Questions tagged [biographical-details]

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

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Famous messy scientists

Which scientists were known to be messy? I know of Albert Einstein: And of Jean Piaget: Are there other examples?
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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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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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What topological ideas did Gauss introduce to his student Möbius?

Recently I found a website with good historical information about the contributions of Gauss to Analysis situs (the old term for topology). The site is in German so I made a Google translate to ...
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Did Kepler influence Fermat?

On page 347 in his "Mathematical Thought, volume 1", Morris Kline writes: "The work on the third class of problems, finding the maxima and minima of functions, may be said to begin with an ...
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Name of a XIXth-century German scientist from the University of Berlin

In December 1892, the french mathematician Charles Hermite had a jubilee celebration. He received a number of letters and telegrams. One of them is from the members of the University of Berlin, see ...
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When did Grace Murray Hopper say "The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from?"

When did Grace Murray Hopper say "The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from?" This quote is attributed to her in many places (including in one of my books), ...
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Was Gauss aware of the non-euclidean implications of his work on moduler forms?

Until recently, i thought that the first to observe the connection between modular forms and the hyperbolic plane (a model of non-euclidean geometry) was Felix Klein. But in the last week i read the ...
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Great physicists with no mentors

I often check biographies of physicists and at one point or another in the beginning of their careers they have the opportunity to be mentored by other and often also great scientists. But, I know for ...
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Citation of Brouwer needed

In a letter to Zeilberger the late Alexander Zenkin states that Brouwer called set theory "a pathological incident in history of mathematics from which future generations will be horrified". (See ...
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What was the mechanical principle of Leibniz's "integraph"?

For a very long time I've searched in the internet what was the actual integrating device which Leibniz designed in 1693. Yesterday I found the answer - the instrument which Leibniz devised is the ...
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Did Leibniz also design analog computers?

My question is based on the information that appears in several websites, according to which I found three examples of a kind of instrument that was probably an analog computer. The first one ...
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7 votes
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Did Gauss know Jacobi's four squares theorem?

In pp. 283–285 of volume 2 of Dickson's “history of the theory of numbers” appear several formulas of striking similarity: some of them are stated by Gauss (p. 283) and some are stated by Jacobi (p. ...
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3 votes
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History of the origins and development of problems of finding maximum and minimum values of quantities

I am aware that perhaps the earliest source concerning problems of maximum and minimum values occurs in Euclid's Elements. After Euclid, Archimedes of Syracuse and Apollonius of Perga seem to consider ...
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3 votes
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Summary of Gauss's contributions to differential geometry, conformal mappings, and geodesy

G. Waldo Dunnington in his biography of Gauss states (on p. 165):"only a portion of his results in the field of curved surfaces was presented in the Disquisitiones generalis, and a second memoir on ...
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What was C.F Gauss's work on the problem of the volume of tetrahedron in hyperbolic geometry?

My question is a continuation of this posted question: Why did Gauss recommend Janos Bolyai to find the volume of a tetrahedron in hyperbolic geometry?. The issue is that since i asked the previous ...
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Was Newton aware of a nascent inverse function theorem?

More specifically, was Newton aware that given an inverse pair of functions $f$ and $h$ such that $$f(h(x)) = x = h(f(x))$$ about the origin that, for $$(x,y)=(h(y),f(x)),$$ the derivatives satisfy ...
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What results did C. F. Gauss add to Euler’s dioptrics?

I’m a fan of C. F. Gauss but I have to be objective — I don’t understand why the classical theory of lenses is called “Gaussian optics”. I think so since it seems that almost all the results of Gauss’...
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4 votes
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Best books/papers on Newton and his mathematical physics

In your opinion, what are some of the best books/papers on Newton and his work that accurately cover the connections between his geometric proofs in the Principia and his development of the calculus ...
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7 votes
2 answers
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Did Poincaré say that set theory is a disease?

This question has been discussed on several sites including MathOverflow but with not definite result. Presumely HSE is best suited. Jeremy Gray denies that Poincare said, "Later generations will ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why did Gauss recommend Janos Bolyai to find the volume of a tetrahedron in hyperbolic geometry?

My question is based on Dunnington's biography of Gauss: Gauss: titan of science. In it Dunnington mentions that Gauss, in his response to Janos Bolyai's paper, sent him a synthetic proof of the ...
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8 votes
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Why did Einstein oppose quantum uncertainity?

Einstein always believed that everything is certain, and we can calculate everything. That's why he rejected quantum mechanics, due to its factor of uncertainty. But still quantum physics was right. ...
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1 answer
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Fraenkel's appointment at Göttingen

Abraham Fraenkel grandpère writes on page 127 of his book recently translated into English: My professional career began in March 1919 with... an invitation to Göttingen to Privy Counselor Felix ...
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Did Gauss see the analogy between number-theoretic concepts and knots?

According to the book "Models and Inferences in Science", p.156 - "the idea of a number-theoretic approach to knots goes to Gauss (1798), who used the analogy between primes and knots, and it was put ...
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who was the first to discover the Hamilton principle of classical physics?

Who, besides Hamilton, was instrumental in discovering at least part of the so-called Hamilton principle? $$\delta \int_{a}^{b}L(q,\dot q ,t )dt$$ where $ L=T-V$, the Lagrangian. What exactly, was ...
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10 votes
1 answer
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Did Turing invent the imitation game? Did he name it?

In his 1950 paper in Mind titled "Computer Machinery and Intelligence" which introduces the test that now bears his name, Alan Turing starts by describing a game which he calls the "Imitation Game", ...
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Francis Crick and the usefulness of "genes" as compared to molecular biochemistry

In lecture 12 of Professor John R. Searle's U.C. Berkeley class, "Philosophy of Mind", he remarks [18m22s]: We no longer talk mysteriously about how heredity works. We can actually identify ...
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2 votes
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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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Are there any famous mathematicians who did regular physical workouts?

Because regular physical exercise is in theory linked to better brain function and is also recommended in another question here on stack exchange, I wonder if there are any famous mathematicians who ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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What was Liouville's contribution to Liouville's theorem?

Liouville's theorem asserts that the volume of phase space is incompressible. This was first shown by Gibbs 1903 but his name is mostly forgotten. The Wikipedia article says It is referred to as ...
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22 answers
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Literary works authored by mathematicians

At a first glance, Mathematics and Literature look like two completely unrelated subjects. I wonder whether there are examples of acclaimed mathematicians which wrote novels, poems, or other ...
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Which event involving Marie Curie is being referenced here?

In the second episode of "Super Science Friends" Tesla is telling of his fight with Edison that, in the comic, leads him to carry all his patents in the interior pockets of his jacket. Freud then ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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What navigation instrument did Leibniz develop?

My question refers to Gottfried Leibniz's "instrumentum longuitidimum" mentioned in some sites — a device that could record the course of a ship in sea and display its recent position directly on a ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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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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5 votes
2 answers
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When did Gauss introduce "Gauss' planetary equations"?

"Gauss' planetary equations" are a set of equations that describe the rate of change of the six elements of a planetary orbit in the presence of a disturbing force. I just intend to ask in which of ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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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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1 vote
1 answer
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Why Edward Turner Bennett died early

I'd like to know, why Edward Turner Bennett, English zoologist, died at that early age (39 years) and was it in any connection to his work (like killed by some animal or as an effect of some disease, ...
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17 votes
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Did light bulb companies commission Planck to study black body radiation?

Background When introducing Planck's switch to looking at black-body radiation, a number of sources -- like MinutePhysics, the Economist, random online encyclopaedias and even here on HSM.SE (plus ...
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1 vote
3 answers
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Why does Newton claim : "Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth."?

Basically, why did Newton write : "Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth." ? What were the influences of these two on him ?
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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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5 votes
2 answers
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Why couldn't Huygens explain diffraction using his principle?

Huygens' principle seemed quite complete in this description if applied correctly. I noticed that Fresnel was credited in the Huygens-Fresnel principle, as well. I think it is because he was able to ...
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Did Isaac Newton derive the expression for the speed of water waves in both shallow water and deep water approximations?

My questions refer to propositions 44-46 of section 8 of book 2 of Isaac Newton's principia, where Newton draws analogy between oscillations of water in a U - shaped tube and water waves in deep water....
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12 votes
1 answer
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Did Cauchy forget or lose mathematical papers aside from Abel's and Galois's?

Augustin-Louis Cauchy was a prolific writer, his writings range widely in mathematics and mathematical physics. As a professor at École Polytechnique he came in contact and reviewed Abel's and Galois' ...
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10 votes
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Seeking anecdote on Emmy Noether and possibly Emil Artin

I have lost the reference to a story of someone (I believe it was Emil Artin) who found a strategy for understanding Emmy Noether's rapid delivery of new ideas during walks. It was to walk fast ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Biography of Galois in English

Note: This was first posted at Mathematics Stack Exchange, from which I was redirected here. Forgive me if this violates any crossposting rules I'm not currently aware of. Currently, I'm starting ...
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4 votes
0 answers
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What color were Emmy Noether's eyes? [closed]

I have reposted this question from MathOverflow because it is questionably relevant there. I am looking for a reference that definitively says what the color of Emmy Noether's eyes were. More ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Did Newton find geodesics on curved surfaces in Principia?

My question reffers to section X of book 1 of Isaac Newton's Principia, that deals with motion of particles on curved surfaces. I read that in proposition 56 Newton found the trajectory of a particle ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Did F. P. Ramsey complete a graduate degree?

There are numerous online sources giving biographical sketches of Ramsey's life; E.g., Wikipedia, Cambridge respository, St. Andrews MacTutor. We learn that Ramsey died just before his 27th birthday ...
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5 votes
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Einstein's readings of popular sciences as a kid

“At the age of 12 to 16 I familiarized myself with the elements of mathematics together with the principles of differential and integral calculus. In doing so I had the good fortune of finding books ...
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15 votes
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How did Grothendieck encounter and adopt the categorical language?

Apparently the first mathematical publication of Grothendieck where he uses the terms “functor” and “category” in the technical sense is the Kansas report. From where Grothendieck had knowledge of ...
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