Questions tagged [biographical-details]

For questions about the details of a particular scientist's life.

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Did Kontsevich start a lecture with "one I will not define, the other nobody knows how to define, and we will be proving that they are equivalent"?

The story was circulating in early 2000s, so presumably it happened in 1990s. Kontsevich, it goes, opened a lecture course on mirror symmetry with:"This course is about two categories. One I will not ...
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Did Walter Pitts refuse to allow his name to be made publicly available?

I read on the Wikipedia page on Walter Pitts that : Pitts was also described as an eccentric, refusing to allow his name to be made publicly available. He refused all offers of advanced ...
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Did John Von Neumann hate pure mathematics that became too abstract?

John von Neumann wrote the following in his essay The Mathematician: As a mathematical discipline travels far from its empirical source, or still more, if it is a second and third generation only ...
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What events does the note at the beginning of Dialogue Concerning Two Systems refer to?

Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems opens with a seemingly sarcastic "Note to the discerning reader", beginning: Several years ago there was published in Rome a ...
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F. Schoblik's announced ''ausführliche Darstellung": a lost wrong proof of the Four Color Theorem?

In (the AMS Chelsea Publishing version of) what is perhaps the first genuine textbook on graph theory ever, Dénes Kőnig on p. 28 gives the illustration and the footnote which when translated says ...
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Where can I read Cauchy's terrible poems?

I hope that the slightly abrasive title is forgivable, as the judgement on this poetry is not mine, but Hans Freudenthal's. Here is the background: in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, there is ...
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What was Gauss's theoretical work related to his invention of the "Double-Gauss lens"?

Gauss's contributions (Dioptriche Untersuchungen, 1840) to the "classical" optical theory (Gaussian optics, i.e calculations made under the paraxial approximation) are well known, but long before he ...
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Nature of Fermat's friend Lalouvère's activities as censor?

Fermat had a friend at Toulouse named Lalouvère. Lalouvère was censor, jesuit, and mathematician (in alphabetical order). Antonella Romano writes on page 512 of her book La Contre-Réforme ...
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How did Peano come up with his space filling curve?

Wikipedia cites an earlier result of Cantor as an inspiration but I wonder if there are any previous results of some kind of recursive curve constructions that may have also "inspired" him ...
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Was Richard Feynman really awarded a patent for a nuclear Airplane and Rocket?

I've been re-reading "Surely you're Joking Mr. Feynman", and at one point he talks about how at Los Alamos they were asked to write down any idea, no matter how obvious involving nuclear technology, ...
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What happened to the undergrad students who attended the Feynman Lecture Series in 1961-63?

Note: This question was originally asked here, but I was wondering if I could get further clarification as this has truly intrigued me. In the academic years of 1962-2 and 1962-3, Richard Feynman ...
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Identification of scientists in de Gennes book

Petit Point: A Candid Portrait on the Aberrations of Science is a charming book written by the French physicist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes containing short essays on some of the prominent scientists that ...
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Did Paul Dirac believe in multiple universes?

Prominent physicist Paul Dirac proposed a hypothesis that said that constants and laws of physics would evolve with time into different constants and laws of nature. This hypothesis was used by ...
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Is there a biography of Robert Risch?

The Risch algorithm for computing symbolic integrals was developed by Robert Risch in the 1968-70 time frame. Based on the German Wikipedia article, I know that Risch was awarded a Ph.D. by U.C. ...
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How old might Emmy Noether be in this picture?

I have not found bibliographic data to show what age Noether was in this picture: And I cannot estimate well either by her clothes or her face. Can anyone here help me? In the past I have known ...
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Symbolism in illustration for a book by Riccati

Wikipedia has a jpeg of the front cover of the book Opere (1761) by Jacopo Riccati, author of the celebrated Riccati equation. What is the symbolism incorporated in this illustration? See discussion ...
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Did Einstein ever refer to the coordinate speed/velocity of light?

In modern parlance we talk about two different speeds of light in general relativity. We distinguish between the local speed of light, which is always $c$, and the coordinate speed of light, which can ...
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What is the largest academic genealogy tree that we know of?

Many famous scientists are connected by their doctorate advisor-student relations. I wonder if we know which is the largest continuous chain of famous researchers. I have checked pages like ...
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Did Ibn al-Haytham write anything about his experiments that is general enough to be seen as prefiguring the scientific method?

Ibn al-Haytham is considered one of the first experimenters. Since he was also a kind of philosopher did he write anything close in meaning and generality to the scientific method?
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How did Ruffini manage to extend the methods of Lagrange in order to "prove" the insolvability of the general quintic equation?

Since Lagrange published his Reflections papers during the early 1770s — around 30 years before Ruffini took up and extended the subject — I was wondering if there were any results that were ...
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What are the context and motivation for Gauss's study of the "Pothenot problem"?

My question refers to p.307-335 of volume 8 of Gauss's werke, which are part of a section of volume 8 which deals with Gauss's applications of complex numbers for geometry. The pages mentioned are ...
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Textbooks used by Oliver Heaviside

Oliver Heaviside achieved a very high level in mathematics and physics by self-study, starting from a modest school-level math, and working alone in his room, without a tutor. Is it known what ...
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A portrait of Bombelli

Is there any known portrait of Rafael Bombelli? I don't think so, but if you visit his MacTutor biography, you will see there this picture: It is clear to me that this cannot possibly be a picture of ...
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3 votes
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Was Alexis Clairaut the first to discover Clairaut's theorem for the variation of gravity on spheroids?

My question refers to the problem of the figure of the earth, and is intended to establish if Isaac Newton was or was not the first to discover the equation for the variation of gravity with latitude ...
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Why do so many books attach such importance to Newton's solution to the problem of orthogonal trajectories?

The question is about the problem of orthogonal trajectories which newton solved in 1716 (in response to Leibniz's challenge) by deriving the general differential equation which the orthogonal family ...
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Are there primitive Pythagoras triplets (in integers), being with all the terms as powerful numbers?

I'm searching a trusted historical sources about primitive Pythagoras triplets as being powerful integers (numerical examples), or a notable work of impossibility of such a triples, but couldn't find ...
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Did Gauss work on the theory of optical abberations?

I wonder if Gauss gave mathematical expressions for abberations in some of his optical papers (papers others than his Dioptrische Untersuchungen)? I know that he worked out the theory of Gaussian ...
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Who is Robert H. Cowen, the eponym of Cowen's Lemma?

Context: I have arrived at Section $7$ of chapter $4$ of Smullyan and Fitting's Set Theory and the Continuum Problem during my ongoing self-study odyssey. This section raises and proves Cowen's ...
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2 votes
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Is C.S Peirce really an independent co-discoverer of the first-order logic?

According to this article copies of Frege's Begriffsschrift were both present during the early 1880s (before Peirce published his works on first-order logic) at the Johns Hopkins University, where ...
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Was Becquerel's discovery of radioactivity inspired by his father?

Becquerel was awarded the Nobel prize for his discovery of radioactivity. He was researching phosphoresence and decided one day to place the stuff he used in a drawer to keep it out of the sun. He put ...
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Kurt Gödel: a biography

I'm looking for a well-written biographical book about Kurt Gödel. Any titles you'd recommend?
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What was Newton's road to his discovery of "Puiseux series" and "Newton polygon"?

In my opinion, one of Isaac Newton's greatest achievements in the "purer" aspects of mathematics was his discovery of Puiseux series; power series with fractional exponents. According to p.6 ...
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Did Rydberg ever learn of Bohr's quantum-mechanical explanation of his formula?

The Rydberg formula on the wavelengths of a spectral line in chemical elements was first stated empirically in 1888 by Johannes Rydberg. A theoretical explanation of the formula wouldn't arive until ...
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Why was F. W. Lanchester's first aeronautical paper rejected by the Physical Society?

Lanchester was arguably the first to somewhat accurately describe the physical mechanism for the generation of lift. In 1894, the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society read his paper, ...
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When did William (Bill) Burke, who discovered the first actual bug, live and die?

Grace Hopper is frequently credited with finding the first actual bug. In fact, she just popularized the story of how William (Bill) Burke found the bug in the Mark II computer and documented it. I'...
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What is the history of why electrical circuit diagrams list positive as the direction of electron flow?

In the study of electrical engineering circuit diagrams it is usually the norm to show the + ( positive ) polarity as the direction of motion. However in reality the electron is the elementary ...
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How did Gauss arrived at the formula for the circumference of circle in hyperbolic geometry?

My question refers to Gauss's hyperbolic sine expression for a circle circumference in hyperbolic geometry with constant negative curvature. In particular, what specific conceptual developements it ...
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What were the scientific principles of Gauss's photometer?

I read in several sites that Gauss made several contributions to technology, and that his main contributions were: the heliotrope, improvements of several optical devices (telescopes, introduction of ...
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Edward Lorenz and sensitivity to initial conditions

Lore says that Edward Lorenz found out that atmosphere fluidodynamics was very sensitive to initial conditions when he stopped a numerical simulation, dutifully copied the partial results, and after ...
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Why did Lagrange say that Cauchy should learn literature before mathematics?

From Bruno Belhoste's Augustin-Louis Cauchy — A Biography: Even if we should doubt the remark Valson attributed to Lagrange, it is likely that he did advise Louis-François about to his son's ...
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Are there any gaussian contributions to ballistics?

Entry 93 in Gauss's famous mathematical diary states - "solution of a problem in ballistics". What is the problem in ballistics that Gauss solved? can someone give a reliable source to what Gauss ...
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What were Archimedes's improvements to the screw pump?

In order to understand my motivation to answer this question, I'll remark that Vitruvius said that the screw was inclined by the small angle of a 3:4:5 triangle. So it means that perhaps there was ...
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What is the complete list of Gauss's contributions to topology and knot theory?

I read in Gauss's biography - Gauss:Titan of Science, in the section "milestones" that "in particular, he found in a note dated December, 1844, the numerous forms which closed curves with four knots ...
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Was C.S Peirce in his abductive reasoning influenced by the generalization from special cases that is used by mathematicians?

I am reading some random bits from Peirce's collected works and they give me the impression that Peirce tried to integrate every(or nearly every) major scientific and mathematical concept which he was ...
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Who was G. H. Hardy's Tripos coach?

There is conflicting opinion as to who was Hardy's Tripos coach. The Wikipedia page on Hardy claims it was R. A. Herman, a claim that appears to be backed up by Leonard Roth in his article "Old ...
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1 vote
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What was the poetic duel Einstein had with Lilly Rona about?

Felix Ehrenhaft was married to Lilly Rona. Einstein and Ehrenhaft regularly met and discussed about magnetic poles or fractional charges. Einstein didn't agree and used his authority to keep Ehrenhaft ...
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1 vote
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What were the likely lives of the highly creative or intellectually gifted people in declining or primitive civilizations?

People living in certain regions throughout history produced little to none recorded intellectual achievements. Assuming that highly creative individuals existed in these regions, are there any ...
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1 vote
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What was the first randomized experiment that was ever conducted?

C.S Peirce is credited by wikipedia with the invention of randomized experiments. What was C.S Peirce's contribution to randomized experiments exactly if there were such experiments before Peirce? How ...
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Is there any indication of what mathematics Trotsky studied?

In Isaac Deutscher's, The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921, he writes of the youthful Trotsky: His stay in Odessa ended in 1896. A realschule normally had seven forms but St. Paul's had only six so ...
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1 vote
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It was Edouard Lucas who is the eponym of Lucas Sequence, and not Henry Lucas, yes?

Just making sure of this. I've just found this statement in the Collins Dictionary of Mathematics (E.J. Borowski and J.M. Borwein, 1989) in the entry for "Lucas Numbers". "(Named after ...
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