mathematics

John Napier and the Discovery of Logarithms

John Napier and the Discovery of Logarithms

On April 4, 1617, Scottish mathematician, physicist, astronomer and astrologer John Napier of Merchiston, the 8th Laird of Merchistoun passed away. John Napier is best known as the discoverer of logarithms. He was also the inventor of the so-called “Napier’s bones“, a kind of abacus for calculation of products and quotients of numbers. Napier also made common the use of the decimal point in arithmetic and mathematics. “A Logarithmic Table is a…
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Nicolas de Condorcet and the Condorcet method

Nicolas de Condorcet and the Condorcet method

On March 28, 1794, French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist Nicolas de Condorcet died a mysterious death in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities. He is probably best known for the Condorcet method, which in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutionalism,…
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Ernst Engel and Engel’s Law of Microeconomics

Ernst Engel and Engel’s Law of Microeconomics

On March 26, 1821, German statistician Ernst Engel was born. Engel was head of the Prussian Statistical Bureau (1860-82) and is best known for the “Engel curve,” or Engel‘s law, which states that the proportion of expenditure on food will fall as income rises, i.e. food is a necessary good. He who attempts to draw any conclusion whatever as to the nation’s wealth or poverty from the mere fact of a favorable…
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Joseph Sauveur and the Science of Acoustics

Joseph Sauveur and the Science of Acoustics

On March 24, 1653, French mathematician and physicist Joseph Sauveur was born. Sauveur is known principally for his detailed studies on acoustics, a term he also has coined for the first time. Joseph Sauveur – Early Years Joseph Sauveur was the son of a provincial notary in La Fléche, France. Despite a hearing and speech impairment that kept him totally mute until he was seven, Joseph benefited from a fine education at…
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Number Theory, Topology, and Fractals with Wacław Sierpiński

Number Theory, Topology, and Fractals with Wacław Sierpiński

On March 14, 1882, Polish mathematician Wacław Franciszek Sierpiński was born. Sierpiński is known for contributions to set theory, research on the axiom of choice and the continuum hypothesis, number theory, theory of functions and topology. Three well-known fractals are named after him (the Sierpiński triangle, the Sierpiński carpet and the Sierpiński curve), as are Sierpiński numbers and the associated Sierpiński problem. Wacław Sierpiński – Early Years in Russian occupied Poland Wacław…
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William Oughtred invented the Slide Rule

William Oughtred invented the Slide Rule

On March 5, 1574, English mathematician and Anglican minister William Oughtred was born. After John Napier [3] invented logarithms, and Edmund Gunter [6] created the logarithmic scales (lines, or rules) upon which slide rules are based, it was Oughtred who first used two such scales sliding by one another to perform direct multiplication and division; and he is credited as the inventor of the slide rule in 1622. William Oughtred – Early Years William Oughtred born at…
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Nikolai Lobachevsky – The Copernicus of Geometry

Nikolai Lobachevsky – The Copernicus of Geometry

On February 24, 1856, Russian mathematician and geometer Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky passed away. He is known primarily for his work on hyperbolic geometry. Lobachevsky’s main achievement is the development (independently from János Bolyai) of a non-Euclidean geometry, also referred to as Lobachevskian geometry. Nikolai Lobachevsky – Early Years Nikolai Lobachevsky was born as one of three children either in or near the city of Nizhny Novgorod in Russia in 1792 to parents…
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Richard Hamming and the Hamming Code

Richard Hamming and the Hamming Code

On February 11, 1915, American mathematician Richard Wesley Hamming was born. Hamming’s work had many implications for computer science and telecommunications. His contributions include the Hamming code (which makes use of a Hamming matrix), the Hamming window, Hamming numbers, sphere-packing (or Hamming bound), and the Hamming distance. “The purpose of computation is insight, not numbers.” – Richard Wesley Hamming (1962) as quoted in [2] Richard Hamming – Youth and Education Richard Wesley…
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The Marquis de L’Hôpital and the Analysis of the Infinitely Small

The Marquis de L’Hôpital and the Analysis of the Infinitely Small

On February 2, 1704, French mathematician Guillaume François Antoine, Marquis de L’Hospital or L’Hôpital passed away. L’Hôpital wrote the first textbook on calculus Analyse des infiniment petits pour l’intelligence des lignes courbes (Analysis of the infinitely small for the intelligence of curved lines, 1st ed., 1696, 2nd ed. 1715), which consisted of the lectures of his teacher Johann Bernoulli.[2] Guillaume de L’Hôpital – Early Years Hôpital came from a distinguished noble family.…
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Giovanni Alfonso Borelli and the Science of Biomechanics

Giovanni Alfonso Borelli and the Science of Biomechanics

On January 28, 1608, Renaissance Italian physiologist, physicist, and mathematician Giovanni Alfonso Borelli was born. Trained in mathematics, Borelli also made extensive studies of Jupiter’s moons, the mechanics of animal locomotion and, in microscopy, of the constituents of blood. He also used microscopy to investigate the stomatal movement of plants, and undertook studies in medicine and geology. “No sensible person will deny that the works of Nature are in the highest degree…
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