mathematics

William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

On June 24, 1909, English mathematician William George Penney, Baron Penney , was born. He is acknowledged as having had a leading role in the development of Britain’s nuclear programme, a clandestine programme started in 1942 during World War II which produced the first British atomic bomb in 1952. William Penney – Early Years William Penney was raised in Sheerness, Kent, and attended the local technical school in Colchester where he completed his technical…
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Hermann Minkowski and the four-dimensional Space-Time

Hermann Minkowski and the four-dimensional Space-Time

On June 22, 1864, German mathematician Hermann Minkowski was born. Minkowski developed the geometry of numbers and used geometrical methods to solve problems in number theory, mathematical physics, and the theory of relativity. But he is perhaps best known for his work in relativity, in which he showed in 1907 that his former student Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity can be understood geometrically as a theory of four-dimensional space–time, since known as the “Minkowski…
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Abraham de Moivre and the Doctrine of Chances

Abraham de Moivre and the Doctrine of Chances

On May 26, 1667, French mathematician Abraham de Moivre was born. De Moivre is best known for de Moivre‘s formula, one of those that link complex numbers and trigonometry, and for his work on the normal distribution and probability theory. He was a friend of Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, and James Stirling. De Moivre wrote a book on probability theory, The Doctrine of Chances, said to have been prized by gamblers. He…
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John Charles Fields and the Fields Medal

John Charles Fields and the Fields Medal

On May 14, 1863, Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields was born. He is the founder of the Fields Medal for outstanding achievement in mathematics. First awarded in 1936, the medal has been awarded since 1950 every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians to two to four recipients under the age of 40. John Charles Fields – Early Years Born in Hamilton, Ontario to Harriet Bowes and John Charles Field, a leather…
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Vito Volterra and Functional Analysis

Vito Volterra and Functional Analysis

On May 3, 1860, Italian mathematician and physicist Vito Volterra was born. He is known for his contributions to mathematical biology and integral equations. Moreover, he is considered as one of the founders of functional analysis. “Empires die, but Euclid’s theorems keep their youth forever” — Vito Volterra Youth and Education Vito Volterra was born in Ancona, then part of the Papal States, as son of Abramo Volterra, a cloth merchant, into…
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John Arbuthnot and the Laws of Chance

John Arbuthnot and the Laws of Chance

On April 29, 1667, Scottish physician, satirist and polymath John Arbuthnot was baptized. He is best remembered for his contributions to mathematics, his membership in the Scriblerus Club (where he inspired both Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as well as Alexander Pope), and for inventing the figure of John Bull. He published Of the Laws of Chance (1692), the first work on probability published in English, being his translation of a work by…
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Felix Klein and the Klein-Bottle

Felix Klein and the Klein-Bottle

On April 25, 1849, German mathematician and mathematics educator Felix Klein was born. Klein is known for his work in group theory, complex analysis, non-Euclidean geometry, and on the connections between geometry and group theory. His 1872 Erlangen Program, classifying geometries by their underlying symmetry groups, was a hugely influential synthesis of much of the mathematics of the day. Klein also devised the Klein-bottle, a one-sided surface which, if traveled upon, could…
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John Graunt and the Science of Demography

John Graunt and the Science of Demography

On April 18, 1674, English herberdasher and statistician John Graunt passed away. Graunt is considered by many historians to have founded the science of demography as the statistical study of human populations. For his published analysis of the parish records of christenings and deaths, he was made a charter member of the Royal Society. “Having always observed that most of them who constantly took in the weekly Bills of Mortality made little other use of them…
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Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and the White Gold

Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and the White Gold

On April 10, 1719, German mathematician, physicist, physician, and philosopher Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus was born. Among others, he is credited being the first European to discover the secret of the creation of porcelain in 1708. Certainly, the Meissen factory, established 1710 with its director Johann Friedrich Böttger, was the first to produce porcelain in Europe in large quantities and since the recipe was kept a trade secret by Böttger for his company, experiments…
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William Brouncker’s Approximation of Pi

William Brouncker’s Approximation of Pi

On April 5, 1684, English mathematician William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker passed away. Brouncker introduced Brouncker‘s formula, a development of 4/π in a generalized continued fraction, and was the first President of the Royal Society. £1200 for a Peerage Brouncker was born in Castlelyons, County Cork, the elder son of William Brouncker, 1st Viscount Brouncker and Winifred, daughter of Sir William Leigh of Newnham. His father was created a Viscount in the…
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