Questions tagged [discoveries]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
4
votes
1answer
78 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

How long did it take to prove that the Earth revolves around the Sun?

I get that Galileo Galilei was a major contributor in proving the helio-centric theory, and same goes to Sir Isaac Newton. The battle for the theory to become law took centuries to prove. People ...
3
votes
1answer
79 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 (...
2
votes
0answers
24 views

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 ...
6
votes
1answer
549 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
59 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Madhava and $\pi$

I recently learned that Madhava of Kerala (c.1340–c.1425) was the first to discover the following formula for $\pi$: $$\frac{\pi}4\ =\ 1 - \frac13+\frac15 - \frac17 + \frac19 - \frac1{11} + \cdots$$ ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Why didn't Aristarchus' theory of Heliocentrism stick?

This might be more a question for historians, but it's a question I've given some thought to. By using what was essentially Euclidean geometry, Aristarchus was able to calculate, with some measure ...
1
vote
0answers
74 views

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 ?
3
votes
1answer
215 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 ...
12
votes
6answers
581 views

Apparently different objects discovered to be the same

To make it more formal, I am looking for striking historical examples of objects or concepts that were well known in a field and perceived as different, but later discovered to be the same. I am ...
5
votes
2answers
584 views

Did Hooke's law come from experiments, or was it mathematically derived from Newtonian mechanics?

Was Hooke's law first coming from experiment or from math derivation of which Newtonian mechanical laws are the only prerequisite? Also can the law itself be reinvented in this way, or is it ...
-5
votes
2answers
122 views

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?
14
votes
3answers
908 views

What was the motivation for Minkowski spacetime before special relativity?

If I understand correctly the concept of a Minkowski space/metric was already known before Einstein's paper on special relativity. Was there any physical motivation for studying this type of metric ...
10
votes
1answer
9k views

Who invented short and long division?

I am curious who came up with algorithms that we use today to manually solve mathematical division problems, such as short or long division; how were they established or standardized that way and why?...
13
votes
4answers
389 views

Scientific progress claimed to be caused by dreaming

Kekulé, who discovered the chemical formula for benzene in 1865, claimed that he had guessed the ring formula with the alternating single and double bonds in a day-dream. Are there similar examples of ...
1
vote
1answer
39 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
145 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
78 views

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 $y$ ...
1
vote
0answers
40 views

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 ...
9
votes
2answers
625 views

When was it first realized that sound travels with finite speed?

From what date can we trace the knowledge (or the hypothesis) that sound has a finite speed of transmission through air? Thunder/lightning is the most striking clue, but echoes would be the readiest ...
16
votes
3answers
590 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
128 views

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

Who discovered the following theorem $$\sum_{r=0}^{n}\binom{n}{r}(-1)^r(n-r)^n=n!$$
23
votes
2answers
989 views

What attracted Einstein to the anomalous precession of Mercury?

The story is usually told starting with Einstein's 1915 paper Explanation of the Perihelion Motion of Mercury from General Relativity Theory, or at least its drafts from 1913-14. It was the first ...
24
votes
2answers
2k views

Who introduced random variables into probability?

I used to think that the answer is Kolmogorov. So the Shafer-Vovk's review of Kolmogorov's famous 1933 axiomatization of probability surprised me a bit:"Today, what Frechet and his contemporaries knew ...
2
votes
0answers
93 views

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)...
3
votes
1answer
58 views

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 (...
14
votes
3answers
937 views

Why don't we learn Buridan's laws of motion?

My question is why has Jean Buridan faded into obscurity while Newton is venerated as a God by scientists? Here is a description of Buridan's impetus theory: The concept of inertia was alien to the ...
2
votes
1answer
249 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?
2
votes
1answer
73 views

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?...
8
votes
3answers
393 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
115 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
56 views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
512 views

Serendipitous discoveries in Mathematics and Computer Science

I have recently been reading about serendipitous discoveries in science and I found them quite inspiring. Most of those discoveries are in Chemistry. I'm looking for examples of these kinds of ...
1
vote
2answers
170 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?
9
votes
1answer
1k views

How did Planck derive the black body radiation formula without using the Bose statistics?

It is so funny that science never develops as in the textbooks. Bose only introduced his statistics in 1924, so Planck could not possibly have used it to derive the radiation formula in 1900. So how ...
4
votes
1answer
93 views

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 - ...
5
votes
1answer
199 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

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, ...
3
votes
3answers
234 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
33 views

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 ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Who was the first to calculate $\pi$?

I am very interested in the history of $\pi$. I am first trying to find out who calculated it. Many sources have different answers, from the ancient Egyptians, to Archimedes, to the Babylonians. I ...
51
votes
1answer
5k views

What's the famous story about a mathematician who gave a talk without saying a word?

Years ago, I read a story about a mathematician who found a numerical counterexample to some conjecture long believed to be true. He gave a talk during which he didn't utter a single word but simply ...
13
votes
2answers
7k views

What is the origin of polynomials and notation for them?

This may be quite a broad question, but lately I've been wondering about the history behind polynomials. Nowadays these are pretty much the simplest kind of functions to work with, but I'd like to ...
7
votes
2answers
320 views

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, ...
14
votes
4answers
778 views

What famous laws were named by their discoverer

A question posed on academia.SE prompts this follow-up question: Is there an example of a famous physical law, constant, equation, theorem etc that was named after its discoverer by the discoverer ...
3
votes
2answers
101 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
236 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
159 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
105 views

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 ...