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
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 ...
30
votes
5answers
6k views

Who introduced the Principle of Mathematical Induction for the first time?

Can you tell me the name of the mathematician, who introduced the Principle of Mathematical Induction for the first time? (with reliable source). Please don't say De Morgan because I have read the ...
29
votes
4answers
1k views

What new mathematics was inspired by biology and chemistry?

While physics and astronomy sported mathematical models for centuries mathematical chemistry and biology appeared relatively recently. Most of the interaction seems to go one way, established ...
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 ...
23
votes
2answers
987 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 ...
23
votes
1answer
643 views

When did the names of scientists first become the names of scientific units?

Many scientific units are named after scientists, for example Tesla for magnetic flux, Farad for capacitance and Newtons for force. When did the tradition of naming scientific units begin?
21
votes
6answers
2k views

What are some scientific breakthroughs that have been done during jail time?

I am looking for examples of scientific breakthroughs that have been made within the confines of a prison cell?
19
votes
1answer
367 views

When & how was it known that our Sun is the same thing as the night time stars?

Who was the first person to conjecture that our Sun is just another star? Relatedly, what was the first evidence that this was true?
19
votes
1answer
561 views

Before 1964, did scientists generally believe there was life on Mars?

Mariner 4 was the first spacecraft to return photographs of Mars from near the planet, making its flyby of Mars in 1964. Those photographs showed what appeared to be a barren, desert surface. ...
18
votes
1answer
403 views

Who first realized that $\int \frac 1x dx =\ln(x)+c$?

Who discovered the non-obvious identity $\int \frac 1x dx=\ln(x)+c$ ? Were power series involved? The series look similar on the opposite sides of $1$: $$ \frac 1x =\sum_{n=0}^\infty (-1+x)^n \text{ ...
18
votes
5answers
562 views

Considered a breakthrough at its time – almost forgotten nowadays

In the comments on this question on Physics about the usefulness of expensive experiments such as the CERN, the following short discussion happened: Has there ever been a major basic science result ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

What cipher(s) did Isaac Newton use?

A number of sources including this one assert that Isaac Newton used encrypted messages to communicate some of his scientific discoveries, and as a way of establishing priority. What cipher(s) did he ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

How was the Möbius strip discovered?

Britannica is terse:"Möbius discovered this surface in 1858. The German mathematician Johann Benedict Listing had discovered it a few months earlier, but he did not publish his discovery until 1861". ...
16
votes
3answers
589 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
14
votes
3answers
936 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
776 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 ...
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 ...
13
votes
4answers
388 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 ...
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, ...
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 ...
12
votes
2answers
541 views

Did Newton develop the concept of gravity first for falling objects or for celestial motion?

A benefit of Newton's concept of gravity as a force--despite the fact that it involved what was considered mysterious action at a distance--was that it explained objects falling to earth, and the ...
12
votes
1answer
369 views

Why is Ingenhousz's 1784 study of fine charcoal in uncovered alcohol interpreted as Brownian motion, thus giving him priority over Brown?

I'm puzzled why the noted scientist Jan Ingenhousz's FRS reported study in the title has been almost universally interpreted by modern writers (in books, papers since ca. 1968, and now online ...
11
votes
5answers
428 views

How did prisoners of war discover scientific breakthroughs while interned?

Reading the excellent thread What are some scientific breakthroughs that have been done during jail time?, it stands to reason to ask what are some scientific breakthroughs made by interned prisoners ...
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 ...
11
votes
1answer
414 views

Who pitched in the theory of Hollow Earth?

Initially our ancestors believed of Earth as a flat place. Then after scientific discussions and experiments over a period of time, it was established that our Earth is round. But, there exists one ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

How was the Ozone Layer discovered?

Related to my previous question When was the division between the troposphere and stratosphere determined?, an important atmospheric feature at this boundary is the Ozone Layer, as shown in the image ...
10
votes
1answer
8k views

How much contribution did John Nash make to proving Riemann Hypothesis?

At quite the end of the movie "A Beautiful Mind", John Nash tells a student- "I am making progress" (to Riemann hypothesis) Actually, how much contribution he made to the proof of Riemann Hypothesis?
10
votes
1answer
2k views

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,...
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?...
10
votes
1answer
260 views

Why did 92% of cases of simultaneous discovery in the 17th century end in dispute?

I read on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_publishing : One of the earliest research journals is the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, created in the 17th century. At that ...
10
votes
1answer
266 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

When was it first discovered (or comprehended) that air has weight?

When was it first discovered (or comprehended) that air has weight? Did the ancients know of this, or did they think that air is weightless?
10
votes
1answer
503 views

Who invented or discovered the hyperbolic numbers?

Hyperbolic numbers have the form $a+bj$ where $a,b \in \mathbb{R}$ and $j^2=1$. These are also known as a the Lorentz numbers or double numbers by some authors. I suppose these are a particular type ...
9
votes
3answers
353 views

Is it true that Euler didn't prove $\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n^2}=\frac{\pi^2}{6}$?

I've heard that Euler actually never managed to prove $$\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n^2}=\frac{\pi^2}{6}$$ If this is true, then where does the common misconception come from?
9
votes
2answers
623 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 ...
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 ...
9
votes
2answers
226 views

What films and fiction give realistic historical portrayal of science and scientists?

I am looking not for documentaries or biographies, those are easier to find, but for well written fictionalized but realistic portrayals of scientists and their work. These are hard to search for ...
8
votes
3answers
392 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 ...
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 $\pi$: $$\frac{\pi}4\ =\ 1 - \frac13+\frac15 - \frac17 + \frac19 - \frac1{11} + \cdots$$ ...
8
votes
3answers
959 views

What are the early applications of differential equations to social sciences?

I am reading Karatzas and Shreeve (Brownian Motion and Stochastic Calculus) and on page 128, at the beginning of chapter 3 on Stochastic Integrals, one reads: I can't think of any social problem that ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Robert Hooke and the Inverse Square Law

In borel, emile, 1922, l'espace et le temps, paris: alcan there is a claim that Robert Hooke discovered an inverse square relation of gravitating bodied prior Isaac Newton, who later applied it more ...
8
votes
2answers
294 views

First papers on holomorphic functions

Briot and/or Cauchy are often said to have written the first papers on holomorphic functions, explicitly discussing them as such and their special properties. Which papers are these? When and where ...
8
votes
1answer
455 views

What was the origin of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem before Euler?

I was researching the mathematics of this puzzle and wondered where it is be thought to originate. Any information, including context and precedents, would be greatly appreciated. (I'm particularly ...
8
votes
1answer
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
531 views

Who discovered the duality between platonic solids?

As it is well known, every platonic solid has a dual (obtained by interchanging vertices and faces), which also happens to be a platonic solid. I would like to know who was the first person to ...
7
votes
1answer
618 views

Who invented the exponential ansatz for linear differential equations with constant coefficients?

Who invented using $e^{\lambda t}$ as ansatz for solving linear differential equations with constant coefficients?
7
votes
1answer
1k views

When did humans realize that sex leads to pregnancy?

When did primates, protohumans, or humans make the connection between sexual activity and pregnancy? I notice that many ancient statues depict pregnancy or penises, this may (tenuously) suggest that ...
7
votes
1answer
498 views

Why were hot-air balloons invented so late?

The first (documented) hot-air balloon was made in the late 18th century. The materials necessary (wood to burn, sheets for balloon) were around for thousands of years. Why didn't anyone think of ...