mathematics

The Life and Work of Philippe de La Hire

The Life and Work of Philippe de La Hire

On March 18, 1640, French mathematician, astronomer, architect, and key figure in the Académie royale des sciences Philippe de La Hire was born. Educated as an Artist Philippe de La Hire was educated as an artist and became skilled in drawing and painting early. It is believed that de La Hire received no formal education in an official school even though his father was probably teaching him at home. At the age of…
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Frank P. Ramsey and the Ramsey Theory

Frank P. Ramsey and the Ramsey Theory

On February 22, 1903, precocious British philosopher, mathematician and economist Frank Plumpton Ramsey was born. Although he died already at age 26, he had made significant contributions to logic, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language and decision theory. He remains noted for his Ramsey Theory, a mathematical study of combinatorial objects in which a certain degree of order must occur as the scale of the object becomes large. “The first problem I…
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Lejeune Dirichlet and the Mathematical Function

Lejeune Dirichlet and the Mathematical Function

On February 13, 1805, German mathematician Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet was born. Dirichlet is best known for his papers on conditions for the convergence of trigonometric series and the use of the series to represent arbitrary functions. He also proposed in 1837 the modern definition of a mathematical function. “In mathematics as in other fields, to find one self lost in wonder at some manifestation is frequently the half of a new discovery.”…
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Euclid of Alexandria – the Father of Geometry

Euclid of Alexandria – the Father of Geometry

At about 330 BC, Euclid of Alexandria was born, who often is referred to as the Father of Geometry. His Elements is one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics, serving as the main textbook for teaching mathematics (especially geometry) from the time of its publication until the late 19th or early 20th century. In the Elements, Euclid deduced the principles of what is now called Euclidean geometry from…
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Ernst Kummer and the Introduction of Ideal Numbers

Ernst Kummer and the Introduction of Ideal Numbers

On January 29, 1810, German mathematician Ernst Eduard Kummer was born. One of his major contributions is the introduction of ideal numbers, which are defined as a special subgroup of a ring, extended the fundamental theorem of arithmetic to complex number fields.He also discovered the fourth order surface based on the singular surface of the quadratic line complex. This Kummer surface has 16 isolated conical double points and 16 singular tangent planes.…
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Alfred Tarski and the Undefinability of Truth

Alfred Tarski and the Undefinability of Truth

On January 14, 1902, Polish-American mathematician and logician Alfred Tarski was born. A prolific author he is best known for his work on model theory, metamathematics, and algebraic logic, he also contributed to abstract algebra, topology, geometry, measure theory, mathematical logic, set theory, and analytic philosophy. For my Semantic Web Technologies lecture series I always introduce my students to model-theoretic semantics as means to enable a formal representation of meaning for languages. I…
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Agner Erlang and the Mathematics of Telecommunication Traffic

Agner Erlang and the Mathematics of Telecommunication Traffic

On January 1, 1878, Danish mathematician, statistician and engineer Agner Krarup Erlang was born, who invented the fields of traffic engineering and queueing theory. He developed mathematical theories applying the theory of probability, while working for the Copenhagen Telephone Company. He provided significant insights for planning the operation of automatic telephone exchanges that proved so useful that his formulas were used by telephone companies in other countries. Agner Erlang – Youth and Education…
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A great man whose only fault was being a woman – Émilie du Châtelet

A great man whose only fault was being a woman – Émilie du Châtelet

On December 17, 1706, French mathematician, physicist, and author Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet was born. Her major achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton‘s work Principia Mathematica, which still is the standard French translation of Newton‘s work today. Philosopher and author Voltaire, one of her lovers, once declared in a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia that du Châtelet…
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Hypatia – the first Woman in Mathematics

Hypatia – the first Woman in Mathematics

The Neoplatonian philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, Egypt, was the first well-documented woman in mathematics. Her actual date of birth is unknown, although considered somewhen between 350 and 370 AD. She was the head of the Platonist school at Alexandria and additionally taught philosophy and astronomy. Hypatia’s Early Life There is little news about Hypatia’s life and work. Hypatia’s father was the astronomer and mathematician Theon of Alexandria, the last scientist known by…
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George Boole – The Founder of Modern Logics

George Boole – The Founder of Modern Logics

On December 8, 1864, British mathematician and logician George Boole passed away. He is best known as the inventor of the prototype of what is now called Boolean logic, which became the basis of the modern digital computer. Thus, Boole also is regarded as one of the founders of the field of computer science. “It appeared to me that, although Logic might be viewed with reference to the idea of quantity, it…
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