Questions tagged [discoveries]

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

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5
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1answer
86 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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54 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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2k views

Sum of like powers in real numbers

When and who was the first person to discover a correct formula for the real number $r$ in terms of any given three positive distinct integers $x<y<z$ such that $$x^r + y^r = z^r\,.$$ The ...
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1answer
312 views

Were there serious attempts to model the photoelectric effect classically?

Today we see the photoelectric effect as one of the simplest pieces of empirical evidence that leads to quantum physics. The historical development of the subject, however, seems to have involved much ...
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1answer
82 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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1answer
49 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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When and by whom was the earliest definition of speed given?

Speed is defined to be distance divided by time; when and who by was this definition first put forward? The obvious guess would be Galileo in early modern physics; is this right, and can it be ...
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Who discovered the power rule for derivatives?

Who discovered the general rule for differentiating polynomials, in particular that the derivative of $x^n$ is $n x^{n-1}$, and when? I appreciate the answer may not be a clear-cut individual and year,...
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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 ...
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81 views

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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1answer
124 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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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 ...
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99 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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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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1answer
70 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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Madhava and $\pi$

I recently learned that Madhava of Kerala (c.1340–c.1425) was the first to discover the following formula for $\pi$: $$\frac{\pi}4\ =\ 1 - \frac13+\frac15 - \frac17 + \frac19 - \frac1{11} + \cdots$$ ...
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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 ...
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83 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 ?
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237 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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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 ...
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618 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 ...
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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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974 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 ...
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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?...
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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 ...
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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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1answer
284 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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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 ...
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614 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 ...
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1answer
132 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 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 ...
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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 ...
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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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1answer
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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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999 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 ...
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1answer
377 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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1answer
87 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?...
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465 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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1answer
127 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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2answers
62 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 ...
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1answer
590 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 ...
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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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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 ...
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1answer
127 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 - ...
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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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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, ...