homec200-300 Diophantus, a 3rd
century Hellenistic mathematician, wrote a series of classical texts
on Algebra called Arithmetica.
(SFEC, 4/5/98, Z1
1519 May 2, Artist Leonardo da
Vinci (67) died at Cloux, France. In 1994 A. Richard Turner wrote
"Inventing Leonardo," a history of Leonardo legends. In 2004 Bulent
Atalay authored “Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of
Leonardo da Vinci."
(TL-MB, 1988, p.11)(AP, 5/2/97)(NH, 5/97,
p.58)(MC, 5/2/02)(Econ, 5/15/04, p.80)
1609 Mar, John Dee (b.1527),
English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator,
imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, died about this
time. Dec 1608 is also given as his time of death.
1650 Feb 11, Rene Descartes
(b.1596), French mathematician and philosopher: "I think therefore I
am", died in Stockholm. [see Feb 1]
(Dr, 7/20/96, supl p.1)(MC, 2/11/02)
1673 The most important of
Christian Huygens' written works, the "Horologium Oscillatorium,"
was published in Paris. It discussed the mathematics surrounding
pendulum motion and the law of centrifugal force for uniform
1687 Jul 5, The first volume of
Isaac Newton's "Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica"
("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy") was published in
Latin by Edmund Halley. His invention of differential and integral
calculus is here presented. Here also are stated Newton’s laws of
motion, that obliterated the Aristotelian concept of inertia. 1)
Every physical body continues in its state of rest, unless it is
compelled to change that state by a force or forces impressed upon
it. 2) A change of motion is proportional to the force impressed
upon the body and is made in the direction of the straight line in
which the force is impressed. 3) To every action there is always
opposed an equal reaction. Book Three of the Principia opens with
two pages headed "Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy." There are four
rules as follows: 1) We are to admit no more causes of natural
things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain the
appearances. [A restatement of Ockham’s Razor: "What can be done
with fewer is done in vain with more."] 2) Therefore to the same
natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.
3) The qualities of bodies which are found to belong to all bodies
within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the
universal qualities of bodies whatsoever. 4) In experimental
philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general
induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true
notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined, till
such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made
more accurate, or liable to exceptions.
(V.D.-H.K.p.207-10)(http://tinyurl.com/6772jj)(Econ, 4/21/12, p.95)
1706 Pi, the 16th letter of the
Greek alphabet, was 1st used as a mathematical symbol by William
Jones of Wales. Pi represents the approximate ratio of a circle’s
circumference to its diameter.
(SFEC, 3/14/99, p.C5)(WSJ, 3/15/05, p.B1)
1761 Apr 17, Thomas Bayes
(b.1702), English theologian and mathematician, died. He established
a mathematical basis for probability inference.
1783 The great Swiss
mathematician Leonhard Euler introduced latin squares as a new kind
of magic squares. It later formed the basis for the “sudoku" number
(www.cut-the-knot.org/arithmetic/latin.shtml)(Econ, 5/21/05, p.67)
1802 Aug 5, Niels Henrik Abel
(d.1829), mathematician, was born in Frindoe, Norway.
(Internet)(SFC, 3/26/04, p.A15)
1813 Apr 10, Joseph-Louis
Lagrange (b.1736), Italian-born mathematician, died in Paris. He is
considered to be the greatest mathematician of the eighteenth
1824 Niels Henrik Abel
(1802-1829), Norwegian mathematician, proved that equations of the
5th order cannot generally be solved.
(Econ, 5/15/04, p.80)
1829 Apr 6, Niels Henrik Abel
(b.1802), Norwegian mathematician, died of tuberculosis. After him
comes the term Abelian group, an algebraic commutative group. In
2004 Peter Pesic authored “Abel’s Proof: An Essay on the Sources and
Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability."
(AHD, 1971, p.2)(SFC, 3/26/04, p.A15)(Econ,
1832 May 31, Evariste Galois
(b.1811), French mathematician who developed a general theory of
equations, died from wounds suffered in a duel. In 2005 Mario Livio
authored “The Equation That couldn’t Be Solved: How Mathematical
Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry."
1852 Apr 12, Carl Louis
Ferdinand von Lindemann (d.1939), German mathematician, was born.
1865 Sep 2, William Rowan
Hamilton, Ireland's greatest man of science who made contributions
in the study of optics and applications of algebra to geometry,
1870 Sophus Lie (1842-1899),
Norwegian mathematician, became a media sensation after he was found
outside Paris with a backpack filled with undeciperable mathematical
notes and arrested as a spy.
1871 Oct 18, Charles Babbage
(b.1792), English mathematician and inventor of a calculating
machine, died. In 2001 Doron Swade authored “The Difference Engine:
Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer."
(www.thocp.net/biographies/babbage_charles.html)(WSJ, 3/7/09, p.W8)
1899 Feb 18, Sophus Lie
(b.1842), Norwegian mathematician, died.
1900 Aug, David Hilbert
(d.1943), a German mathematician, presented a challenge list of 23
equations at a meeting of the Int’l. Congress of Mathematicians in
Paris. In 2000 three of the equations still remained unsolved.
(SFC, 5/25/00, p.A2)(SFEC, 8/27/00, BR p.1)
1900 Louis Bachelier
(1870-1946), financial economist, wrote a dissertation in
Paris, "Theorie de la Spéculation." This and his subsequent work
(esp. 1906, 1913) anticipated much of what was to become standard
fare in financial theory: efficient market hypothesis, random walk
of financial market prices, Brownian motion and martingales. He was
a student of French mathematician Henri Poincare. Bachelier’s
insights later underpinned the Black-Scholes option pricing model.
(WSJ, 7/16/03, p.D8)(Econ, 12/19/09, p.130)
1906 Apr 28, Kurt Gödel
(d.1978), Austrian mathematician, was born in the Moravian city of
Brno. Godel later developed his incompleteness theorem showing that
within any logical system, no matter how rigidly structured, there
are always questions that cannot be answered with certainty,
contradictions that may be discovered, and errors that may lurk.
(V.D.-H.K.p.340)(SFC, 6/14/05, p.D2)
1911 Karl Pearson (1857-1936),
English mathematician and later regarded as the father of modern
statistics, founded the first statistics department at Univ. College
1912 Apr 29, Henri Poincare
(d.1912), French mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, died. He
investigated the idea of space and led to the notion that space is
too complex for mathematics. In 2002 Russian mathematician Grigory
Perelman solved the 1904 Poincare Conjecture. In 2007 Donal O’Shea
authored “The Poincare Conjecture."
1914 Apr 19, Charles Sanders
Peirce (b.1839), American polymath, philosopher and scientist, died
in Milford, Pa. In 1883 he used randomization in a psychological
experiment at Johns Hopkins Univ.
1920 Apr 26, Srinivasa
Ramanujan (b.1887), Indian mathematician, died in India. In 1913
English mathematician G.H. Hardy recognized his brilliant work, and
asked Ramanujan to study under him at Cambridge. In 2007 British
playwright Simon McBurney created “A Disappearing Number," for his
theater group “Complicite," based on Ramanujan’s 5 years a
1936 The 1st Fields Medal in
mathematics, the mathematics equivalent to the Nobel Prize, was
awarded to Lars Valerian Ahlfors (1907-1996), Finish-born
mathematician and Jesse Douglas of MIT. At the 1924 International
Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, a resolution was adopted that
at each ICM, two gold medals should be awarded to recognize
outstanding mathematical achievement. Professor J. C. Fields, a
Canadian mathematician who was Secretary of the 1924 Congress, later
donated funds establishing the medals, which were named in his
1937 E.T. Bell authored “Men of
(WSJ, 11/11/06, p.P10)
1938 Frank Benford, a physicist
working at General Electric, formulated a theory known as Benford’s
Law. It laid out the statistical frequency with which the numbers
1-9 appear in any set of random numbers. In 1995 a professor of
accounting used the obscure theory to catch tax cheats, check
forgers, and embezzlers.
(WSJ, 7/10/95, p. B-1)(Econ, 12/15/12, p.76)
1941 Jan 11, Emanuel Lasker
(b.1868), German mathematician and chess player, died. In 1927 he
authored “Lasker’s Manual of Chess."
1943 Feb 14, David Hilbert
(b.1862), German mathematician, died. He is considered the father of
1947 Dec 1, Godfrey Harold
Hardy (b.1877), English mathematician, died. Non-mathematicians
usually know G.H. Hardy for “A Mathematician's Apology," his essay
from 1940 on the aesthetics of mathematics.
1954 Jun 7, Alan Turing
(b.1912), English mathematician, died of suicide. Turing, a
homosexual, was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency and forced to
take estrogen injections. In 2006 David Leavitt authored "The Man
Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer. In
2009 British PM Gordon Brown apologized for the "inhumane" treatment
of Alan Turing.
1966 Paul Cohen (1934-2007),
Stanford professor, won the Fields Medal, the top prize in
(SFC, 3/30/07, p.B6)
1972 Hewlett-Packard introduced
the first scientific handheld calculator, the HP-35, which made the
1983-84 Shiing-Shen Chern (1911-2004), US Berkeley
mathematician, was awarded the Wolf Prize in mathematics, the
equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He reshaped differential geometry.
(SFC, 12/9/04, p.B7)
1987 Dr. Stephen Wolfram
(b.1959), a British scientist, set up Wolfram Research with funds
from a MacArthur “genius" award that he received in 1981. The
company’s first product was Mathematic, a piece of software that
automates mathematical processes.
(Econ, 6/4/11, p.30)
2000 United Parcel Service
(UPS) introduced an algorithm called VOLCANO (Volume, Location and
Aircraft Network Optimizer), which was jointly developed with MIT.
(Econ, 9/15/07, p.86)
2001 Aug 23, The Norwegian
government established the Abel Prize in mathematics in honor of the
Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829).
2001 Bob Palais of the
University of Utah authored a watershed essay titled: "Pi is Wrong!"
He argued that we should be celebrating and symbolizing the value
that is equal to approximately 6.28, the ratio of a circle's
circumference to its radius, and not to the 3.14'ish ratio of its
circumference to its diameter. In 2010 Palais' followers gave the
new constant, 2pi, a name: tau.
2003 Neil Turok created the
African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town, South
(Econ, 5/25/13, p.84)
2005 May 13, George Bernard
Dantzig (90), Stanford math professor, died in Palo Alto, Ca. His
discoveries included linear programming and the Simplex Algorithm,
which provide means for solving complicated problems with many
variables. They are used to find efficient means for producing
(SSFC, 5/15/05, p.B3)
2006 Aug 22, In Spain Grigory
Perelman (40), a reclusive Russian, won a Fields Medal, the math
world's highest honor, for solving a problem that has stumped some
of the discipline's greatest minds for a century, but he refused the
2007 Mar 18, Scientists said
that after four years of intensive collaboration, 18 top
mathematicians and computer scientists from the United States and
Europe have successfully mapped E8, one of the largest and most
complicated structures in mathematics. E8 was discovered over a
century ago, in 1887, and until now, no one thought the structure
could ever be understood.
2008 Aug 13, Henri Cartan
(b.1904), French mathematician, died in Paris. In 1956 he and Samuel
Eilenberg wrote a fundamental textbook on homological algebra.
(SFC, 8/25/08, p.B3)
2009 Mar 12, The US House of
Representatives passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March
14, 2009 as National Pi Day.
2009 May 28, Swedish media
reported that a 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden has
cracked a maths puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300
years. Mohamed Altoumaimi has found a formula to explain and
simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations
named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli.
2010 Mar 24, Norway announced
that John Tate, an American professor at the University of Texas,
Austin, has won the 6 million kroner ($1 million) Abel Prize for
mathematics. The prize jury praised Tate as "a prime architect" of
number theory, a branch of mathematics that has played a key role in
the development of modern computers.
2010 May 22, Martin Gardner
(b.1914), American writer on mathematics, died. His books included
“The Annotated Alice" (1960).
(Econ, 6/5/10, p.94)
2010 Oct 14, Benoit Mandelbrot
(b.1924), the father of fractal geometry, died in Cambridge, Mass.
His seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature," was published in
1982. He was born to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936
his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of
France, where he tended horses and fixed tools. In 2012 His wife
completed his memoir: “The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific
10/23/10, p.106)(Econ, 10/27/12, p.84)
2010 Marcus du Sautoy authored
“The Number Mysteries: A Mathematical Odyssey Through Everyday
(Econ, 7/31/10, p.68)
2011 Mar 15, In California Evan
O’Dorney (17) of Danville beat 39 other finalists to win the Intel
Science Talent Search. His mathematics entry was titled “Continued
Fraction Convergents and Linear fractional transformations."
(SFC, 3/16/11, p.C1)
2011 Mar 23, Professor John
Milnor of Stony Brook University in New York won the 6 million
kroner ($1 million) Abel Prize for mathematics.
2013 Apr 19, Kenneth Appel
(80), American mathematician of maps, died. In 1976 he and Wolfgang
Haken used computer power to prove that four colors were sufficient
to ensure that no adjacent countries on a map would be the same
(Econ, 5/4/13, p.90)
2014 Mar 26, The Norwegian
Academy of Science and Letters said Russian mathematician Yakov G.
Sinai (78) has won this year's $1 million Abel Prize in mathematics.
2014 Aug 13, At the Int’l.
Congress of mathematicians in South Korea, Stanford Prof. Maryam
Mirzakhani, an Iranian-born mathematician, became the first woman to
be awarded the Fields Medal for her work in understanding the
mathematical symmetry of curved surfaces and saddle-shaped spaces.
(SFC, 8/14/14, p.D1)
2014 Nov 13, Alexander
Grothendieck (86), French mathematician, died. He was an opinionated
and reclusive giant of 20th-century mathematics who shunned
accolades and supported pacifist and environmental causes. In 1966,
he was awarded the Fields Medal, but refused to travel to Moscow to
accept it for political reasons.