Wednesday, 21 February 2018

On This Day in Math - February 21

Durer Perspective

My mother said, "Even you, Paul, can be in only one place at one time." Maybe soon I will be relieved of this disadvantage. Maybe, once I've left, I'll be able to be in many places at the same time. Maybe then I'll be able to collaborate with Archimedes and Euclid.
~Paul Erdos

The 52nd day of the year; The month and day are simultaneously prime a total of 52 times in a non-leap year. *Tanya Khovanova, Number Gossip How many times in a leap year ?

52 is also the maximum number of moves needed to solve the 15 puzzle from the worst possible start. *Mario Livio

52 is the number of 8-digit primes (on a calculator) that remain prime if viewed upside down, in a mirror, or upside down in a mirror. *Prime Curios

There are 52 letters in the names of the cards in a standard deck: ACE KING QUEEN JACK TEN
(This also works in Spanish. any other languages for which this is true?) *Futility Closet  


1632 Galileo's epic Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems is Published in Florence. After receiving, what Galileo viewed as permission to write about "the systems of the world" from the new pope, Urban VIII. Greeted with Praise from scholars across Europe, it would eventually be Galileo's downfall. *Brody & Brody, The Science Class You Wish You Had

1699 Newton elected the second foreign member of the French Academy. See January 28, 1699. [American Journal of Physics, 34(1966), 22] *VFR Thony Christie points out in a comment (below) that "Newton was appointed foreign associate of the Académie Royale des Sciences along with four others so to claim he was the second is more than somewhat dubious." (My Thanks)

1727/8 Isaac Greenwood began his “Publick” lectures at Harvard as the first Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. The lectures were open to the entire university. [I. B. Cohen, Some Early Tools of American Science, p. 35.] *VFR

1811, as Humphry Davy read a paper to the Royal Society, he introduced the name "chlorine" from the Greek word for "green," for the bright yellow green gas chemists then knew as oxymuriatic gas. In his paper, On a Combination of Oxymuriatic Gas and Oxygene Gas, Davy reported on his numerous experiments with oxymuratic gas, which appeared to have many of the reactive properties of oxygen. Hydrochloric acid was then known as muriatic acid, and when chlorine was first obtained from a reaction with the acid, the yellow green gas had been thought to be a compound containing oxygen. Later, Davy's careful work would show that the chlorine gas was in fact an element, unable to be decomposed into any simpler substances. *TIS

1831 Michael Faraday in a letter to William Whewell regarding a recent publication by Whewell (Journal of the Royal Institution of England (1831), 437-453.), “Your remarks upon chemical notation with the variety of systems which have arisen, had almost stirred me up to regret publicly that such hindrances to the progress of science should exist. I cannot help thinking it a most unfortunate thing that men who as experimentalists, philosophers are the most fitted to advance the general cause of science; knowledge should by promulgation of their own theoretical views under the form of nomenclature, notation, or scale, actually retard its progress. *Isaac Todhunter, William Whewell, (1876), Vol. 1., 307.

1845 The ship Charles Heddle sailed north from Mauritius and encountered a terrible storm. Striking sails and scudding before the wind they proceeded four times around the center in clockwise loops hundreds of miles wide. After six days a clearing sky allowed the Captain to take a reading and realize that as they circled, they had also been driven back nearly to their starting point. Reading the log of the Charles Heddle and other reports of this storm, Henry Piddington coined the word cyclone, from the Greek for "coils of a snake,". After he used the term in his "The Sailor's Horn-Book for the Law of Storms" it became a common term.

1908 Birth date of Dr. Irving Joshua Matrix, the greatest numerologist who (n)ever lived. At the age of seven he astonished his minister Father when he pointed out that 8 is the holiest number of all: “The other numbers with holes are 0, 6, and 9, and sometimes 4, but 8 has two holes, therefore it is the holiest.” Martin Gardner first drew attention to Dr. Matrix in his January 1960 column “Mathematical Games,” in Scientific American. For more details, see The Incredible Dr. Matrix, by Martin Gardner [p. 3-4]. *VFR

1953, Francis Crick and James Watson reached their conclusion about the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. They made their first announcement on Feb 28, and their paper, A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, was published in the 25 Apr 1953 issue of journal Nature. *TIS

1958: The Peace symbol is designed and completed by Gerald Holtom.
*History Time

1996 Cox Enterprises announces it was buying a one-third interest in Digital Domain, a computer-generated special effects company, in order to heighten the use of special effects in media. The deal reflected "another step in the rapid convergence of various computer, software, entertainment and media companies," The New York Times wrote. *CHM

2012 The engineering profession's highest honors for 2012, presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), recognize ground-breaking contributions to the development of the modern liquid crystal display and achievements that led to a curriculum that encourages engineering leadership. The awards, announced today, will be presented at a gala dinner event in Washington, DC on February 21, 2012.
George H. Heilmeier, Wolfgang Helfrich, Martin Schadt, and T. Peter Brody will receive the Charles Stark Draper Prize a $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society "for the engineering development of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that is utilized in billions of consumer devices." *AAAS/Science Newsletter, January 19, 2012


1591 Girard Desargues (21 Feb 1591 in Lyon, France - ? Sept 1661 in Lyon, France) He did noted work in projective geometry. *VFR Desargues' most important work, the one in which he invented his new form of geometry, has the title Rough draft for an essay on the results of taking plane sections of a cone (Brouillon project d'une atteinte aux evenemens des rencontres du Cone avec un Plan). A small number of copies was printed in Paris in 1639. Only one is now known to survive, and until this was rediscovered, in 1951, Desargues' work was known only through a manuscript copy made by Philippe de la Hire (1640 - 1718). The book is short, but very dense. It begins with pencils of lines and ranges of points on a line, considers involutions of six points (Desargues does not use or define a cross ratio), gives a rigorous treatment of cases involving 'infinite' distances, and then moves on to conics, showing that they can be discussed in terms of properties that are invariant under projection. We are given a unified theory of conics.
Desargues' famous 'perspective theorem' - that when two triangles are in perspective the meets of corresponding sides are colinear - was first published in 1648, in a work on perspective by Abraham Bosse. *SAU

1764 Ruan Yuan (Chinese characters: 阮元) (21 Feb 1764 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China - 27 Nov 1849 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China), was a scholar official in the Qing Dynasty in Imperial China. He won jinshi (high) honors in the imperial examinations in 1789 and was subsequently appointed to the Hanlin Academy. He was famous for his work Biographies of Astronomers and Mathematicians and for his editing the Shi san jing zhu shu (Commentaries and Notes on the Thirteen Classics) for the Qing emperor.*Wik

1849 Édouard Gaston (Daniel) Deville (21 Feb 1849; 21 Sep 1924 at age 75)
was a French-Canadian surveyor was a French-born Canadian surveyor of Canadian lands (1875-1924) who perfected the first practical method of photogrammetry, or the making of maps based on photography. His system used projective grids of images taken from photographs made with a camera and theodolite mounted on the same tripod. Photographs were taken from different locations, at precise predetermined angles, with measured elevations. Each photograph slightly overlapped the preceding one. With enough photographs and points of intersection, a map could be prepared, including contour lines. He also invented (1896) the first stereoscopic plotting instrument called the Stereo-Planigraph, though its complexity resulted in little use. *TIS

1915 Evgeny Mikhailovich Lifshitz FRS (February 21, 1915 – October 29, 1985) was a leading Soviet physicist of Jewish origin and the brother of physicist Ilya Mikhailovich Lifshitz. (Some commonly encountered alternative transliterations of his names include Yevgeny or Evgenii and Lifshits or Lifschitz.) Lifshitz is well known in general relativity for coauthoring the BKL conjecture concerning the nature of a generic curvature singularity. As of 2006, this is widely regarded as one of the most important open problems in the subject of classical gravitation.
With Lev Landau, Lifshitz co-authored Course of Theoretical Physics, an ambitious series of physics textbooks, in which the two aimed to provide a graduate-level introduction to the entire field of physics. These books are still considered invaluable and continue to be widely used. Landau's wife strongly criticized his scientific abilities, hinting at how much of their joint work was done by Lifshitz and how much by Landau. Despite the sniping, he is well known for many invaluable contributions, in particular to quantum electrodynamics, where he calculated the Casimir force in an arbitrary macroscopic configuration of metals and dielectrics.*Wik


1900 Charles Piazzi Smyth FRSE FRS FRAS FRSSA (3 January 1819, Naples, Italy – 21 February 1900), was Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1846 to 1888, well known for many innovations in astronomy and his pyramidological and metrological studies of the Great Pyramid of Giza. *Wik

1901 George Francis Fitzgerald (3 Aug 1851, 21 Feb 1901 at age 49) Irish physicist whose suggestion of a way to produce waves helped lay a foundation for wireless telegraphy. He also first developed a theory, independently discovered by Hendrik Lorentz, that a material object moving through an electromagnetic field would exhibit a contraction of its length in the direction of motion. This is now known as the Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction, which Einstein used in his own special theory of relativity. He also was first to propose the structure of comets as a head made of large stones, but a tail make of such smaller stones (less than 1-cm diam.) that the pressure of light radiation from the sun could deflect them. FitzGerald also studied electrolysis as well as electromagnetic radiation.*TIS

1912  Émile Michel Hyacinthe Lemoine (22 Nov 1840 in Quimper, France - 21 Feb 1912 in Paris, France) Lemoine work in mathematics was mainly on geometry. He founded a new study of properties of a triangle in a paper of 1873 where he studied the point of intersection of the symmedians of a triangle. He had been a founder member of the Association Française pour l'Avancement des Sciences and it was at a meeting of the Association in 1873 in Lyon that he presented his work on the symmedians.
A symmedian of a triangle from vertex A is obtained by reflecting the median from A in the bisector of the angle A. He proved that the symmedians are concurrent, the point where they meet now being called the Lemoine point. Among other results on symmedians in Lemoine's 1873 paper is the result that the symmedian from the vertex A cuts the side BC of the triangle in the ratio of the squares of the sides AC and AB. He also proved that if parallels are drawn through the Lemoine point parallel to the three sides of the triangle then the six points lie on a circle, now called the Lemoine circle. Its centre is at the mid-point of the line joining the Lemoine point to the circumcentre of the triangle. Lemoine gave up active mathematical research in 1895 but continued to support the subject. He had helped to found a mathematical journal, L'intermédiaire des mathématiciens., in 1894 and he became its first editor, a role he held for many years. *SAU   His mathematical recreation books are still popular in France.

1912 Osborne Reynolds (23 Aug 1842 in Belfast, Ireland - 21 Feb 1912 in Watchet, Somerset, England) was an Irish mathematician best known for introducing the Reynolds number classifying fluid flow.*SAU

1926 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (21 Sep 1853, 21 Feb 1926 at age 72)Dutch physicist who was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on low-temperature physics in which he liquified hydrogen and helium. From his studies of the resistance of metals at low temperatures, he discovered superconductivity (a state in which certain metals exhibit almost no electrical resistance at a temperature near absolute zero).*TIS

1932 James Mercer FRS (15 January 1883 – 21 February 1932) was a mathematician, born in Bootle, close to Liverpool, England. He was educated at University of Manchester, and then University of Cambridge. He became a Fellow, saw active service at the Battle of Jutland in World War I, and after decades of suffering ill health died in London, England.
He proved Mercer's theorem, which states that positive definite kernels can be expressed as a dot product in a high-dimensional space. This theorem is the basis of the kernel trick (applied by Aizerman), which allows linear algorithms to be easily converted into non-linear algorithms. *Wik

1938 George Ellery Hale (29 Jun 1868, 21 Feb 1938 at age 69). U S astronomer known for his development of important astronomical instruments. To expand solar observations and promote astrophysical studies he founded Mt. Wilson Observatory (Dec 1904). He discovered that sunspots were regions of relatively low temperatures and high magnetic fields. Hale hired Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble as soon as they finished their doctorates, and he encouraged research in galactic and extragalactic astronomy as well as solar and stellar astrophysics. Hale planned and tirelessly raised funds for the 200-inch reflecting telescope at the Palomar Mountain Observatory completed in 1948, after his death, and named for him—the Hale telescope. *TIS

1962 Julio Rey Pastor (14 August 1888 – 21 February 1962) was a Spanish mathematician and historian of science. Rey proposed the creation of a "seminar in mathematics to arouse the research spirit of our school children.” His proposal was accepted and in 1915 the JAE created the Mathematics Laboratory and Seminar, an important institution for the development of research on this field in Spain.
In 1951, he was appointed director of the Instituto Jorge Juan de Matemáticas in the CSIC. His plans in Spain included two projects: the creation, within the CSIC, of an Institute of Applied Mathematics, and the foundation of a Seminar on the History of Science at the university. *Wik

1996 Hans-Joachim Bremermann​ (14 Sept 1926 in Bremen, Germany - 21 Feb 1996 in Berkeley, California, USA) was a German-American mathematician and biophysicist. He worked on computer science and evolution, introducing new ideas of how mating generates new gene combinations. Bremermann's limit, named after him, is the maximum computational speed of a self-contained system in the material universe.*Wik

2009 Ilya Piatetski-Shapiro (30 March 1929 – 21 February 2009) was a Russian-Jewish mathematician. During a career that spanned 60 years he made major contributions to applied science as well as theoretical mathematics. In the last forty years his research focused on pure mathematics; in particular, analytic number theory, group representations and algebraic geometry. His main contribution and impact was in the area of automorphic forms and L-functions.
For the last 30 years of his life he suffered from Parkinson's disease. However, with the help of his wife Edith, he was able to continue to work and do mathematics at the highest level, even when he was barely able to walk and speak.*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

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

On This Day in Math - February 20

A mathematician will recognise Cauchy, Gauss, Jacobi or Helmholtz after reading a few pages, just as musicians recognise, from the first few bars, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert.
~Ludwig Boltzmann

The 51st day of the year; 51 is the number of different paths from (0,0) to (6,0) made up of segments connecting lattice points that can only have slopes of 1, 0, or -1 but so that they never go below the x-axis. These are called Motzkin Numbers.

\(\pi(51) = 15\), the number of primes less than 51 is given by it's reversal, 15.

Jim Wilder pointed out that 51 is the smallest number that can be writtenas a sum of primes  with the digits 1 to 5 each used once  2 + 3 + 5 + 41 = 51 (Students might explore similar problems using first n digits 2-9)

A triangle with sides 51, 52 and 53 has an integer area 1170 units2.

And like any odd number, it is the sum of two consecutive numbers, 25+26 , and the difference of their squares \(26^2 - 25^2\)

And I just found this unusual reference, "Don’t be baffled if you see the number 51 cropping up in Chinese website names, since 51 sounds like 'without trouble' or 'carefree' in Chinese." at the Archimedes Lab


1648 A letter from Fermat through Frenicle to Digby reached Wallis saying that Fermat had solved equations of the type x2-Ay2 = 1 for all non-square values up to 150. Thus begins the saga of the mis-naming of Pell's equation. *Edward Everett Whitford, The Pell Equation

1729 A Letter from Gabriel Cramer, Prof. Math. Genev. to James Jurin, M. D. and F. R. S. to be read at the Royal Society, gives an “account of an Aurora Borealis Attended with Unusual Appearances” . The borealis occurred on Feb 15, and the letter was sent on Feb 20. *Transactions of RSI

1807 Sophie Germain writes to Gauss informing him that she is the person who had written to him using the name M. LeBlanc. In closing she writes her hope that this will not change their correspondence. His Response on April 30 would assure her it had not.
*Sophie Germain: An Essay in the History of the Theory of Elasticity

In 1835, Charles Darwin, on his H.M.S. Beagle voyage reached Chile, and experienced a very strong earthquake and shortly afterward saw evidence of several feet of uplift in the region. He repeated measurement a few days later, and found the land had risen several feet. He had proved that geological changes occur even in our own time. Lyell's principles were based on the concept of a steady-state, nondirectional earth whereby uplift, subsidence, erosion, and deposition were all balanced. Thereby, Darwin coupled in his mind this dramatic evidence of elevation with accompanying subsidence and deposition. Thus he hypothesized that coral reefs of the Pacific developed on the margins of subsiding land masses, in the three stages of fringing reef, barrier reef, and atoll.*TIS

1913 It was on, or around, this day that the Three Sisters Radio towers near Arlington, Va went into service. In an area called Radio, near the Columbia Pike and Courthouse Road. Virginia. It was a neighborhood named for the old U.S. Navy Wireless Station. The tallest of the three towers was 45 feet taller than the Washington Monument, and second only to the Eiffel Tower in the world.
The Navy opened Radio Arlington, call sign NAA, in 1913, launching the U.S. military’s global communications system on Fort Myers. A streetcar stop was even named “Radio.’’ Old Radio Arlington marked the first time the term “radio’’ was used in communications, according to Nan and Ross Netherton’s book “Arlington County in Virginia: A Pictorial History,” which was published in 1987. In the days of Marconi and other radio pioneers, the new communications mode was called “wireless telegraphy.’’
*The 625 Sentinal

At Tenwatts Blog I found that there is a marker outside the present Dept. of Defense facility there:
"Three radio towers similar to the Eiffel tower were erected here in 1913. One stood 600 feet, and the other two 450 feet above the 200-foot elevation of the site. The word "radio" was first used instead of "wireless" in the name of this naval communications facility. The first trans-Atlantic voice communication was made between this station and the Eiffel tower in 1915. The nation set its clocks by the Arlington Radio time signal and listened for its broadcast weather reports. The towers were dismantled in 1941, as a menace to aircraft approaching the new Washington National Airport."
I also found the nice postcard showing the three sisters (and some additions) taken from Arlington National Cemetery. His post suggests that the towers were eventually dismantled.

1947 Computer pioneer Alan Turing suggests testing artificial intelligence with the game of chess in a lecture to the London Mathematical Society. Computers, he argued, must like humans be given training before their IQ is tested. A human mathematician has always undergone an extensive training. This training may be regarded as not unlike putting instruction tables into a machine, he said. One must therefore not expect a machine to do a very great deal of building up of instruction tables on its own.*CHM

1966 The only verified example of a family producing five single children with coincidental birthdays is that of Catherine (1952), Coral (1953), Charles (1956), Claudia (1961), and Cecelia (1966), born to Ralph and Carolyn Cummins of Clintwood, VA. All on Feb 20th.  What is the probability of this happening? *VFR (RALPH? He should have changed his name.)

1979 The German Democratic Republic issued a stamp commemorating the centenary of Einstein’s birth. It shows the Einstein tower in Potsdam and his famous formula E = mc2. [Scott #1990]*VFR

In 1996, a bright "new" star was discovered in Sagittarius by Japanese amateur astronomer Yukio Sakurai. It was found not to be a usual nova, but instead was a star going through a dramatic evolutionary state, re-igniting its nuclear furnace for one final blast of energy called the "final helium flash." It was only the second to be identified in the twentieth century. A star like the Sun ends its active life as a white dwarf star gradually cooling down into visual oblivion. Sakurai's Object had a mass a few times that of the Sun. Its collapse after fusing most of its hydrogen fuel to helium raised its temperature so much higher it began nuclear fusion of its helium remains. This was confirmed using its light spectrum to identify the elements present.*TIS

2013 In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of the three-volume version of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, a London theater company staged the world premiere of a musical based on the epic mathematics text.
Performed by the Conway Collective based out of London's historic Conway Hall and written by Tyrone Landau, the play was described as "fascinating and unusual." *MAA DL


1844 Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906) was an Austrian physicist famous for his founding contributions in the fields of statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics. He was one of the most important advocates for atomic theory at a time when that scientific model was still highly controversial. *Wik Trivia: Boltzmann's famous equation S = K log W (where S = entropy, K = Boltzmann's constant, and W = probability of a particular state) was inscribed as an epitaph on Boltzmann's tombstone. *Wik After obtaining his doctorate, he became an assistant to his teacher Josef Stefan. Boltzmann's fame is based on his invention of statistical mechanics, independently of Willard Gibbs. Their theories connected the properties and behaviour of atoms and molecules with the large scale properties and behaviour of the substances of which they were the building blocks. He also worked out a kinetic theory of gases, and the Stefan-Boltzmann law concerning a relationship between the temperature of a body and the radiation it emits. His firm belief and defense of atomism (that all matter is made of atoms) against hostile opposition to this new idea, may have contributed to his suicide in 1906. *TIS

1860 Mathias Lerch​ (20 February 1860, Milínov - 3 August 1922, Schüttenhofen) was an eminent Czech mathematician who published about 250 papers, largely on mathematical analysis and number theory. He studied in Prague and Berlin, and held teaching positions at the Czech Technical Institute in Prague, the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, the Czech Technical Institute in Brno, and Masaryk University in Brno; he was the first mathematics professor at Masaryk University when it was founded in 1920. In 1900, he was awarded the Grand Prize of the French Academy of Sciences for his number-theoretic work. The Lerch zeta-function is named after him as is the Appell–Lerch sum.*Wik

1926 Kenneth Harry Olsen (February 20, 1926 – February 6, 2011) was an American engineer who co-founded Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1957 with colleague Harlan Anderson *Wik

1929 Madan Lal Puri ( Sialkot in Pakistan , 20 February 1929 ) is a statistical Indian important in the context of nonparametric statistics and also occupied the fuzzy sets .*Wik

1931 John Willard Milnor (20 Feb 1931, )American mathematician who was awarded the Fields Medal in 1962 for his his proof that a 7-dimensional sphere can have 28 different differential structures. This work opened up the new field of differential topology. Milnor's theorem shows that the total curvature of a knot is at least 4. In the 1950's, Milnor did a substantial amount of work on algebraic topology in which he constructed the classifying space of a topological group and gave a geometric realisation of a semi-simplicial complex. Since the 1970's his interest is in dynamics, especially holomorphic dynamics. Milnor served the American Mathematical Society as vice president (1975-76) and was awarded the Wolf Prize in 1989. *TIS

1948 Andrew Christopher Fabian, OBE, FRS (20 February 1948 - ) is a British astronomer and astrophysicist. He is a Royal Society Research Professor at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, and Vice-Master of Darwin College, Cambridge. He was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society from May 2008 through to 2010. He is an Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, a position in which he delivered free public lectures within the City of London between 1982 and 1984. He was also editor-in-chief of the astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was educated at King's College London (BSc, Physics) and University College London (PhD).
His current areas of research include galaxy clusters, active galactic nuclei, strong gravity, black holes and the X-ray background. He has also worked on X-ray binaries, neutron stars and supernova remnants in the past. Much of his research involves X-ray astronomy and high energy astrophysics. His notable achievements include his involvement in the discovery of broad iron lines emitted from active galactic nuclei, for which he was jointly awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize. He is author of over 800 refereed articles and head of the X-ray astronomy group at the Institute of Astronomy. Fabian was awarded the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics by the American Astronomical Society in 2008 and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2012 *Wik


1762 Tobias Meyer (17 Feb 1723; 20 Feb 1762 at age 38) German astronomer who developed lunar tables that greatly assisted navigators in determining longitude at sea. Mayer also discovered the libration (or apparent wobbling) of the Moon. Mayer began calculating lunar and solar tables in 1753 and in 1755 he sent them to the British government. These tables were good enough to determine longitude at sea with an accuracy of half a degree. Mayer's method of determining longitude by lunar distances and a formula for correcting errors in longitude due to atmospheric refraction were published in 1770 after his death. The Board of Longitude sent Mayer's widow a payment of 3000 pounds as an award for the tables. *TIS Leonhard Euler described him as 'undoubtedly the greatest astronomer in Europe'. More notes on Meyer can be found on this blog at the Board of Longitude Project from the Royal Museums at Greenwich. Another nice blog by Thony Christie, The Renaissance Mathematicus tells of Meyer's measurement of the Moon's distance, and the importance of that measurement.

1778 Laura Maria Catarina Bassi (31 Oct 1711 in Bologna, Papal States, 20 Feb 1778 in Bologna, Papal States) was an Italian physicist and one of the earliest women to gain a position in an Italian university. *SAU She was the first woman in the world to earn a university chair in a scientific field of studies. She received a doctoral degree from the University of Bologna in May 1732, only the third academic qualification ever bestowed on a woman by a European university, and the first woman to earn a professorship in physics at a university in Europe. She was the first woman to be offered an official teaching position at a university in Europe.
In 1738, she married Giuseppe Veratti, a fellow academic with whom she had twelve children. After this, she was able to lecture from home on a regular basis and successfully petitioned the University for more responsibility and a higher salary to allow her to purchase her own equipment.
One of her principal patrons was Pope Benedict XIV. He supported less censorship of scholarly work, such as happened with Galileo, and he supported women figures in learning, including Agnesi.
She was mainly interested in Newtonian physics and taught courses on the subject for 28 years. She was one of the key figures in introducing Newton's ideas of physics and natural philosophy to Italy. She also carried out experiments of her own in all aspects of physics. In order to teach Newtonian physics and Franklinian electricity, topics that were not focused in the university curriculum, Bassi gave private lessons.[6] In her lifetime, she authored 28 papers, the vast majority of these on physics and hydraulics, though she did not write any books. She published only four of her papers.[2] Although only a limited number of her scientific works were left behind, much of her scientific impact is evident through her many correspondents including Voltaire, Francesco Algarotti, Roger Boscovich, Charles Bonnet, Jean Antoine Nollet, Giambattista Beccaria, Paolo Frisi, Alessandro Volta. Voltaire once wrote to her saying "There is no Bassi in London, and I would be much happier to be added to your Academy of Bologna than that of the English, even though it has produced a Newton". *Wik

1928 Antonio Abetti (19 Jun 1846, 20 Feb 1928 at age 81) Italian astronomer who was an authority on minor planets. At first a civil engineer, he became an astronomer at the University of Padua (1868-93), with an interest in positional astronomy and made many observations of small planets, comets and star occultations. In 1874, Abetti went to Muddapur, Bengal, to observe the transit of Venus across the sun's disk where his use of a spectroscope was the first use of this kind. Later, he became director at the Arcetri Observatory and Professor of astronomy at the University of Florence (1894-1921). The observatory had been founded by G. B. Donati in 1872, and Abetti equipped it with a new telescope that he had built in the workshops at Padua. He was active after retirement, until his death, and was followed by his son Giorgio.*TIS

1955 Arthur Lee Dixon FRS (27 November 1867 — 20 February 1955) was a British mathematician and holder of the Waynflete Professorship of Pure Mathematics at the University of Oxford. The younger brother of Alfred Cardew Dixon, he was educated at Kingswood School and Worcester College, Oxford, becoming a Tutorial Fellow at Merton College in 1898 and the Waynflete Professor in 1922. Dixon was the last mathematical professor at Oxford to hold a life tenure, and although he was not particularly noted for his mathematical innovations he did publish many papers on analytic number theory and the application of algebra to geometry, elliptic functions and hyperelliptic functions. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1912 and serving as President of the London Mathematical Society from 1924 to 1926, *Wik

1972 Maria Goeppert-Mayer (28 Jun 1906, 20 Feb 1972 at age 65) German physicist who shared one-half of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Physics with J. Hans D. Jensen of West Germany for their proposal of the shell nuclear model. (The other half of the prize was awarded to Eugene P. Wigner of the United States for unrelated work.) In 1939 she worked at Columbia University on the separation of uranium isotopes for the atomic bomb project. In 1949, she devised the shell nuclear model, which explained the detailed properties of atomic nuclei in terms of a structure of shells occupied by the protons and neutrons. This explained the great stability and abundance of nuclei that have a particular number of neutrons (such as 50, 82, or 126) and the same special number of protons. *TIS

2005 Esther (Klein) Szekeres (20 February 1910 – 28 August 2005) was a Hungarian–Australian mathematician with an Erdős number of 1. She was born to Ignaz Klein in a Jewish family in Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary in 1910. As a young woman in Budapest, Klein was a member of a group of Hungarians including Paul Erdős, George Szekeres and Paul Turán that convened over interesting mathematical problems.
In 1933, Klein proposed to the group a combinatorial problem that Erdős named as the Happy Ending problem as it led to her marriage to George Szekeres in 1937, with whom she had two children.
Following the outbreak of World War II, Esther and George Szekeres emigrated to Australia after spending several years in Hongkew, a community of refugees located in Shanghai, China. In Australia, they originally settled in Adelaide before moving to Sydney in the 1960s.
In Sydney, Esther lectured at Macquarie University and was actively involved in mathematics enrichment for high-school students. In 1984, she jointly founded a weekly mathematics enrichment meeting that has since expanded into a program of about 30 groups that continue to meet weekly and inspire high school students throughout Australia and New Zealand.
In 2004, she and George moved back to Adelaide, where, on 28 August 2005, she and her husband passed away within an hour of each other *Wik

2005 Edward Maitland Wright (13 Feb 1906 in Farnley, near Leeds, England - 2 Feb 2005 in Reading, England) was initially self-taught in Mathematics but was able to go and study at Oxford. He spent a year at Göttingen and returned to Oxford. He was appointed to the Char at Aberdeen where he stayed for the rest of his career, eventually becoming Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University. He is best known for the standard work on Number Theory he wrote with G H Hardy. One of Wright's first papers, published in 1930, was on Bernstein polynomials. Also among his early work was a series of three papers titled Asymptotic partition formulae. The third in the series Asymptotic partition formulae, III. Partitions into kth powers was published by Acta Mathematica in 1934. *SAU

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

Monday, 19 February 2018

On This Day in Math - February 19

Copernicus statue at Olsztyn Castle

It is true that a mathematician who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a perfect mathematician.
~Karl Weierstrass

The 50th day of the year; 50 is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two squares in two distinct ways 50 = 49 + 1 = 25 + 25. *Tanya Khovanova, Number Gossip (What is the next, or what is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two squares in three distinct ways? For solution from Ben Vitale, see bottom of post)

50 is also expressible as the sum of distinct primes in two ways so that all consecutive primes 2-23 are used :50 = 2 + 5 + 7 + 17 + 19 = 3 + 11 + 13 + 23.
The number 50 is somewhat responsible for the area of number theory about partitions. In 1740 Philip Naudé the younger (1684-1747) wrote Euler from Berlin to ask “how many ways can the number 50 be written as a sum of seven different positive integers?” Euler would give the answer, 522, within a few days but would return to the problem of various types of partitions throughout the rest of his life.

1512 The French invaded Brescia, in Northern Italy, during the War of the League of Cambrai. The militia of Brescia defended their city for seven days. When the French finally broke through, they took their revenge by massacring the inhabitants of Brescia. By the end of battle, over 45,000 residents were killed. During the massacre, a French soldier sliced Niccolò's jaw and palate with a saber. This made it impossible for Niccolò to speak normally, prompting the nickname "Tartaglia" Tartaglia is perhaps best known today for his conflicts with Gerolamo Cardano over the solution of cubics. (see this blog for the unfortunate common mistake about Tartaglia's family name.)

1549 Osiander wrote of Michael Stifel: “He has devised new numbers for the alphabet, namely the triangular numbers, and his fantasies are more absurd than before.” *VFR

1600 The Inquisition brought Giordano Bruno to the Campo dei Fiori in Rome’s center where they chained him to an iron stake and burned him alive for his beliefs that the earth rotated on its axis. *Amir Aczel, Pendulum, pg 9 (This date seems wrong. Thony Christie noted that " Bruno was executed on 17th Feb and not for his cosmology but for his heretical theology." Thanks... several other sources agree with Feb 17th date))

1616 On February 19, 1616, the Inquisition asked a commission of theologians, known as qualifiers, about the propositions of the heliocentric view of the universe after Nicollo Lorin had accused Galileo of Heretical remarks in a letter to his former student, Benedetto Castelli. On February 24 the Qualifiers delivered their unanimous report: the idea that the Sun is stationary is "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture..."; while the Earth's movement "receives the same judgement in philosophy and ... in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith."At a meeting of the cardinals of the Inquisition on the following day, Pope Paul V instructed Bellarmine to deliver this result to Galileo, and to order him to abandon the Copernican opinions; should Galileo resist the decree, stronger action would be taken. On February 26, Galileo was called to Bellarmine's residence, and accepted the orders.*Wik

1671/72 Newton’s first publication appears as a letter in the Philosophical Transactions. It deals with his new theory of light, showing that a prism separates white light into its component colors. Huygens, Hooke and others objected so strongly that he vowed not to publish again. Fortunately that vow was not kept. *VFR The full text of that publication is here.

In 1855, M. Le Verrier presented the first weather map at the French Academy of Sciences.*TIS A storm on November 14, 1854 destroyed the French warship Henri IV and damaged other British and French vessels on the Black Sea involved in the Crimean War. A report from the state-supported Paris Observatory indicated that barometric readings showed that the storm had passed across Europe in about four days. Urban Leverrier, director of the Paris Observatory, concluded that had there been a telegraph line between Vienna and the Crimea, the British and French fleets could have received warnings. An earlier map is mentioned, but not shown in a letter dated Dec 1, 1816 in Gilbert's Annalen der Physik from Heinrich Wilhelm Brandes *Report of The International Meterological Congress, 1893

1876 Sylvester began his duties at the newly founded Johns Hopkins, *TIS

1901 Messages from Mars reported in Collier's Magazine. While conducting experiments on high-frequency electrical transmission in 1899 in his Colorado Springs, Colorado laboratory, Nikola Tesla picked up cosmic radio waves on his instruments. Announcing this development, he publicly opined that the messages came from outer space, possibly from inhabitants of Mars. In a Collier’s Weekly article dated February 19, 1901, Tesla wrote, “At the present stage of progress, there would be no insurmountable obstacle in constructing a machine capable of conveying a message to Mars … What a tremendous stir this would make in the world! How soon will it come?” Later discoveries revealed that Tesla had actually picked up common radio waves emitted by interstellar gas clouds. *History. Com

1946 Alan Turing Presents the “Proposal for the Development in the Mathematics Division of an Automatic Computing Engine (ACE).”
This research proposal was presented to a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington, England, and approved at a second meeting held a month later.
Turing based this research on von Neumann’s First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. He had studied it in summer 1945 when he was recruited by J.R. Womersley to join the staff of the NPL. *CHM

1971 The first warrant is issued to search a computer storage. Although the requirements for obtaining such a warrant were similar to those for searching a home, they ushered in a new era that would lead to increasingly sophisticated methods of encryption to hide computer files from law enforcement agents.*CHM

1972 The New Yorker published an article by A. Adler on “Mathematics and Creativity” that was not well received by the mathematical community. See The [old] Mathematical Intelligencer, no. 2. *VFR An abstract is here

1473 Nicolaus Copernicus Polish astronomer who proposed that the planets have the Sun as the fixed point to which their motions are to be referred; that the Earth is a planet which, besides orbiting the Sun annually, also turns once daily on its own axis; and that very slow, long-term changes in the direction of this axis account for the precession of the equinoxes *TIS
An advance copy of his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was presented to Copernicus. On the same day he died. *VFR
Over 450 years after his death, Copernicus was reburied in the cathedral at Frombork on Poland’s Baltic coast. The astronomer whose ideas were once declared heresy by the Vatican—was reburied with full religious honors.

1837 Aleksandr Nikolayevich Korkin (3 March [O.S. 19 February] 1837–September 1, 1908, all New Style) was a Russian mathematician. He made contribution to the development of partial differential equations. After Chebyshev, Korkin was the most important initiator of the formation of the Saint Petersburg Mathematical School*Wik

1863 Axel Thue(19 Feb 1863 in Tönsberg, Norway - 7 March 1922 in Oslo, Norway) Thue studied Diophantine equations, showing that, for example, y3 - 2x2 = 1 cannot be satisfied by infinitely many pairs of integers. Edmund Landau, in 1922, described Thue's work as, ".. the most important discovery in elementary number theory that I know. "
Thue's Theorem states, " If f (x, y) is a homogeneous polynomial with integer coefficients, irreducible in the rationals and of degree > 2 and c is a non-zero integer then f (x, y) = c has only a finite number of integer solutions." *SAU

1866 Thomas Jefferson Jackson See (19 Feb 1866 in Montgomery City, Missouri - 4 July 1962 in Oakland, California, USA) was an U S astronomer who studied in the University of Missouri and in Berlin. He fell out with his astronomical colleagues and was eventually banned from publishing. He spend the last part of his life arguing against Einstein's Theory of Relativity. *SAU

1889 Sir Ernest Marsden (19 Feb 1889, 15 Dec 1970) British-born New Zealand nuclear physicist who worked under Ernest Rutherford investigating atomic structure with Hans Geiger. Marsden visually counted scintillations from alpha particles after passing through gold foil and striking a phosphorescent screen. That some of these were observed scattered at surprisingly large angles led to Rutherford's theory of the nucleus as the massive, tiny centre of the atom. Later, Marsden's own experiments, working in New Zealand, hinted suggested transmutation of elements was possible when alpha particles bombarding nitrogen nuclei produced scattered particles of greater speed than the original radiation. *TIS

1553 Erasmus Reinhold (October 22, 1511 – February 19, 1553) was a German astronomer and mathematician, considered to be the most influential astronomical pedagogue of his generation. He was born and died in Saalfeld, Saxony.
He was educated, under Jacob Milich, at the University of Wittenberg, where he was first elected dean and later became rector. In 1536 he was appointed professor of higher mathematics by Philipp Melanchthon. In contrast to the limited modern definition, "mathematics" at the time also included applied mathematics, especially astronomy. His colleague, Georg Joachim Rheticus, also studied at Wittenberg and was appointed professor of lower mathematics in 1536.
Reinhold catalogued a large number of stars. His publications on astronomy include a commentary (1542, 1553) on Georg Purbach's Theoricae novae planetarum. Reinhold knew about Copernicus and his heliocentric ideas prior to the publication of De revolutionibis and made a favourable reference to him in his commentary on Purbach. However, Reinhold (like other astronomers before Kepler and Galileo) translated Copernicus' mathematical methods back into a geocentric system, rejecting heliocentric cosmology on physical and theological grounds.
It was Reinhold's heavily annotated copy of De revolutionibus in the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh that started Owen Gingerich on his search for copies of the first and second editions which he describes in The Book Nobody Read.[5] In Reinhold's unpublished commentary on De revolutionibus, he calculated the distance from the Earth to the sun. He "massaged" his calculation method in order to arrive at an answer close to that of Ptolemy.*Wik

1622 Sir Henry Savile (30 Nov 1549 in Bradley (near Halifax), Yorkshire, England - 19 Feb 1622 in Eton, Berkshire, England) Savile was an English mathematician who founded professorships of geometry and astronomy at Oxford. It is interesting to read Savile's comments in these lectures on why he felt that mathematics at that time was not flourishing. Students did not understand the importance of the subject, Savile wrote, there were no teachers to explain the difficult points, the texts written by the leading mathematicians of the day were not studied, and no overall approach to the teaching of mathematics had been formulated. Of course, as we shall see below, fifty years later Savile tried to rectify these shortcomings by setting up two chairs at the University of Oxford. *SAU

1799 Jean-Charles Borda, (4 May 1733 in Dax, France - 19 Feb 1799 in Paris, France) a major figure in the French navy who participated in sev­eral scientific voyages and the American revolution. Besides his contributions to navigational instruments he did important work on fluid mechanics, even showing that Newton’s theory of fluid resistance was untenable. He is best known for the voting system he created in 1770.*VFR (The Borda count is a single-winner election method in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. The Borda count determines the winner of an election by giving each candidate a certain number of points corresponding to the position in which he or she is ranked by each voter. Once all votes have been counted the candidate with the most points is the winner. Because it sometimes elects broadly acceptable candidates, rather than those preferred by the majority, the Borda count is often described as a consensus-based electoral system, rather than a majoritarian one.The Borda count is a popular method for granting awards for sports in the United States, and is used in determining the Most Valuable Player in Major League Baseball, and by the Associated Press and United Press International to rank teams in NCAA sports, to determine the winner of the Heisman Trophy.) [He was one of the main driving forces in the introduction of the decimal system. Borda made good use of calculus and experiment to unify areas of physics. For his surveying, he also developed a series of trigonometric tables. In 1782, while in command of a flotilla of six French ships, he was captured by the British. Borda's health declined after his release. He is one of 72 scientists commemorated by plaques on the Eiffel tower.]*TIS

1897 Karl (Theodor Wilhelm) Weierstrass (31 Oct 1815, 19 Feb 1897 at age 81) was a German mathematician who is known as the "father of modern analysis" for his rigour in analysis led to the modern theory of functions, and considered one of the greatest mathematics teachers of all-time. He was doing mathematical research while a secondary school teacher, when in 1854, he published a paper on Abelian functions in the famous Crelle Journal. The paper so impressed the mathematical community that he shortly received an honorary doctorate and by 1856, he had a University appointment in Berlin. In 1871, he demonstrated that there exist continuous functions in an interval which have no derivatives nowhere in the interval. He also did outstanding work on complex variables.*TIS Weierstrass died peacefully at the age of 82 at his home in Berlin after a long illness culminating in influenz. It is reported that his last wish was that the priest say nothing in his praise at the funeral, but to restrict the services to the customary prayers. *VFR

1908 Paul Matthieu Hermann Laurent (2 Sept 1841 in Echternach, Luxembourg - 19 Feb 1908 in Paris, France) He developed statistical formulas for the calculation of actuarial tables and studied heat conduction. *VFR

1916 Ernst Mach (18 Feb 1838; 19 Feb 1916 at age 77) Austrian physicist and philosopher who established important principles of optics, mechanics, and wave dynamics. His early physical works were devoted to electric discharge and induction. Between 1860 and 1862 he studied in depth the Doppler Effect by optical and acoustic experiments. He introduced the "Mach number" for the ratio of speed of object to speed of sound is named for him. When supersonic planes travel today, their speed is measured in terms that keep Mach's name alive. His lifetime interest, however, was in psychology and human perception. He supported the view that all knowledge is a conceptual organization of the data of sensory experience (or observation). *TIS

1929 Joseph Valentin Boussinesq (13 March 1842 – 19 February 1929) was a French mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to the theory of hydrodynamics, vibration, light, and heat.
In 1897 he published Théorie de l' écoulement tourbillonnant et tumultueux des liquides, a work that greatly contributed to the study of turbulence and hydrodynamics.*Wik

1938 Edmund Georg Hermann Landau (14 Feb 1877 in Berlin, Germany - 19 Feb 1938 in Berlin, Germany) Although famous as a number theorist, he is best known for his textbooks which are written in an austere definition-theorem-proof style. His Grundlagen der Analysis is an excellent treatment of the development of our number systems from the Peano postualates. Reading this book is a good way to learn mathematical German. But if you are lazy, it has been translated into English. *VFR Landau gave the first systematic presentation of analytic number theory and wrote important works on the theory of analytic functions of a single variable.*SAU Legend has it that at the age of three, when is mother forgot her umbrella in a carriage, he replied, "It was number 354," and the umbrella was quickly re-acquired.

1940 Otto Toeplitz died in Jerusalem, after having left Germany in the Spring of 1939. He made lasting contributions to the theory of integral equations and the theory of functions of infinitely many variables. Today he is best remembered for two popular works which have been translated into English: The Enjoyment of Mathematics (original 1930, 1957), and The Calculus: A Genetic Approach (first published 1949; English 1963). These are some of the most successful attempts to bring higher mathematics to the general public. The later shows his deep interest in the history of mathematics; every calculus teacher could profit from reading it. *VFR

1990 Otto Neugebauer, historian of ancient and medieval mathematics and astronomy. *VFR
(May 26, 1899 – February 19, 1990) He was an Austrian-American mathematician and historian of science who became known for his research on the history of astronomy and the other exact sciences in antiquity and into the Middle Ages. By studying clay tablets he discovered that the ancient Babylonians knew much more about mathematics and astronomy than had been previously realized. The National Academy of Sciences has called Neugebauer "the most original and productive scholar of the history of the exact sciences, perhaps of the history of science, of our age." *Wik

@BenVitale: smallest number w/ 3 representations: \( 325 = 1^2 + 18^2 = 6^2 + 17^2 = 10^2+ 15^2\)

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

Sunday, 18 February 2018

On This Day in Math - February 18

Leon Battista Alberti, De pictura and Elementa *Museo Galileo
The power of mathematics rests on its evasion of all unnecessary thought and on its wonderful saving of mental operations.
~Ernst Mach

The 49th day of the year; lots of numbers are squareful (divisible by a square number) but 49 is the smallest number so that it, and both its neighbors are squareful. (Many interesting questions arise for students.. what's next, can there be four in a row?, etc)

And Prof. William D Banks of the University of Missouri has recently proved that every integer in base ten is the sum of 49 or less palindromes. (August 2015) (Building on Prof. Banks groundbreaking work, by February 22, 2016 JAVIER CILLERUELO AND FLORIAN LUCA had proved that for any base > 4

The 49th Mersenne prime is discovered. On Jan 19th, 2016 The GIMPS program announced a new "largest known" prime, 274,207,281 -1. called M74,207,281 for short, the number has 22,338,618 digits.

3102 B.C. The Kaliyuga begins according to the Indian mathematician Aryabhata (born A.D. 476). He believed all astronomical phenomena were periodic, with period 4,320,000= 20 × 603 years, and that all the planets had mean longitude zero on this date. [College Mathematics Journal, 16 (1985), p. 169.] *VFR

1670 “Joannes Georgius Pelshower [Regimontanus Borussus] giving me a visit, and desiring an example of the like, I did that night propose to myself in the dark without help to my memory a number in 53 places: 2468135791011121411131516182017192122242628302325272931 of which I extracted the square root in 27 places: 157103016871482805817152171 proxim´e; which numbers I did not commit to paper till he gave me another visit, March following, when I did from memory dictate them to him.” So wrote John Wallis. [American Journal of Psychology, 4(1891), 38] *VFR

1673: Robert Hooke writes in his Journal: "Bought Copernicus tower hill 2sh " *‏@HookesLondon Thony Christie points out that current first editions run about \( 2,500,000 \) GB Pounds.

1727 Leonhard Euler defends his De Sono essay in a public disputation at the law auditorium at Basal. His paper had been submitted as his "habilitationsschrift", part of his application for the Physics Professorship at Basal. Fortunately, he did not get the position, and soon departed for a position at Petersburg Academy of Science in Russia. Among other competitors overlooked for the position was Jakob Hermann. *Ronald S. Calinger; Leonhard Euler: Mathematical Genius in the Enlightenment

1772 the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters presented Alexander Wilson with a gold medal for his work on sunspots. Wilson was a Scottish surgeon, type-founder, astronomer, mathematician and meteorologist and the first scientist to record the use of kites in meteorological investigations. Wilson noted that sunspots viewed near the edge of the Sun's visible disk appear depressed below the solar surface, a phenomenon referred to as the Wilson effect. When the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters announced a prize to be awarded for the best essay on the nature of solar spots, Wilson submitted an entry which won. *Wik

1879 “I will do the same for the young women that I do for the young men. I shall take pleasure in giving gratuitous instruction to any person whom I find competent to receive it. I give no elementary instruction, but only in the higher mathematics.” Benjamin Peirce to Arthur V. Gilman, president of Harvard. [Scripta Mathematica, 11(1945), 259

1879 J. J. Sylvester, in a lecture at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, read “Rosalind”, a mock-sentimental poem of four hundred lines all ending in “ind”. For the first few lines of this dreadful poem, see Osiris, 1(1936), p. 106. *VFR says that Sylvester was the author of this poem, and another which had two hundred lines rhyming with “Winn.” These were products of his later residence in Baltimore. Sylvester had perhaps a better appreciation of music.

In 1913, chemist Frederick Soddy introduced the term "isotope". Soddy was an English chemist and physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1921 for investigating radioactive substances. He suggested that different elements produced in different radioactive transformations were capable of occupying the same place on the Periodic Table, and on 18 Feb 1913 he named such species "isotopes" from Greek words meaning "same place." He is credited, along with others, with the discovery of the element protactinium in 1917. *TIS He also wrote the mathematical poem, The Kiss Precise, which includes a solution to Descartes Circle Problem. the poem begins:
For pairs of lips to kiss maybe
Involves no trigonometry.
'Tis not so when four circles kiss
Each one the other three.
To bring this off the four must be
As three in one or one in three.
If one in three, beyond a doubt
Each gets three kisses from without.
If three in one, then is that one
Thrice kissed internally.
The complete poem and more about the history of the problem can be found here.

1930 Clyde Tombaugh (1906–1997) discovered Pluto on photographic plates under the direction of V M Slipher at the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Az. For 45 minutes, before he showed his superiors, he was the only person in the world who knew it existed. When he later went to college he was not allowed to take Astronomy I, the instructor thinking it unsuitable for the discoverer of a planet. (On August 24th of 2006 the International Astronomical Union decided to rescind Pluto’s status as a planet and reclassify it as another entity called a “dwarf planet”. ) *FFF, pg 537

2006 The game of Connect Four was first solved by James D. Allen (Oct 1, 1988), and independently by Victor Allis (Oct 16, 1988). First player can force a win. Strongly solved by John Tromp's 8-ply database (Feb 4, 1995). It was weakly solved for all boardsizes where width+height is at most 15 (Feb 18, 2006). *Wik


1201 Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi (18 Feb 1201; 26 Jun 1274 at age 73) Persian philosopher, scientist, mathematician and astronomer who made outstanding contributions in his era. When The Mongol invasion, started by Genghis Khan, reached him in 1256, he escaped likely death by joining the victorious Mongols as a scientific adviser. He used an observatory built at Maragheh (finished 1262), assisted by Chinese astronomers. It had various instruments such as a 4 meter wall quadrant made from copper and an azimuth quadrant which was Tusi's own invention. Using accurately plotted planetary movements, he modified Ptolemy's model of the planetary system based on mechanical principles. The observatory and its library became a center for a wide range of work in science, mathematics and philosophy. He was known by the title Tusi from his place of birth (Tus)*TIS

1404 Leon Battista Alberti (18 Feb 1404; 25 Apr 1472 at age 68) Italian artist and geometrist who “wrote the book,” the first general treatise Della Pictura (1434) on the the laws of perspective, establishing the science of projective geometry. Alberti also worked on maps (again involving his skill at geometrical mappings) and he collaborated with Toscanelli who supplied Columbus with the maps for his first voyage. He also wrote the first book on cryptography which contains the first example of a frequency table. *TIS
. This noted architect took up the study of mathematics for relaxation. He contributed to the study of perspective. *VFR

1677 Jacques Cassini (18 Feb 1677; 16 Apr 1756 at age 79) French astronomer whose direct measurement of the proper motions of the stars (1738) disproved the ancient belief in the unchanging sphere of the stars. He also studied the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and the structure of Saturn's rings. His two major treatises on these subject appeared in 1740: Elements of Astronomy and Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon, Planets, Fixed Stars, and Satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. He also wrote about electricity, barometers, the recoil of firearms, and mirrors. He was the son of astronomer, mathematician and engineer Giovanni Cassini (1625-1712) with whom he made numerous geodesic observations. Eventually, he took over his father's duties as head of the Paris Observatory.*TIS Cassini was born at the Paris Observatory and died at Thury, near Clermont. Admitted at the age of seventeen to membership of the French Academy of Sciences, he was elected in 1696 a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and became maître des comptes in 1706. *Wik

1745 Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (18 Feb 1745; 5 Mar 1827 at age 82) Italian physicist who invented the electric battery (1800), which for the first time enabled the reliable, sustained supply of current. His voltaic pile used plates of two dissimilar metals and an electrolyte, a number of alternated zinc and silver disks, each separated with porous brine-soaked cardboard. Previously, only discharge of static electricity had been available, so his device opened a new door to new uses of electricity. Shortly thereafter, William Nicholson decomposed water by electrolysis. That same process later enabled Humphry Davy to isolate potassium and other metals. Volta also invented the electrophorus, the condenser and the electroscope. He made important contributions to meteorology. His study of gases included the discovery of methane. The volt, a unit of electrical measurement, is named after him.*TIS

1832 Octave Chanute(18 Feb 1832, 23 Nov 1910) U.S. aeronaut whose work and interests profoundly influenced Orville and Wilbur Wright and the invention of the airplane. Octave Chanute was a successful engineer who took up the invention of the airplane as a hobby following his early retirement. Knowing how railroad bridges were strengthened, Chanute experimented with box kites using the same basic strengthening method, which he then incorporated into wing design of gliders. Through thousands of letters, he drew geographically isolated pioneers into an informal international community. He organized sessions of aeronautical papers for the professional engineering societies that he led; attracted fresh talent and new ideas into the field through his lectures; and produced important publications. *TIS The town of Chanute, Kansas is named after him, as well as the former Chanute Air Force Base near Rantoul, Illinois, which was decommissioned in 1993. The former Base, now turned to peacetime endeavors, includes the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, detailing the history of aviation and of Chanute Air Force base. He was buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria, Illinois. *Wik

1838 Ernst Mach (18 Feb 1838; 19 Feb 1916 at age 77) Austrian physicist and philosopher who established important principles of optics, mechanics, and wave dynamics. His early physical works were devoted to electric discharge and induction. Between 1860 and 1862 he studied in depth the Doppler Effect by optical and acoustic experiments. He introduced the "Mach number" for the ratio of speed of object to speed of sound is named for him. When supersonic planes travel today, their speed is measured in terms that keep Mach's name alive. His lifetime interest, however, was in psychology and human perception. He supported the view that all knowledge is a conceptual organization of the data of sensory experience (or observation). *TIS

1844 Jacob Lüroth (18 Feb 1844 in Mannheim, Germany - 14 Sept 1910 in Munich, Germany) Lüroth was taught by Hesse and Clebsch and continued to develop their work on geometry and invariants. He published results in the areas of analytic geometry, linear geometry and continued the directions of his teachers in his publications on invariant theory. In 1869 Lüroth discovered the "Lüroth quartic". This came out of an investigation he was carrying out into when a ternary quartic form could be represented as the sum of five fourth powers of linear forms.
Some of his work on rational curves, published in Mathematische Annalen in 1876, was extended to surfaces by Castelnuovo in 1895. In 1883 Lüroth published his method on constructing a Riemann surface for a given algebraic curve.
Lüroth also worked on the big problem of the topological invariance of dimension. He made some useful progress but this difficult problem was not completely solved until the work of Brouwer in 1911.
Among his other work, Lüroth undertook editing. He was an editor of the complete works of Hesse and of Grassmann. He also has some fine results on logic, a topic he worked on in collaboration with his friend Ernst Schröder.
Von Staudt's ideas of geometry interested Lüroth and he further developed von Staudt's complex geometry. He published Grundriss der Mechanik in 1881. This mechanics book makes heavy use of the vector calculus. *sau

1871 George Udny Yule (18 Feb 1871 in Morham (near Haddington), Scotland - 26 June 1951 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England) graduated in Engineering from University College London and then studied in Bonn. He worked with Karl Pearson on the statistics of regression and correlation. He took a post with an examinations board before being appointed to a Cambridge fellowship. He is best known for his book: Introduction to the Theory of Statistics.*SAU


901 Al-Sabi Thabit ibn Qurra al-Harrani (born c. 836, 18 Feb 901) was a Mesopotamian scholar and mathematician who greatly contributed to preparing the way for such important mathematical discoveries as the extension of the concept of number to (positive) real numbers, integral calculus, theorems in spherical trigonometry, analytic geometry, and non-euclidean geometry. In astronomy he was one of the first reformers of the Ptolemaic system, writing Concerning the Motion of the Eighth Sphere. He believed (wrongly) that the motion of the equinoxes oscillates. Including observations of the Sun, eight complete treatises by Thabit on astronomy have survived. In mechanics he was a founder of statics. He wrote The Book on the Beam Balance in which he finds the conditions for the equilibrium of a heavy beam. *TIS

1851 Karl Gustav Jacob Jacobi (10 Dec 1804; 18 Feb 1851) German mathematician who, with the independent work of Niels Henrik Abel of Norway, founded the theory of elliptic functions. He also worked on Abelian functions and discovered the hyperelliptic functions. Jacobi applied his work in elliptic functions to number theory. He also investigated mathematical analysis and geometry. Jacobi carried out important research in partial differential equations of the first order and applied them to the differential equations of dynamics. His work on determinants is important in dynamics and quantum mechanics and he studied the functional determinant now called the Jacobian. *TIS He died from smallpox, in his 47th year.*VFR

1856 Baron Wilhelm von Biela (19 Mar 1782, 18 Feb 1856 at age 73) Austrian astronomer who was known for his measurement (1826) of a previously known comet as having an orbital period of 6.6 years. Subsequently, known as Biela's Comet, it was observed to break in two (1846), and in 1852 the fragments returned as widely separated twin comets that were not seen again. However, in 1872 and 1885, bright meteor showers (known as Andromedids, or Bielids) were observed when the Earth crossed the path of the comet's known orbit. This observation provided the first concrete evidence for the idea that some meteors are composed of fragments of disintegrated comets.*TIS

1877 Charles Henry Davis (16 Jan 1807; 18 Feb 1877) U.S. naval officer and scientist who published several hydrographic studies, was a superintendent of the Naval Observatory (1865–67, 1874–77) and worked to further scientific progress. Between his naval duties at sea, he studied mathematics at Harvard. He made the first comprehensive survey of the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, including the intricate Nantucket shoals area. He helped establish and then supervised the preparation of the American Nautical Almanac (1849) for several years. Davis was a co-founder of the National Academy of Sciences (1863), and wrote several scientific books.*TIS

1899 (Marius) Sophus Lie (17 Dec 1842; 18 Feb 1899) was a Norwegian mathematician who made significant contributions to the theories of algebraic invariants, continuous groups of transformations and differential equations. Lie groups and Lie algebras are named after him. Lie was in Paris at the outbreak of the French-German war of 1870. Lie left France, deciding to go to Italy. On the way however he was arrested as a German spy and his mathematics notes were assumed to be coded messages. Only after the intervention of French mathematician, Gaston Darboux, was Lie released and he decided to return to Christiania, Norway, where he had originally studied mathematics to continue his work. *TIS

1900 Eugenio Beltrami (November 16, 1835, Cremona – February 18, 1900, Rome) was an Italian mathematician notable for his work concerning differential geometry and mathematical physics. His work was noted especially for clarity of exposition. He was the first to prove consistency of non-Euclidean geometry by modeling it on a surface of constant curvature, the pseudosphere, and in the interior of an n-dimensional unit sphere, the so-called Beltrami–Klein model. He also developed singular value decomposition for matrices, which has been subsequently rediscovered several times. Beltrami's use of differential calculus for problems of mathematical physics indirectly influenced development of tensor calculus by Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and Tullio Levi-Civita.*Wik
Beltrami studied elasticity, wave theory, optics, thermodynamics, and potential theory, and was among the first to explore the concepts of hyperspace and time as a fourth dimension. His investigations in the conduction of heat led to linear partial differential equations. Some of Beltrami's last work was on a mechanical interpretation of Maxwell's equations. *TIS

1944 Charles Benedict Davenport (1 Jun 1866, 18 Feb 1944 at age 77) American zoologist who contributed substantially to the study of eugenics (the improvement of populations through breeding) and heredity and who pioneered the use of statistical techniques in biological research. Partly as a result of breeding experiments with chickens and canaries, he was one of the first, soon after 1902, to recognize the validity of the newly discovered Mendelian theory of heredity. In Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911), he compiled evidence concerning the inheritance of human traits, on the basis of which he argued that the application of genetic principles would improve the human race. These data were at the heart of his lifelong promotion of eugenics, though he muddled science with social philosophy. *TIS

1957 Henry Norris Russell (25 Oct 1877; 18 Feb 1957) American astronomer and astrophysicist who showed the relationship between a star's brightness and its spectral type, in what is usually called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, and who also devised a means of computing the distances of binary stars. As student, professor, observatory director, and active professor emeritus, Russell spent six decades at Princeton University. From 1921, he visited Mt. Wilson Observatory annually. He analyzed light from eclipsing binary stars to determine stellar masses. Russell measured parallaxes and popularized the distinction between giant stars and "dwarfs" while developing an early theory of stellar evolution. Russell was a dominant force in American astronomy as a teacher, writer, and advisor. *TIS

1967 Julius Robert Oppenheimer (22 Apr 1904, 18 Feb 1967 at age 62) was an American theoretical physicist and science administrator, noted as director of the Los Alamos laboratory during development of the atomic bomb (1943-45) and as director of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1947-66). Accusations as to his loyalty and reliability as a security risk led to a government hearing that resulted the loss of his security clearance and of his position as adviser to the highest echelons of the U.S. government. The case became a cause célèbre in the world of science because of its implications concerning political and moral issues relating to the role of scientists in government. *TIS

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