Questions tagged [discoveries]

For questions about the location (in space and time) of scientific discoveries and their historical context.

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54 views

Why do Thai numerals look so different than Arabic numerals?

The Arabic numerals I am referring to are “1234567890”. I have read that Thai numerals, “๑๒๓๔๕๖๗๘๙๐”, are actually distantly related. Both descend from the numeral system invented by the Phoenicians, ...
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Was Tesla the only scientist whose possessions were confiscated by secret services?

Tesla, especially later in his life was constantly monitored by the FBI. When he died all his notes and other belongings were taken and for a very long time nothing was returned to his family. Has ...
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109 views

When is the first use of Newton's method for root finding?

I saw this from Wikipedia. The name "Newton's method" is derived from Isaac Newton's description of a special case of the method in De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum infinitas (written in ...
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54 views

When was the Laguerre's method first used to approximate roots?

Is there a specific date when Laguerre published his root finding method? I found his 1880 note Résolution des équations numériques, but I am not sure if this is the source because I can not read ...
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680 views

Who first solved the classical harmonic oscillator?

There is a question Who solved the quantum harmonic oscillator?, but not one for the classical oscillator. Wikipedia's article Harmonic Oscillator does not have historical information either. So who ...
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When and how was the water cycle discovered?

When and how was the water cycle discovered? Did people like ancient Greek philosophers have any correct ideas on the water cycle or was it's discovery more of a recent thing?
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107 views

Are there any important scientific discoveries, or inventions, that could have been made much earlier in history? [closed]

I can imagine that some discoveries are not made for a long time despite availability of all the information and tools that one would in principle need. Are there clear examples of that?
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92 views

Who first reported the Crab pulsar's pulsing but was dismissed by an astronomer?

This answer to Has great eyesight been necessary for astronomers? mentions Astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell's recounting of a likely first visual observation of a pulsar. This can be found for example ...
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61 views

When was the inverse quadratic interpolation method first used?

Do you know anything about it? I couldn't really find something useful on web.
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96 views

Did Jacobi invent the Hungarian algorithm for the assignment problem over a century before Kőnig and Egerváry?

Wikipedia says: In 2006, it was discovered that Carl Gustav Jacobi had solved the assignment problem in the 19th century, and the solution had been published posthumously in 1890 in Latin. The ...
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When was the ratio between electric and magnetic forces in an electromagnetic field established?

We know that the magnetic force on a particle moving in a magnetic field was found by J.J. Thomson in 1881, with a slight mistake, and then corrected by Heaviside in 1885 to $F_M = q\,v\times B$. Can ...
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56 views

Who discovered anisotropic materials, and what were they studying?

Thinking of properties of materials, who discovered anisotropy and what materials were they studying? I had read a claim that the first recorded experiments to study anisotropy are those by Duhamel ...
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Why isn't François Proth's name used for Gilbreath's conjecture as he discovered & published a proof 80 years earlier?

According to Wikipedia's Gilbreath's conjecture page, The statement is named after mathematician Norman L. Gilbreath who, in 1958, presented it to the mathematical community after observing the ...
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130 views

When was it found that a function could be decomposed as a sum of even and odd functions?

I'm not sure if it's a good question but I was reading about the decomposition of any function, f(x), as a sum of even and odd functions; f(x) is not an even or odd function. Is it possible to know ...
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111 views

Origin of the “law of quadratic reciprocity”

Today, "reciprocity" is the standard mathematical word used for quadratic reciprocity and its generalizations. I found that the name dates back to no later than 1832, when a paper of Dirichlet (...
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Difference between Perrin's and J. J. Thomson's experiment

In J. J. Thomson's paper (Phil. Mag. S. 5. Vol. 44. No. 269. Oct. 1897) concerned with cathode rays, Thomson writes, that the experiment by Perrin that supposedly proves that cathode rays are made of ...
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74 views

Was there a more intuitive early proof of the generalized mean value theorem?

I am interested in the early proofs of the theorem. It is often called Cauchy mean value theorem, so perhaps Cauchy proved it first. In all the proofs that I have seen we construct a contrived ...
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626 views

How did J. J. Thomson establish the particle nature of the electron?

In its article about how the electron was discovered, Wikipedia says that Thomson and his students performed experiments which suggested that cathode rays were negatively charged "particles". But even ...
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Invention of the SI unit of plane angle:Radian

As I was reading on the topic plane angle then I came across a term radian.Hence I want to know how radians were discovered as well ?
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243 views

Source of claim that Leibniz discovered separation of variables for ODEs in 1691?

Claims I'm evaluating I've read in multiple sources that Leibniz formulated separation of variables for ODEs in 1691. A couple example sources are below. Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern ...
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What are the great works of Richard Phillips Feynman? [closed]

What are the prerequisites to read his book? Why Richard Phillips Feynman is so famous? What are great works of Richard Phillips Feynman?
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1answer
44 views

Hydrogen electrode and its electrode potential

In electrochemistry, all electrode potentials are quoted with reference to the standard hydrogen electrode. Its value is assigned to be 0 volts. I have been searching for the origin of this convention ...
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328 views

What actually led Feynman to the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics?

It is commonly known that Feynman's path integral was inspired by Dirac's observation that the kernel is proportional to $\exp{i\hbar S}$. It was Feynman, however, who had the idea of expressing the ...
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The minimax theorem from 1928 to 1956

Minimax theorems are beautiful saddle-point results regarding conditions on a function $f$ under which $\max_x \min_y f(x,y) = \min_y \max_x f(x,y)$. In the common "normal form" game case, $x$ and $y$ ...
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Does anyone know articles or books about what the notion of difficulty in science, especially physics?

In physics, many problems were known at their time to be very challenging, for example the notion of heat, or how to understand the ideal gaz law, or the phase transition criticial behaviors, etc. And ...
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Is it a historical coincidence that relative atomic weights by chemical methods and mass spectrometry are very close?

The concept of relative atomic weight originated from measuring the combining weight of hydrogen with a certain element. In the simplification process H was taken as unity (18th, 19th and 20th century)...
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Who discovered fluid visocity?

Who discovered fluid viscosity and what is the history behind the concept of fluid viscosity? Further, who first defined or parametrized viscosity as shown in Equation 1.1-2 below? Equation 1.1-2 (...
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437 views

How did Ruffini discover his method of polynomial division?

How did Ruffini discover his method of polynomial division? At that time was it known that polynomial division works similar to integer division?
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How did Quetelet discover that the body mass is proportional to the squared height?

The Body Mass Index (BMI) compares body masses on the assumption they scale with height squared, not cubed, an example of allometry. BMI is due to Lambert Quetelet. Why did he settle on this power law?...
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140 views

When were polynomial equations first factored?

The question pretty much says it all, though I have a specific example in mind. In the mid-1500s while working on his Ars Magna Cardano asked Tartaglia to solve the cubic $x^3=9x+10$. Using ...
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What are natural science concepts that were once thought the same, but grew to be distinguished?

The history of physics is full of examples of phenomena that used to be described independently, until additional insight proved they were the same thing. Some famous instances are motion of bullets ...
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What are some good books that interweave the history of math and art from renaissance onward?

Ever since learning about projective geometry and its birth in the world of art, I’ve been intrigued to learn more about their union and how they influenced each other. I’m specifically looking for ...
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234 views

Who discovered Bremsstrahlung?

I found a web page that says that it was discovered by Tesla in 1890, is that true or generally acknowledged? Isn't 1890 too early a date?
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When and why was inversive geometry created/studied?

I have been revisiting math from my highschool through undergrad. I picked Courant’s excellent What is Mathematics? The flow is well so far. However, in one of the chapters he introduces inversion - ...
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478 views

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

Background Mathematics and some areas of physics and computer science have the peculiar appeal that some problems and results are easy to understand and it is conceivable that somebody armed with ...
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245 views

When was Euler's log-sine integral first computed by real methods?

In Sec. 2.4 of Inside Interesting Integrals (2015), Paul J Nahin says of $$I:=\int_0^{\pi/2}\ln (a\sin x)dx=\int_0^{\pi/2}\ln (a\cos x)dx$$that: For many years it was commonly claimed in textbooks ...
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136 views

Who discovered the expansion for factorial as a successive difference of integers?

Who discovered the following theorem $$\sum_{r=0}^{n}\binom{n}{r}(-1)^r(n-r)^n=n!$$
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What are some good metrics for intellectual progress (of all sorts)?

My thinking about this topic is vague, and I'm looking to clarify it. I'm not sure what "intellectual progress" is or if that's even a useful abstraction, but it seems like it should include things ...
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295 views

Foundational crises in non-Western historical mathematical communities

In Foundations of Set Theory by Fraenkel, Bar-Hillel, and Levy (1973), the authors argue that there have been three distinct periods of crisis in the foundations of mathematics. The first was ...
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When did architects first become aware of the usefulness of the catenary arch?

The Wikipedia-entry for catenaries lists Robert Hooke as the first to study catenaries mathematically, in the 1670s. However, the dome of the Florence Cathedral, completed structurally in 1436, ...
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What was the significance of Eisenstein's discovery of invariants?

I am trying to decipher a portion of James Joseph Sylvester's 1869 address entitled "The Study That Knows Nothing of Observation", which, among other things, surveys the landscape of 19th century ...
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418 views

Why is the Brayton cycle also known as the Joule cycle? What was Joule's contribution?

Did James Prescott Joule also design this thermodynamic workcycle, separate from George Brayton? I've not found any reference to Joule's involvement besides that from George Brayton. Could someone ...
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182 views

How come so many laws were not discovered by people they are named after?

Background Stigler's Law of Eponymy states that: Mathematical and Scientific laws/discoveries/inventions/&c. are simply not named after their original discoverer. Stigler's "Law" is a perfect ...
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Why was China slow to recognise the sphericity of Earth?

Wikipedia notes that, while knowledge Earth is approximately spherical was obtained in ancient Greece, and became standard among educated people in Europe and the Middle East long before 1300 AD, ...
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How did Euler stumble on this proof?

Euler proved $n=641$ divides $2^{32}+1$ by noting $n=5^4+2^4=5\times 2^7+1$ so $$2^{32}\equiv-5^4\times 2^{28}=-(5\times 2^7)^4\equiv-1\,(\text{mod}\, n).$$How did he happen upon this realisation? One ...
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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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173 views

What were the precursor works to Copernicus Heliocentrism?

Was Heliocentrism something that exploded with Copernicus seemingly out of nowhere, or were there predecessors, and what were those predecessors? I read somewhere that their might of been versions ...
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338 views

Was it a major cultural event when Van Leeuwenhoek discovered unseen animals under the microscope?

In the 17e century van Leeuwenhoek discovered with his microscope new kind of animals and cells. How was this discovery of van Leeuwenhoek received by the ordinary people when there seemed to be more ...
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Discovery of kinetic gas theory

I assume that there was a single person who at a specific day in time was the very first to see and understand perfectly clearly that temperature is somehow identical with the mean kinetic energy of a ...
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323 views

Why is it called the butterfly effect?

The pop-sci answer is that Lorenz characterised chaotic atmospheric dynamics with the hypothetical example of a butterfly's flapping wings changing whether a tornado results. However, since butterfly-...