Sunday, 20 May 2018

On This Day in Math - May 20

Mathematicians are like Frenchmen:
whatever you say to them
they translate into their own language
and forthwith it is something entirely different.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflexions, 1829)

The 140th day of the year; 140 is the sum of the squares of the first seven positive integers. 12 + 22 + 32 + 42 + 52 + 62 + 72 = 140. *Prime Curios

140 is a repdigit in bases 13 (aa), 19(7,7), 27(5,5), 34(4,4), 69(2,2), and 139(1,1).

There are 140 x 1021 (140 followed by 21 zeroes) different configurations of the Rubik's Cube. *Cliff Pickover@pickover

140 is the character limit on Twitter (or was)

A. J. Meyl proved in 1878 that only three tetrahedral numbers are also perfect squares,The largest of these is T(48) =1402 = 19600:

T1 = 1² = 1
T2 = 2² = 4
T48 = 140² = 19600.

1570 Cartographer Abraham Ortelius issues Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. *RMAT

* National Maritime Museum
1608 In a letter to Christopher Clavius, Croation mathematician Marino Ghetaldi says that with his latest parabolic mirror:-
... the sun melts not only lead, but silver.
Ghetaldi had traveled extensively throughout Europe visiting and studying with many of the great science minds, including Viete and Galileo. From Galileo he learned optics and produced a 66cm diameter parabolic mirror which is at the National Maritime Museum in London.

1663 Robert Hooke was one of 98 persons who were declared members at a meeting of the Royal Society. He was admitted to society on 3 Jun 1663, and was peculiarly exempted of all payments. Before the Royal Society had been establish in 1660, Hooke was already distinguished for the invention of various astronomical instruments, and the air-pump he contrived for Charles Boyle (whom he had assisted for several years with chemical experiments at the Philosophical Society, Oxford). He invented a balance or pendulum spring (1656-58), one of the greatest improvements in the construction of timepieces. By 1662, he had been appointed curator of experiments to the Royal Society, and on 11 Jan 1664, awarded a salary of £30 per annum for life for that position.*TIS

1665 Newton's earliest use of dots, "pricked letters," to indicate velocities or fluxions is found on a leaf dated May 20, 1665; no facsimile reproduction of it has ever been made.' The earliest printed account of Newton's fluxional notation appeared from his pen in the Latin edition of Wallis' Algebra [Cajori, History of Mathematical Notations, vol. 2, p. 197] *VFR

1716 In a letter written to Leibniz, May 20, 1716, John Bernoulli discussed the equation:d2y/dx2 = 2y/x2
where the general solution when written in the form
y = x2/a + b2/3x
involves three cases: When b approaches zero the curves are parabolas; when a approaches infinity, they are hyperbolas; otherwise, they are of the third order. *John E. Sasser, HISTORY OF ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS

1875 The International Bureau of Weights and Measures established by the International Metric Convention, Sevres, France. The bureau is the repository for the “International Prototype Meter” and the “International Prototype Kilogram.” *SAU= St. Andrews Univ

And for your (in case you thought that 3D movie technology was new, file)
In 1901, Claude Grivolas, one of Pathe's main shareholders in Paris, France, invented a projector that produced three-dimensional pictures.*TIS

1927 At 7:40 a.m., Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, N.Y., aboard the "Spirit of St. Louis" monoplane on his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in France thirty-three and one-half hours later. *TIS

1930 The Institute for Advanced Study incorporated. Two and a half years later Albert Einstein and Oswald Veblen were appointed the first professors. [Goldstein, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 77]*VFR

In 1956, the first hydrogen fusion bomb (H-bomb) to be dropped from an airplane exploded over Namu Atoll at the northwest edge of the Bikini Atoll. The fireball was four miles in diameter. It was designated as "Cherokee," as part of "Operation Redwing."*TIS

1961 France issued a stamp honoring Charles Coulomb (1736–1806) [Scott #B 352].

1968 A team of six high school students from Upstate New York went to London to participate in the Fourth British Mathematical Olympiad. This was the first time a team from the U.S. participated in an international mathematical competition. [The College Mathematics Journal, 16 (1985), p. 331] *VFR

1975 Norway issued a stamp for the centenary of the International Meter Convention in Paris. It pictures Ole Jacob Broch (1818– 1889), the first director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. [Scott #655] *VFR At least ten other countries issued stamps to commemorate the same event, including Bulgaria, Romania, France, the Soviet Union..... but not the USA. (see 1975 below for another)

1975 Sweden issued a stamp picturing a metric tape measure to honor the centenary of the International Meter Convention in Paris. [Scott #1121] *VFR

1990 the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photograph from space, an image of a double star 1,260 light years away. *TIS

2012 Solar Eclipse, A total of 154 U.S. national parks will provide views of the eclipse, from partial to full annularity. Many western parks will offer solar observing as a ranger-led program or host a solar party with the help of local amateur astronomy clubs.
Poster advertising viewing the eclipse from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Poster © Tyler Nordgren.

2063 99 year old Johnny Depp rolls down red-carpet in wheel-chair for opening of Pirates of the Caribbean sequel #42, “Sun City Pirates”.


1782 William Emerson (14 May 1701 – 20 May 1782), English mathematician, was born at Hurworth, near Darlington, where his father, Dudley Emerson, also a mathematician, taught a school. William himself had a small estate in Weardale called Castle Gate situated not far from Eastgate where he would repair to work throughout the Summer on projects as disparate as stonemasonry and watchmaking. Unsuccessful as a teacher, he devoted himself entirely to studious retirement. Possessed of remarkable energy and forthrightness of speech, Emerson published many works which are singularly free from errata.
He was early influence in the life of Jeremiah Fenwicke Dixon, of Mason-Dixon fame.

In The Principles of Mechanics (1754) he shows a wind-powered vehicle in which the vertically mounted propeller gives direct power to the front wheels via a system of cogs. In mechanics he never advanced a proposition which he had not previously tested in practice, nor published an invention without first proving its effects by a model. He was skilled in the science of music, the theory of sounds, and the ancient and modern scales; but he never attained any excellence as a performer. He died on 20 May 1782 at his native village, where his gravestone bears epitaphs in Latin and Hebrew.

Emerson dressed in old clothes and his manners were uncouth. He wore his shirt back to front and his legs wrapped in sacking so as not to scorch them as he sat over the fire. He declined an offer to become FRS because it would cost too much after all the expense of farthing candles he had been put to in the course of his life of study. Emerson rode regularly into Darlington on a horse like Don Quixote's, led by a hired small boy. In old age, plagued by the stone, he would alternately pray and curse, wishing his soul 'could shake off the rags of mortality without such a clitter-me-clatter.' *Wik

1825 George Phillips Bond ((May 20, 1825 {sometimes given 1826} – February 17, 1865) Astronomer who made the first photograph of a double star, discovered a number of comets, and with his father discovered Hyperion, the eight moon of Saturn.*TIS

1861 Henry Seely White (May 20, 1861 - May 20, 1943) worked on invariant theory, the geometry of curves and surfaces, algebraic curves and twisted curves. *SAU He matriculated at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and graduated with honors in 1882 at the age of twenty-one. White excelled at Wesleyan in astronomy, ethics, Latin, logic, mathematics, and philosophy. At the university, John Monroe Van Vleck taught White mathematics and astronomy. Later, Van Vleck persuaded White to continue to study mathematics at the graduate level.[1] Subsequently, White studied at the University of Göttingen under Klein, and received his doctorate in 1891.
White was Mathematics Department Chair at Northwestern University. He left Northwestern to be near his ill mother and became Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Vassar College. He "attributed his interest in geometry both to his work at Wesleyan and Goettingen and to summers spent working on his grandfather’s farm."[2] His particular interests were in the fields of the geometry of curves and surfaces (Curves, Differential geometry of surfaces), algebraic planes and twisted curves (Algebraic Geometry, Algebraic curves, Twisted curves), homeomorphic sets of lines in a plane (line coordinates), the theory of invariants, relativity in mechanics, and correspondences.
In 1915 Seely was elected a Fellow of the United States National Academy of Sciences. Northwestern conferred upon him an LL.D. in the same year. At the time of its 100th anniversary in 1932, Wesleyan conferred upon him an D.Sc. *Wik
Died on his birthday in 1943

1874 Friedrich Moritz Hartogs (20 May 1874, Brussels–18 August 1943, Munich) was a German-Jewish mathematician, known for work on set theory and foundational results on several complex variables. *Wik

1901 Machgielis (Max) Euwe (last name is pronounced [ˈøːwə]) (May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981) was a Dutch chess Grandmaster, mathematician, and author. He was the fifth player to become World Chess Champion (1935–37). Euwe also served as President of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, from 1970 to 1978. *Wik

1901 Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (born 30 May 1908 in Norrköping, Sweden; died 2 April 1995 in Djursholm, Sweden) was a Swedish electrical engineer, plasma physicist and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). He described the class of MHD waves now known as Alfvén waves. He was originally trained as an electrical power engineer and later moved to research and teaching in the fields of plasma physics and electrical engineering. Alfvén made many contributions to plasma physics, including theories describing the behavior of aurorae, the Van Allen radiation belts, the effect of magnetic storms on the Earth's magnetic field, the terrestrial magnetosphere, and the dynamics of plasmas in the Milky Way galaxy.*Wik

1913 William Redington Hewlett (20 May 1913; Ann Arbor, Michigan - 12 Jan 2001 at age 87) was an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Hewlett-Packard Company, a leading manufacturer computers, computer printers, and analytic and measuring equipment. In 1939, he formed a partnership known as Hewlett-Packard Company with David Packard, a friend and Stanford classmate. (The order of their names was determined by a coin toss.) HP's first product was an audio oscillator based on a design developed by Hewlett when he was in graduate school. Eight were sold to Walt Disney for Fantasia. Lesser-known early products were: bowling alley foul-line indicator, automatic urinal flusher, weight-loss shock machine. The company began with $538 intial capital, and its first production facility was a small garage in Palo Alto. *TIS


1798 Erland Bring (19 August 1736 – 20 May 1798) was a Swedish mathemaician who made contributions to the algebraic solution of equations.*SAU
At Lund he wrote eight volumes of mathematical work in the fields of algebra, geometry, analysis and astronomy, including Meletemata quaedam mathematematica circa transformationem aequationum algebraicarum (1786). This work describes Bring's contribution to the algebraic solution of equations. *Wik

1943 Henry Seely White, died on his birthday. (see 1861 above)

1947 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

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

Saturday, 19 May 2018

On This Day in Math - May 19

"Big Mac", the beautiful Mackinaw Bridge

We [he and Halmos] share a philosophy about linear algebra: 
we think basis-free,
 we write basis-free,
but when the chips are down we close the office door
and compute with matrices like fury.
Irving Kaplansky honoring Paul Halmos

The 139th day of the year; 139 and 149 are the first consecutive primes differing by 10.
139 = 9*8+7*6+5*4+3*2-1 *Prime Curios

139 is the sum of five consecutive prime numbers( 19+ 23+ 29 +31+ 37)

139 is also a Happy number, if you square the digits and add, then continue to repeat with each result, you will eventually come to the number one.

139 ---- 91----- 82 ------ 68---- 100 ----- 1 (The earliest I have ever found this term was in an article in The Arithmetic Teacher, Feb 1974. "Happiness is some Intriguing numbers" by Billie Earl Sparks of George Peabody College in Nashville, Tn. Does anyone know of an earlier usage?"


1662 Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the Navy Board inspects the new Mint in the Tower of London, but will not be allowed to see the ultra secret "edging" machines that engraved an inscription into the edge of the coins to safeguard against the common practice of "clipping" that was common. It was one of the first "milled" currencies in the world.

1673 Leeuwenhoek's first letter to the Royal Society, is published in Philosophical Transactions number 94, "A Specimen of Some Observations Made by a Microscope, Contrived by M. Leewenhoeck in Holland, Lately Communicated by Dr. Regnerus de Graaf." Over the rest of his life, the Society would publish 116 articles containing excerpts from 113 letters. *lensonleeuwenhoek

In 1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet, the most intimate contact between the Earth and any comet in recorded history. The event was anticipated with dire predictions. Since a few years earlier, astronomers had found the poisonous gas cyanogen in a comet, it was surmised that if Earth passed through the comet's tail everyone would die. Astronomers explained that the gas molecules within the tail were so tenuous that absolutely no ill effects would be noticed. Nevertheless, ignorance bred opportunists selling "comet pills" to the panicked portion of the public to counter the effects of the cyanogen gas. On 20 May, after Earth had passed through the tail, everyone was still alive - with or without taking pills! *TIS New York Times coverage is HALLEY’S COMET BRUSHES EARTH WITH ITS TAIL (banner headline of the newspaper); 350 American astronomers keep vigil; Reactions of fear and prayer repeated; All night services held in many churches; 1881 dire prophecies recalled by comet scare.

1979 In the Chicago Sun-Times W. F. Buckley wrote “The Rasmussen Report estimates there will be one melt down every 20,000 reactor-years, and one fatality (from cancer) every 50 reactor-years. Conjoin these data (20,000 divided by 50) and you get the figure of 400 deaths per year.” Quoted from the “Hows that again department,” AMM 90 (1983), p 220.*VFR

1825 Faraday isolates benzine. In 1825, Faraday started work on a sample of oil that had been sent to him for analysis by the Portable Oil Company of London. He subjected this oil to fractional distillation, a process that proved to be extremely difficult, and it took him some time to resolve the oil into its pure components. By repeated fractional distillation followed by selective fractional freezing, each stage monitored by analysis, he produced a fairly pure sample of what he called bicarburet of hydrogen. Faraday’s notebook records these procedures, which he carried out on 18 and 19 May 1825. Auguste Laurent suggested the name benzene. *Jennifer Wilson, Celebrating Michael Faraday’s Discovery of Benzene, Ambix,Volume 59, Issue 3

2006 Apple 'Cube' Shop Opens in Big Apple, NY City:
Apple Computer opened its second retail store in New York City. The 20,000-square foot store is situated in the underground concourse of the General Motors building at 767 Fifth Avenue. New Yorkers stood on line for hours in order to be among the first to enter. Open 24-hours a day, the shop is visible at street level through a 32-foot glass cube. It cost $9 million and was designed by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs.*CHM


1682 Mei Juecheng (19 May 1681 in Xuangcheng, now Xuanzhou City, Anhui province, China - 20 Nov 1763 in China) published Chishui yizhen (Pearls recovered from the Red River). This contained the infinite series expansion for sin(x) which was discovered by James Gregory and Isaac Newton. In fact the Jesuit missionary Pierre Jartoux (1669-1720) (known in China as Du Demei) introduced the infinite series for the sine into China in 1701 and it was known there by the name 'formula of Master Du'.*SAU

1832 Edmond Bour (19 May 1832 in Gray, Haute-Saône, France - 9 March 1866 in Paris, France)Bour made many significant contributions to analysis, algebra, geometry and applied mechanics despite his early death from an incurable disease. His remarkable achievements were cut short at the age of 33 and as a consequence Bour is hardly known in the history of mathematics whereas one feels that if he had been given the chance to continue his outstanding work he would today be remembered as one of the major figures in the subject. *SAU

1862 Gino Benedetto Loria (19 May 1862 in Mantua, Italy -30 Jan 1954 in Genoa, Italy) In his day, Loria was arguably the pre-eminent historian of mathematics in Italy. A full professor of higher geometry at the University of Genoa beginning in 1891, Loria wrote the history of mathematics as a mathematician writing for other mathematicians. He emphasised this approach repeatedly in his works. For instance, in the introduction to his 'Storia delle matematiche dall'alba della civilità al tramonto del secolo XIX' (History of Mathematics from the Dawn of Civilisation to the End of the 19th Century), he stated that general history of mathematics was written "by a mathematician for mathematicians". *SAU

1918 Abraham Pais (19 May 1918 - 28 Jul 2000 at age 82) Dutch-American physicist and science historian whose research became the building blocks of the theory of elemental particles. He wrote Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein, which is considered the definitive Einstein biography. In Holland, his Ph.D. in physics was awarded on 9 Jul 1941, five days before a Nazi deadline banning Jews from receiving degrees. Later, during WW II, while in hiding to evade the Gestapo, he worked out ideas in quantum electrodynamics that he later shared when working with Niels Bohr (Jan - Aug 1946). In Sep 1946, he went to the U.S. to work with Robert Oppenheimer at Princeton, where Pais contributed to the foundations of the modern theory of particle physics. *TIS
"To make a discovery is not necessarily the same as to understand a discovery. "

1919 Georgii Dmitrievic Suvorov (19 May 1919 in Saratov, Russia - 12 Oct 1984 in Donetske, Ukraine) Suvorov made major contributions to the theory of functions. He worked, in particular, on the theory of topological and metric mappings on 2-dimensional space. Another area on which Suvorov worked was the theory of conformal mappings and quasi-formal mappings. His results in this area, mostly from the late 1960s when he was at Donetsk, are of particular significance. He extended Lavrentev's results in this area, in particular Lavrentev's stability and differentiability theorems, to more general classes of transformations. One of the many innovations in Suvorov's work was new methods which he introduced to help in the understanding of metric properties of mappings with bounded Dirichlet integral. *SAU

1927 Serge Lang  (May 19, 1927 – September 12, 2005) was a French-born mathematician who spent most of his life in the USA. He is best-known for his outstanding undergraduate text-books.*SAU He was a member of the Bourbaki group. Lang was born in Paris in 1927, and moved with his family to California as a teenager, where he graduated in 1943 from Beverly Hills High School. He subsequently graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1946, and received a doctorate from Princeton University in 1951. He held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Columbia University (from 1955, leaving in 1971 in a dispute). At the time of his death he was professor emeritus of mathematics at Yale University. *Wik

1930 Rudolf (Rudy) Emil Kálmán (May 19, 1930 - ) is a Hungarian-American electrical engineer, mathematical system theorist, and college professor, who was educated in the United States, and has done most of his work there. He is currently a retired professor from three different institutes of technology and universities. He is most noted for his co-invention and development of the Kalman filter, a mathematical formulation that is widely used in control systems, avionics, and outer space manned and unmanned vehicles. For this work, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Kálmán with the National Medal of Science on October 7, 2009. *Wik


804 Alcuin of York,(730s or 740s – 19 May 804) was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Saint Martin's at Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found" according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era. *Wik 
 He was born in 735, the year Bede died. As minister of education under Charlemagne, he attempted to reorganize the educational system by popularizing the study of the seven liberal arts and encouraging the study of mathematics as an aid in determining the date of Easter. He wrote the first book of mathematical recreations, Propositiones ad acuendis juvenas (Problems for Sharpening the Minds of Youths), which contained 53 mathematical puzzles, including: A wolf, a goat, and a cabbage must be moved across a river in a boat holding only one besides the ferryman. How must he carry them across so that the goat shall not eat the cabbage, nor the wolf the goat? *VFR (Singmaster asserts this is the first example of a river-crossing problem)

1731 Francis Maseres (15 December 1731 – 19 May 1824) was an English lawyer. He is known as attorney general of the Province of Quebec, judge, mathematician, historian, member of the Royal Society, and cursitor baron of the exchequer. *Wik Maseres wrote many mathematical works which show a complete lack of creative ability. He rejected negative numbers and that part of algebra which is not arithmetic, despite writing 150 years after Viète and Harriot. It is probable that Maseres rejected all mathematics which he could not understand. *SAU

1881 Rev U Jessee Kniseley (March 14, 1838 - May 19, 1881) was born in New Philadelphia, Ohio March 14 1838 He was a self made man and in a very great measure self educated. The degree of MA was conferred on him by Marietta College and that of PhD by Wittenberg College in which latter institution he had formerly been a classical and theological student. He also attended Jefferson College Pa but was not a graduate of any college. He was chosen President and Professor of Mathematics of Luther College, an institution of ephemeral existence. Rev Dr Knisely was a Lutheran preacher of marked ability and great eloquence and for fourteen years previous to his death he was the loved pastor of the church of that denomination at Newcomerstown. He was a very fine mathematician and excelled especially in the solution of algebraic and geometrical problems The elegant solution of a Diophantine problem on pp 105 and 106 of the Mathematical Visitor Vol I No 4 and of the celebrated Malfatti's Problem pp 189 and 190 of No 6 are admirable samples of his superior skill in these departments of analysis. Rev Dr Knisely was also a master of language and the author of several works. Copies of his Parser's Manual and Arithmetical Questions for the Recreation of the Teacher and the Discipline of the Pupil are possessed by the writer. It is stated in the Tuscarawas Chroical from which the substance of a portion of this notice is taken that he was also author of Kniseley's Arithmetic and Mrs Knisely states that he had in preparation a work on the Carculus, but of these works the writer knows nothing. His last work was the revision of Ray's Higher Arithmetic and the Key which he completed but a short time before his death. He died May 19, 1881 at the age of 43 years 2 months and 5 days The disease that caused his death was a general prostration of the nervous system. *Artemas Martin, Mathematical Visitor January 1882

1942 Sir Joseph Larmor (11 July 1857 Magheragall, County Antrim, Ireland – 19 May 1942 Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland) Irish physicist, the first to calculate the rate at which energy is radiated by an accelerated electron, and the first to explain the splitting of spectrum lines by a magnetic field. His theories were based on the belief that matter consists entirely of electric particles moving in the ether. His elaborate mathematical electrical theory of the late 1890s included the "electron" as a rotational strain (a sort of twist) in the ether. But Larmor's theory did not describe the electron as a part of the atom. Many physicists envisioned both material particles and electromagnetic forces as structures and strains in that hypothetical fluid. *TIS

1979 Ralph Duncan James (1909 Liverpool, England – 19 May 1979 Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada) was an English and Canadian mathematician working on number theory and analysis. *Wik James contributed in a major way towards the development of mathematics in North America. He was Editor-in-Chief of the American Mathematical Monthly from 1957 to 1962. For many years he was on the Editorial Boards of the Canadian Journal of Mathematics and of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics. He also served as President of the Canadian Mathematical Society (then called the Canadian Mathematical Congress) from 1961 to 1963. In fact all the previous presidents had served terms of four years, but James felt that this was too long a period to hold the position so it was reduced to a two year term. He served two terms on the Council of the American Mathematical Society. *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

Friday, 18 May 2018

On This Day in Math - May 18

I've dealt with numbers all my life, of course, and after a while you begin to feel that each number has a personality of its own.  A twelve is very different from a thirteen, for example.  Twelve is upright, conscientious, intelligent, whereas thirteen is a loner, a shady character who won't think twice about breaking the law to get what he wants.  Eleven is tough, an outdoorsman who likes tramping through woods and scaling mountains; ten is rather simpleminded, a bland figure who always does what he's told; nine is deep and mystical, a Buddha of contemplation....
  ~Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

The 138th day of the  year; 138 is a sphenic number(the product of three primes from the Greek for "wedge shaped") and is the smallest product of 3 primes, such that in base 10, the third prime is a concatenation of the other two: (2)(3)(23)

138 is the sum of four consecutive primes (29 + 31 + 37 + 41),

1772 Euler shows that 1 + 1/33 + 1/53 + 1/73 + ... = p/4 log 2 + 2 ∫ 0p/2 f log (sin (f)) df in paper to St. Petersburg Academy (dates in Russia at this time were still on Julian Calendar) *
This value, which Euler approximated to 16 decimal places, 1.2020569031595942, is named Apery'a constant after Roger Apéry, who proved in 1978 that it is irrational. No other odd Zeta(n) has been proven either rational or irrational. It is still not known if it is transcendental.

1825 Faraday isolates benzine. In 1825, Faraday started work on a sample of oil that had been sent to him for analysis by the Portable Oil Company of London. He subjected this oil to fractional distillation, a process that proved to be extremely difficult, and it took him some time to resolve the oil into its pure components. By repeated fractional distillation followed by selective fractional freezing, each stage monitored by analysis, he produced a fairly pure sample of what he called bicarburet of hydrogen. Faraday’s notebook records these procedures, which he carried out on 18 and 19 May 1825. Auguste Laurent suggested the name benzene. *Jennifer Wilson, Celebrating Michael Faraday’s Discovery of Benzene, Ambix,Volume 59, Issue 3

1852 Massachusetts becomes the first state to pass a compulsory attendance law for school children. *VFR

1896, the Supreme Court ruled separate-but-equal facilities constitutional on intrastate railroads. For some fifty years, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation. Across the country, laws mandated separate accommodations on buses and trains, and in hotels, theaters, and schools. 
In a speech delivered in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1886 and later published as The Black Laws, legislator Benjamin W. Arnett described life in segregated Ohio:

"This foe of my race stands at the school house door and separates the children, by reason of 'color,' and denies to those who have a visible admixture of African blood in them the blessings of a graded school and equal privileges... We call upon all friends of 'Equal Rights' to assist in this struggle to secure the blessings of untrammeled liberty for ourselves and posterity. " 
After hearing arguments by NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court overruled the Plessy decision on May 17, 1954. In Brown v. the Board of Education, a unanimous Court adopted Justice Harlan's position that segregation violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. *Library of  Congress 

 1901 Charles Sanders Peirce writes George A. Plimpton,  head of Ginn and Company and famous collector of rare mathematical books, describing what the contents of a newly acquired book must be were it indeed the great Liber Abaci (1202) of Fibonacci. In 1949 Carolyn Eisele’s discovery of this letter—still tucked into the back cover of the volume—began her career as a Peirce scholar. [HM 9, 335] *VFR (I have been advised by Adam Shapiro that Plimpton was not head of Ginn & Co until the death of Edwin Ginn in 1914. )

 In 1910, Halley's Comet was visible from Earth, moving across the face of the sun. *TIS
1910 Halley's comet was big news during its visible period in New York City. Beginning with the Saturday edition of May 14 and continuing on through the Sunday edition of May 22, the comet was given top billing in the New York Times. This was the period when the comet was at the height of its brilliance and activity and the coverage clearly reflected this.
May 18: Earth to pass through come tail for 6 hours; C.B. Harmon invites college deans to join him in viewing comet from balloon. *Joseph M. Laufer, Halley's Comet Society - USA

1933 John Kieran’s Sports of the Times column in the New York Times is entitled “The Coordinate Clash, or Block that Abscissa.” The column was a humorous analogy between football and the upcoming mathematical contest between Harvard and Army. *VFR

1952 Prof. Willard F. Libby determined the age of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, England, at about 1848 BC (+/- 275 years) through analysis of the carbon-14 radioisotope in charcoal remains excavated there there. Update of C-14 ceases when plants or animals die, and the proportion in the organic remains steadily declines through radioactive decay. Since the half-life of C-14 is about 5,600 years, measurement of the remaining proportion in dead organic matter, indicates the age of that sample. Astronomer Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer had previously calculated that on Midsummer Day, 1680 BC, the sun rose directly over a special marking notch that can still be seen on the Heel Stone. Libby's measurements support that estimate. *TIS

1993 A headline in the National Enquior tabloid mocked the National Science Foundation for funding a study by Georgia Southern Professor Jonathon Copeland to study fireflies in Borneo. "Not a bright Idea." It quoted Wisconsin Republican representative (or mis-representative) was quoted as saying he didn't think it was a "bright" idea. Ironically, the same week that the article appeared, an article in Time reported that doctors were using luciferase, the light emitting enzyme of the butterfly, in testing drugs against resistant strains of tuberculosis.*Steven Strogatz, Sync

1048 Omar Khayyam (18 May, 1048–1131)  (his birthdate is sometimes given as 15 May) Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer. Khayyam, who was born at Nishapur (now in Iran), produced a work on algebra that was used as a textbook in Persia until this century. In geometry, he studied generalities of Euclid and contributed to the theory of parallel lines. Around 1074, he set up an observatory and led work on compiling astronomical tables, and also contributed to the reform of the Persian calendar. His contributions to other fields of science included developing methods for the accurate determination of specific gravity. He is known to English-speaking readers for his "quatrains" as The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, published in 1859 by Edward Fitzgerald, though it is now regarded as an anthology of which little or nothing may be by Omar. *TIS 

"Whoever thinks algebra is a trick in obtaining unknowns has thought it in vain. No attention should be paid to the fact that algebra and geometry are different in appearance. Algebras are geometric facts which are proved by propositions five and six of Book two of Elements."
Omar Khayyam

1711 Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich Astronomer and mathematician who gave the first geometric procedure for determining the equator of a rotating planet from three observations of a surface feature and for computing the orbit of a planet from three observations of its position. Boscovich was one of the first in continental Europe to accept Newton's gravitational theories and he wrote 70 papers on optics, astronomy, gravitation, meteorology and trigonometry. Boscovich also showed much ability in dealing with practical problems. He suggested and directed the draining of the Pontine marshes near Rome, and recommended the use of iron bands to control the spread of cracks in the dome of St. Peter's basilica.*TIS  A slightly enlarged description of his life is here

1850 Oliver Heaviside (18 May 1850, 3 Feb 1925) English physicist who predicted the existence of the ionosphere. In 1870, he became a telegrapher, but increasing deafness forced him to retire in 1874. He then devoted himself to investigations of electricity. In 1902, Heaviside and Kennelly predicted that there should be an ionised layer in the upper atmosphere that would reflect radio waves. They pointed out that it would be useful for long distance communication, allowing radio signals to travel to distant parts of the earth by bouncing off the underside of this layer. The existence of the layer, now known as the Heaviside layer or the ionosphere, was demonstrated in the 1920s, when radio pulses were transmitted vertically upward and the returning pulses from the reflecting layer were received. *TIS He adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques to the solution of differential equations (later found to be equivalent to Laplace transforms), reformulated Maxwell's field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis. Although at odds with the scientific establishment for most of his life, Heaviside changed the face of mathematics and science for years to come. Among many others, he coined the terms for admittance , conductance , impedance , permeability , and inductance. *Wik

1859 Harry Fielding Reid (18 May 1859; 18 Jun 1944 at age 85) who introduced the term elastic rebound in a report (1910) on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. His early career was as a glaciologist, but then the study of earthquakes became his most significant work. Reid was the first to establish that it is the fault that causes an earthquake, rather than a fault results from an earthquake. His elastic rebound theory, said that an earthquake occurs upon the sudden release of a large amount of stored energy after a long gradual accumulation of stress along a fault line. Later, modern science explained that Earth's surface consists of huge tectonic plates slowly moving relative to each other, and stress (elastic strain energy) gradually builds along their edges moving against each other. *TIS

1872 Bertrand Russell. 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life, he imagined himself in turn a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things, in any profound sense. He was born in Wales, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain.
Russell led the British "revolt against idealism" in the early 1900s. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein, and is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy." His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics. *Wik  (on page 378 they are able to outline a proof for 1+1=2, but first they need to define the operation of addition.... then along comes  Kurt Godel)
I include here a quote from his autobiography that is often shortened so that, what I believe was the critical last part of it, is not told:
At the age of eleven, I began Euclid, with my brother as my tutor. This was one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined that there was anything so delicious in the world. After I had learned the fifth proposition, my brother told me that it was generally considered difficult, but I had found no difficulty whatever. This was the first time it had dawned upon me that I might have some intelligence. From that moment until Whitehead and I finished Principia Mathematica, when I was thirty-eight, mathematics was my chief interest, and my chief source of happiness. Like all happiness, however, it was not unalloyed. I had been told that Euclid proved things, and was much disappointed that he started with axioms. At first I refused to accept them unless my brother could offer me some reason for doing so, but he said: 'If you don't accept them we cannot go on', and as I wished to go on, I reluctantly admitted them pro tem. The doubt as to the premisses of mathematics which I felt at that moment remained with me, and determined the course of my subsequent work.

1901 Julius Adams Stratton (May 18, 1901 – June 22, 1994) was a U.S. electrical engineer and university administrator. He attended the University of Washington for one year, then transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1923 and a master's degree in electrical engineering (EE) in 1926. He then followed graduate studies in Europe and the Technische Hochschule of Zurich (ETH Zurich), Switzerland, awarded him the degree of Doctor of Science in 1927. *Wik He worked with the blind-landing research program during WWII to help develop Glide-slope-approach radar.

1941 Malcolm Sim Longair (18 May 1941 - )Scottish astronomer, noted for his scholarship and teaching, who in 1980 was appointed by Royal Warrant Astronomer Royal for Scotland, a post he held until 31 Dec 1990. The title of Astronomer Royal for Scotland was created in 1834. As Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy and head of Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK, his research interests include the emission from dust in the distant universe, observational cosmology, galaxy formation, and gravitational lensing. He is the current Public Understanding of Physics Fellow of the Institute of Physics. *TIS


1996 Stefan Schwarz (18 May 1914 in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Austria-Hungarian Empire (now Slovakia) - 6 Dec 1996 in Bratislava, Slovak Republic) In addition to his work on semigroups, number theory and finite fields, Schwarz contributed to the theory of non-negative and Boolean matrices.
Schwarz organised the first International Conference on Semigroups in 1968. At this conference setting up the journal Semigroup Forum was discussed and Schwarz became an editor from Volume 1 which appeared in 1970, continuing as editor until 1982. This was not his first editorial role since he had been an editor of the Czechoslovak Mathematical Journal from 1945 and continued to edit this journal until he was nearly 80 years old. He also founded the Mathematico-Physical Journal of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in 1950 and continued as an editor of the mathematics part of the journal when it split from the physics part to become Mathematica Slovaca until 1990. *SAU

2007 Pierre-Gilles de Gennes French physicist who was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize for Physics for "discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers." He described mathematically how, for example, magnetic dipoles, long molecules or molecule chains can under certain conditions form ordered states, and what happens when they pass from an ordered to a disordered state. Such changes of order occur when, for example, a heated magnet changes from a state in which all the small atomic magnets are lined up in parallel to a disordered state in which the magnets are randomly oriented. Recently, he has been concerned with the physical chemistry of adhesion. *TIS

*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

Thursday, 17 May 2018

On This Day in Math - May 17

Even stranger things have happened;
and perhaps the strangest of all
 is the marvel that mathematics
 should be possible to a race akin to the apes.

~Eric T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics

The 137th day of the year; 137 is the sum of the squares of the first seven digits of pi, 32+ 12 + 42 + 12 + 52 + 92 + 22 = 137. *Prime Curios (Can you find other such primes from sums of squares of Pi?)

137 is the third term in a sequence of primes that can be created by staring with 7 and creating a new term by adding a single digit to the front of the previous term; 7, 37, 137 ... It is possible to create a sequence of 15 Prime numbers in this way. OEIS

Like palindromes, Don McDonald reminded me that 10/137 is a nice one, the period eight repeating palindrome .07299270...


1630 Belts on Jupiter first recognized. According to Rogers, the first known mention of belts on Jupiter is that by Niccolo Zucchi in 1630.( J. H. Rogers, The Giant Planet Jupiter (Cambridge University Press, 1995).)

1719 “The learned Dr. Halley is of opinion that the comet seen in 1680 is the same which appeared in Julius Caesar’s time. This shows more than any other that comets are hard, opaque bodies; for it descended so near to the sun, as to come within a sixth part of the diameter of this planet from it, and consequently might have contracted a degree of heat two thousand times stronger than that of red-hot iron; and would have been soon dispersed in vapour, had it not been a firm, dense body. The guessing the course of comets began then to be very much in vogue. The celebrated [Johann] Bernoulli concluded by his system than the famous comet of 1680 would appear again the 17th of May, 1719. Not a single astronomer in Europe went to bed that night. However, they needed not to have broke their rest, for the famous comet never appeared.” So wrote Voltaire (1694-1778) in his Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques, c. 1778. *VFR

1749 Oops.... In 1747 at a public session in the French Academy of Sciences Clairaut stated that Newton's theory of gravity was wrong. Euler and d’Alembert had simultaneously came to the same conclusion as all had been working on the motion of the moon as a special case of the three body problem. Clairaut suggested that the strength of gravity was proportional not to 1/r^2 , but the more complicated 1/r^2 +c/r^4 for some constant c. Over large distances, the c/r^4 term would effectively disappear, accounting for the utility of the inverse square law over large distances. He then began trying to find a value of c which could account for the moon's motion. He would continue to pursue this idea until May 17, 1749, when he made an equally dramatic announcement in which he claimed that Newton was right after all. (See Deaths below)

1861  James Clerk Maxwell exhibited a three-color photographic process before the Royal Institution of Great Britain on May 17, 1861.
Maxwell photographed a colored ribbon on photographic plates. He made three exposures: one through a red filter, one through a green filter, and one through a blue filter. He probably then re-exposed those images onto other plates, or somehow processed them into positive rather than negative images; the published paper is unclear on the process.
Then, he used magic lanterns to project his transparencies, superimposed the three images, and filtered the projectors as he had filtered the original images—with red, green & blue filters. He produced a colored image, ".a coloured image was seen, which, if the red and green images had been as fully photographed as the blue, would have been a truly-coloured image of the ribbon." (The Muser)

1875 On May 17, 1875, the horse, Aristides, and his rider, Oliver Lewis, crossed the finish line ahead of the rest of the field at the first ever Kentucky Derby. The horse's owner, H.P. McGrath, and a roaring crowd in the stands looked on. Aristides, a Thoroughbred named after an ancient Greek general. Thirteen of the fifteen jockeys, including Lewis, were African American.(Library of Congress web site)

1882 A comet is discovered and photographed by Sir Arthur Schuster (1851-1934), Germany/UK, during an eclipse in Egypt: first time a comet discovered in this way has been photographed. The Total Solar Eclipse had been observed by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), Ranard and Schuster from England, Tacchini from Italy, Trépied, Thollon and Puiseux from France.
Observation from Sohag at the Nile. *NASA Eclipse Calendar
(image from Astrognome-scrapbook

1910 Halley's comet was big news during its visible period in New York City. Beginning with the Saturday edition of May 14 and continuing on through the Sunday edition of May 22, the comet was given top billing in the New York Times. This was the period when the comet was at the height of its brilliance and activity and the coverage clearly reflected this.
May 17: Earth will pass through comet’s 24-million-mile-long tail on May 18th; Hotels to prepare for comet watchers; Boston will sound fire alarm if comet is visible. Editorial comment on fears about comet. *Joseph M. Laufer, Halley's Comet Society - USA

1943 U.S. Army and University of Pennsylvania Sign Contract to Develop ENIAC:
ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), an early all-electronic computing system, was developed and built by the U.S. Army for its Ballistics Research Laboratory. It was the first system to use vacuum tubes rather than electromagnetic switches. Its purpose was to calculate ballistic firing tables. ENIAC was designed by J. Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly of the University of Pennsylvania. Constructed at that university’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, when first commissioned, the computer was known as Project PX. It cost almost $500,000 at the time. Unveiled on February 14, 1946, it operated until November 9, 1946. It was then refurbished, given a memory upgrade, and transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, in 1947. On July 29th it was turned on again and ran continuously until 1955. *CHM

1967 the governor of Tennessee signed into law the repeal of the 1925 state law, the Butler Act, prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The law had made it "unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." The law had been tested in what became known as the "Scopes monkey trial." Scopes was found guilty, but the law had been undermined. Upon appeal, Scopes was acquitted on a technicality. The law itself remained a Tennessee state statute for 42 years. *TIS
Unfortunatly, at the time of this writing in 2011, the issue is still not dead.

1749 Edward Jenner English surgeon and discoverer of vaccination for smallpox. There was a common story among farmers that if a person contracted a relatively mild and harmless disease of cattle called cowpox, immunity to smallpox would result. On 14 May 1796 he removed the fluid of a cowpox from dairymaid Sarah Nelmes, and inoculated James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy, who soon came down with cowpox. Six weeks later, he inoculated the boy with smallpox. The boy remained healthy, proving the theory. He called his method vaccination, using the Latin word vacca, meaning cow, and vaccinia, meaning cowpox. Jenner also introduced the word virus.*TIS

1836 Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer British astronomer who in 1868 discovered and named the element helium that he found in the Sun's atmosphere before it had been detected on Earth. He also applied the name chromosphere for the sun's outer layer. Lockyer discovered, together with Pierre J. Janssen, the prominences (red flames) that surround the solar disk. He was also interested in the classification of stellar spectra and developed the meteoric hypothesis of stellar evolution.*TIS

1928 Eric Charles Milner, FRSC (May 17, 1928–July 20, 1997) was a mathematician who worked mainly in combinatorial set theory.
A former London street urchin, Milner attended King's College London starting in 1946, where he competed as a featherweight boxer. He graduated in 1949 as the best mathematics student in his year, and received a masters degree in 1950 under the supervision of Richard Rado and Charles Coulson. Partial deafness prevented him from joining the Navy, and instead, in 1951, he took a position with the Straits Trading Company in Singapore assaying tin. Soon thereafter he joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Malaya in Singapore, where Alexander Oppenheim and Richard K. Guy were already working. In 1958, Milner took a sabbatical at the University of Reading, and in 1961 he took a lecturership there and began his doctoral studies; he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of London in 1963. He joined his former Singapore colleagues Guy and Peter Lancaster as a professor at the University of Calgary in 1967, where he was head of the mathematics department from 1976 to 1980. In 1973, he became Canadian citizen, and in 1976 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
In 1954, while in Singapore, Milner married Esther Stella (Estelle) Lawton, whom he had known as a London student; they had four children. Estelle died of cancer in 1975, and in 1979 Milner remarried Elizabeth Forsyth Borthwick, with whom he had another son.
Milner's interest in set theory was sparked by visits of Paul Erdős to Singapore and by meeting András Hajnal while on sabbatical in Reading. He generalized Chang's ordinal partition theorem for arbitrary finite k. He is also known for the Milner–Rado paradox. *Wik

1702 Richard Sault (???- 1702 {both his date of birth and death are unknown. He was buried on 17 May 1702 in Cambridge} ) an English mathematician, editor and translator, one of The Athenian Society, a program created by John Dutton seemingly for the sole purpose of producing the Athenian Mercury.
Sault ran a school on Broad Street near the Royal Exchange in London. He joined forces with Dutton to create the Athenian Mercury, which began publication in London twice weekly between 17 March 1690 (1691 Gregorian calendar) and 14 June 1697.
Scholars credit Dunton with initiating the advice column format. It was first used in The Athenian Mercury in 1691. He formed a "society of experts", which he called The Athenian Society, to give their knowledgeable advice on questions submitted by the magazine's readers. The magazine had an announcement at the end encouraging readers to send in their questions. Sault was the "expert" in mathematics and answered such questions as "Is One a number?" (He choose to agree with Diaphontus and call it a number) and "How do I find Perfect Numbers".
A spin-off of The Athenian Mercury, The Ladies' Mercury was also published by The Athenian Society, in 1693, for four weeks, that was the first periodical published specifically designed just for women.
About 1700 Sault moved to Cambridge, where he died in May 1702 in poverty, supported by charitable scholars. He was buried in the church of St. Andrew the Great on 17 May 1702. *Wik

1729 Samuel Clarke was an English clergyman who wrote on mechanics as well as philosophy and metaphysics. Clarke was considered the greatest metaphysician in England when Locke died in 1704. In 1706 Newton asked Clarke to translate his Opticks into Latin. When Newton died in 1727, Clarke was offered the position as master of the Royal Mint but he turned it down, stating that it was not consistent with his role as a clergyman. Although most of his publications were on religion and metaphysics, one of his last works was On the proportion of force to velocity in bodies in motion published a year before his death. He died in the rectory of his church of St James's, Westminster, and was buried five days later in the chancel of the church. *SAU

1765 Alexis Clairaut (sometimes Clairault) was a French mathematician who worked to confirm the Newton-Huygens belief that the Earth was flattened at the poles. He was a child prodigy was studying calculus at age 10 and was admitted to the Academy of Sciences at age 18. He was the first person to estimate the mass of Venus to a close value. He also calculated the return date of Halley's comet. In about 1737, Pierre de Maupertuis led an expedition (including Clairaut) to measure a degree along a meridian in Lapland, while Bouguer and La Condamine went to Peru. The results, even before the Peru expedition had returned, showed that Newton was correct in predicting that the earth was flattened at the poles. He published the results in Théorie de la figure de la Terre in 1743.(various)
A nice brief summary of Clairaut's life and works is here.
Also file this one under "died near birthday".. he was born May 7. (also see 1749 above)

1913 Heinrich Martin Weber (5 May 1842, Heidelberg, Germany – 17 May 1913, Strassburg, Germany, now Strasbourg, France) Weber's main work was in algebra, number theory, analysis and applications of analysis to mathematical physics. This seems a contradiction in terms, for we have now almost said that Weber's main work spans the whole spectrum of mathematics. In fact this is not far from the truth for Weber work was characterised by its breadth across a wide range of topics.*SAU
Weber was born in Heidelberg, Baden, and entered the University of Heidelberg in 1860. In 1866 he became a privatdozent, and in 1869 he was appointed as extraordinary professor at that school. Weber also taught in Zurich at the Federal Polytechnic Institute, today the ETH Zurich, at the University of Königsberg, and at the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg. His final post was at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Universität Straßburg, Alsace-Lorraine, where he died.

1916 Boris Borisovich Golitsyn (2 Mar 1862; 17 May 1916 at age 54) (Prince) Russian physicist known for his work on methods of earthquake observations and on the construction of seismographs. He invented the first effective electromagnetic seismograph in 1906. A seismometer of this type picks up earthquake waves with a pendulum that supports a coil of insulated wire between the poles of a magnet rigidly linked to the earth. The relative motion between the magnet and the coil caused by tremors in the earth generates corresponding electric currents in the coil. The currents can be amplified to operate a pen recorder. *TIS

2001 Jacques-Louis Lions (3 May 1928 – 17 May 2001) was a French mathematician who made contributions to the theory of partial differential equations and to stochastic control, among other areas. He received the SIAM's John Von Neumann prize in 1986. Lions is listed as an ISI highly cited researcher. Lions was elected President of the International Mathematical Union in 1991 and also received the Prize of Japan that same year. In 1992, the University of Houston awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. He was elected president of the French Academy of Sciences in 1996. He has left a considerable body of work, among this more than 400 scientific articles, 20 volumes of mathematics that were translated into English and Russian, and major contributions to several collective works, including the 4000 pages of the monumental Mathematical analysis and numerical methods for science and technology (in collaboration with Robert Dautray), as well as the Handbook of numerical analysis in 7 volumes (with Philippe G. Ciarlet).
His son Pierre-Louis Lions is also a well-known mathematician who was awarded a Fields Medal in 1994.*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