 Robert Sunderson Mulliken (June 7, 1896 – October 31, 1986),  primarily responsible for the early development of molecular orbital theory, i.e. the elaboration of the molecular orbital method of computing the structure of molecules. Dr. Mulliken received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1966. He received the Priestley Medal in 1983. *Wik

1924 Donald Watts Davies, CBE FRS (7 June 1924 – 28 May 2000) was a Welsh computer scientist who was employed at the UK National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

In 1965 he conceived of packet switching, which is today the dominant basis for data communications in computer networks worldwide. Davies proposed a commercial national data network in the United Kingdom and designed and built the local-area NPL network to demonstrate the technology. Many of the wide-area packet-switched networks built in the 1970s were similar "in nearly all respects" to his original 1965 design. The ARPANET project credited Davies for his influence, which was key to the development of the Internet.

Davies' work was independent of the work of Paul Baran in the United States who had a similar idea in the early 1960s, and who also provided input to the ARPANET project, after his work was highlighted by Davies' team.

1926 John Cedric Shepherdson, FBA (7 June 1926 – 8 January 2015) was a British logician who was Henry Overton Wills Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bristol from 1976 to 1991.
Shepherdson was born in Huddersfield on 7 June 1926, the son of Arnold Shepherdson, a chemist, and his wife Elsie, née Aspinall. He attended Manchester Grammar School on a scholarship; excelling in mathematics, in 1943 he secured a state scholarship and an open scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics. He graduated with a first-class degree in 1946.
Shepherdson was appointed to an assistant lectureship at the University of Bristol in 1946. He spent the rest of his career at the university, being promoted to lecturer in 1949, reader in 1955 and professor in 1964, before he was finally Henry Overton Wills Professor of Mathematics from 1977 until he retired in 1991. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1990.

Shepherdson was a keen climber and skier. His wife, Margaret, née Smith, a biochemist and academic whom he had married in 1955, died in 2014. Shepherdson died on 8 January 2015.

1928  Bernard Flood Burke (June 7, 1928 – August 5, 2018) was an American astronomer. He co-discovered radio emission from Jupiter, and was part of the team that discovered the first Einstein ring in 1988.
Burke studied for an undergraduate physics degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating in 1950, before going on to study for a PhD in physics, graduating again from MIT in 1953.

From 1953 until 1965, he was employed to carry out radio astronomy research by Carnegie Institution of Washington, where he also headed the Radio Astronomy Section from 1962 until 1965. Burke became a faculty member of the Physics department at MIT and later was the William A. M. Burden Professor of Astrophysics, Emeritus. He was a principal investigator of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT.

He served on the National Science Foundation Astronomy Advisory Panel between 1958 and 1963, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Visiting Committee in 1958–1962. He was a Trustee for Associated Universities, Inc. between 1972 and 1990. He was also a member of Planetary Systems Working Group and the Towards Other Planetary Systems Scientific Working Group, and he was on advisory councils and committees for the National Research Council, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Board, the Keck Telescope, the Naval Studies Board and the Space Science Board.

He was Councilor and later President of the American Astronomical Society in 1971–74 and 1986–88. He was a member of the National Science Foundation Astronomy Advisory Panel in 1958–63 *Wik


1624  Giuseppe Biancani  (8 March, 1566-7 June,1624)was an Italian Jesuit astronomer and mathematician who made observations of the moon and planets with the newly invented telescope.
Giuseppe Biancani's name also appears in its Latin version of Josephus Blancanus; in fact his books were published under this Latin version of his name. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit Order) on 4 October 1592. He studied mathematics, taught by the famous Christopher Clavius at the Jesuit Collegio Romano in Rome. Between 1596 and 1599, he was studying at the Jesuit College in Padua. Galileo had been appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, the university of the Republic of Venice, in 1592 and Biancani became acquainted with him during his years in Padua. This friendship was an important one for Biancani, who later found himself in a difficult position pulled between the views of his Jesuit order and the revolutionary new ideas being argued by Galileo. In a letter he wrote on 14 June 1611, he referred to his friendship with Galileo:-
"I love and admire Galileo, not only for his rare learning and invention, but also for the old friendship that I had with him in Padua, where I was overcome by his courtesy and affection, which bound me to him."

It is also worth recounting the tensions in Padua during the years that Biancani studied there. The Jesuit College, established in Padua in 1542, had become an important educational establishment by 1590 offering a three-year philosophy degree; logic was taught in year one, natural philosophy and physical science in year two, and metaphysics and natural philosophy in year three. However, the university students objected to the Jesuit College and the Venetian Senate became involved in the argument in December 1591. The Jesuit College was accused of being a rival university to the University of Padua, something which was illegal by Venetian law. As a result of the dispute, it was forbidden from teaching students other than Jesuits. Much of the argument, which continued during the years that Biancani studied there, was centred around the teachings of Aristotle; the Jesuit teachers were accused of not teaching directly from Aristotle but rather using modern texts. Clearly this influenced Biancani who, a few years later in 1615, published a text Aristotelis loca mathematica ex universis ipsius operibus collecta et explicata  in which he treated the mathematical parts of Aristotle's writings. *SAU

1787  Joseph Ritter von Fraunhofer (6 March 1787 – 7 June 1826) was a German physicist and optical lens manufacturer. He made optical glass, an achromatic telescope, and objective lenses. He also invented the spectroscope and developed diffraction grating. In 1814, he discovered and studied the dark absorption lines in the spectrum of the sun now known as Fraunhofer lines. *Wik
The Great Dorpat Refractor built by Joseph Fraunhofer and completed in 1824 was the first modern, achromatic, refracting telescope. At the start of the 19th century, progress in astronomy was stifled by the lack of astronomical quality telescopes of sufficient aperture and manageability. There were long-focus, nonachromatic refractors, reflectors with speculum metal mirrors, and achromatic refractors of small aperture and mediocre design. Contributing to the construction and success of the Great Dorpat Refractor were P. L. Guinand's development of a process for making large disks of homogenous flint glass, Fraunhofer's improvement of the design and fabrication of the optical and mechanical components of the telescope, and F. G. W. Struve's skilled and dedicated use of the telescope and its accessories. The successors of the Great Dorpat Refractor were the giant refractors which were the mainstay of astronomy in the 19th century and which were not displaced until the early 20th century when the age of the giant reflectors began.*Astrophysics Data System

Illustration of solar spectrum drawn and colored by Joseph von Fraunhofer with dark lines named after him (1987 DBP's stamp on 200th anniversary of birthday of Fraunhofer):
Fraunhofer demonstrating the spectroscope:

1843 Alexis Bouvard (27 June 1767 – 7 June 1843) French astronomer and director of the Paris Observatory, who is noted for discovering eight comets and writing Tables astronomiques of Jupiter and Saturn (1808) and of Uranus (1821). Bouvard's tables accurately predicted orbital locations of Jupiter and Saturn, but his tables for Uranus failed, leading him to hypothesize that irregularities were caused by an unknown perturbing body. This spurred observations leading to the discovery of Neptune by Adams and Leverrier.*TIS

1907 Edward John Routh FRS (20 January 1831–7 June 1907), was an English mathematician, noted as the outstanding coach of students preparing for the Mathematical Tripos examination of the University of Cambridge in its heyday in the middle of the nineteenth century. He also did much to systematize the mathematical theory of mechanics and created several ideas critical to the development of modern control systems theory.*Wik
Routh's theorem, is first given by him in his Treatise on Analytical Statics with Numerous Examples, 1891.   Routh's theorem determines the ratio of areas between a given triangle and a triangle formed by the pairwise intersections of three cevians. The problem and solution had appeared  with a proof in Solutions of the Cambridge Senate-house Problems and Riders for the Year 1878, i.e., the mathematical tripos of that year,

1954 Alan Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), died by committing suicide because he was persecuted by the British Government for his homosexuality. *VFR Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (play /ˈtjʊərɪŋ/ tewr-ing; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalization of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
Turing's homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Turing was treated after the war.
My favorite Turing story is this: When he was found, he had a half eaten apple by his bed, which may have been the delivery mechanism for the poison. Some suggest he chose this method because it was a re-enactment of a scene from the 1937 film Snow White, his favorite fairy tale. Years later, to honor Turing, the developers of Apple Computers used the symbol of an apple with a bite out for their logo. The last part, about the Apple logo, seems not to be true, but it is a great story, and a good excuse to tell students about the work of Turing.. so I do.*Wik

2004  Joseph Doob (February 27, 1910–June 7, 2004) was an American mathematician who worked in probability and measure theory. *SAU  After writing a series of papers on the foundations of probability and stochastic processes including martingales, Markov processes, and stationary processes, Doob realized that there was a real need for a book showing what is known about the various types of stochastic processes. So he wrote his famous "Stochastic Processes" book. It was published in 1953 and soon became one of the most influential books in the development of modern probability theory. *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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