Questions tagged [discoveries]

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

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3
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1answer
543 views

Who discovered the fixed point iteration method?

I was working on the area of fixed point iteration. I couldn't find any historical account regarding the subject. Who was the first to use the this method?
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1answer
264 views

Who first introduced the longhand square-rooting method into European mathematics?

A previous question credits François Viète with introducing the well-known longhand method for the computation of square roots in digit-by-digit manner. This method is related to the binomial theorem. ...
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1answer
504 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 ...
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34 views

What enabled the spread of virtual reality systems?

What new technology enabled us to construct VR recently? Was it just the resolution which makes believable image?
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257 views

How did USA became world leader in STEM?

Looking in the past we can easily see that it was Europe who made most of the discoveries in STEM but today USA triumphs in this area. So, how did this shift took place and what were the reasons for ...
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1answer
78 views

Lise Meitner's contribution to this experimental apparatus and research effort?

I am reading a NYTimes obituary of Otto Hahn and the discovery of fission, and I've asked in physics SE about the function of the apparatus shown in that article. The system shown demonstrated the ...
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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 $\pi$: $$\frac{\pi}4\ =\ 1 - \frac13+\frac15 - \frac17 + \frac19 - \frac1{11} + \cdots$$ ...
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1answer
138 views

First evaluation of $\sum_{n \geq 1} 1/n^2$ by Fourier series

There are many ways to evaluate $\sum_{n \geq 1} 1/n^2$ as $\pi^2/6$, including multiple solutions using Fourier series. A colleague asked me who was the first person to use Fourier series (or Fourier ...
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90 views

What are some greatest blunders from the great minds from science?

Einstein said that incorporating the cosmological constant to his equations of general relativity was the greatest blunder of his life. But as it turns out, cosmological constant does indeed have ...
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2answers
342 views

Who derived $\int_{0}^{\infty} \mathrm{e}^{-x^2}\, dx = \frac{\sqrt \pi}{2}$?

I want to know who derived $$\int_{0}^{\infty} \mathrm{e}^{-x^2}\, dx = \frac{\sqrt \pi}{2}$$ In school, our book mentioned that Euler proved this result. But on Math Stack Exchange, some people say ...
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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 ...
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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?
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1answer
619 views

History of elementary proof of Fermat's last theorem for $x^3 + y^3 = z^3 $ [closed]

What was the historical back ground that probably Fermat’s could had known about a much simpler proof than the first (Euler’s elementary proof of Fermat’s last theorem for $n = 3$), at least for the ...
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1answer
1k views

Did Maxwell invent the Maxwell's wheel?

Tried to find it online, but nothing. Everyone refers to it and that it's named after the famous James Clerk Maxwell (of the Maxwell electromagnetic laws and some other things), but there is no direct ...
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1answer
253 views

light rays and wave fronts [duplicate]

Who made first the connection between light rays and wave fronts? The fact is stated in many places, e.g., wikipedia, but I couldn't find a history.
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69 views

Have humans gotten better at the methods of science over time? [closed]

Im currently reading the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and as I'm reading about the history of many fields of science (e.g. paleontology, geology, astronomy, etc.) it seems ...
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76 views

Edward Lorenz and sensitivity to initial conditions

Lore says that Edward Lorenz found out that atmosphere fluidodynamics was very sensitive to initial conditions when he stopped a numerical simulation, dutifully copied the partial results, and after ...
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2answers
1k views

Which came first, Coulomb's law or Gauss's law?

which one has been discovered earlier? Coulomb's law or Gauss's law? I've read that Gauss's law is more fundamental and of course we can derive Gauss's law using Coulomb's law and vice versa. But my ...
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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 ...
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1answer
569 views

How did chemists figure out atomic weights, when hydrogen, etc., were first discovered?

Henry Cavendish isolated hydrogen in 1766, but I want to know if he knew the gas was actually $H_2$ instead of just a plain $H$ gas. This would make a major difference in the atomic weights, which ...
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1answer
480 views

How and when did we discover the role of the brain?

Unlike other organs, such as the heart or intestines, it seems much harder to discern what the brain is doing in the human body. How did scientists figure out the brain was responsible for information ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
532 views

When are units that are named after persons given their names?

There are many scientific units named after people, of which most were given their names a relatively long time ago (Watt, Newton, Celsius, etc). I wonder if the scientists who "discovered" these ...
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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,...
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1answer
73 views

Who discovered the Rayleigh-Taylor instability?

Who discovered the Rayleigh-Taylor instability? Was it artist David Alfaro Siquerios? Or was he the first to observe it?
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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". ...
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1answer
798 views

Who discovered Napoleon's theorem?

I read about Napoleon's Theorem in geometry. Was this the same Napoleon as the great warrior? Was he a mathematician too?
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107 views

How did the theories of Lavoisier, Davy, Arrhenius then Bronsted & Lowry come about?

What scientific experimentations, methods of thinking, ideas and so forth necessitate each individual definition of their acids / bases?
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1answer
1k views

What are Archimedes's contributions to the principle of the screw pump?

I read that the famous screw pumps were used before Archimedes (in the hanging gardens of Babylon for example), and that the Archimedean screw is named after him because he "developed a rigorous ...
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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 ...
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1answer
728 views

What was the earliest documented zoonosis?

We know, of course, that zoonoses – diseases transmitted from animals to humans – have existed about as long as humans and animals have co-existed, but what was the earliest documented case of a ...
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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 ...
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1answer
136 views

History of summing integers with natural powers

In my 10th class school material, it is given that Aryabhatta discovered the following formulas: $\sum n=\dfrac{n(n+1)}{2}$ $\sum n^2=\dfrac{n(n+1)(2n+1)}{6}$ $\sum n^3=\dfrac{n^2(n+1)^2}{4}$ Is ...
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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 ...
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1answer
309 views

Who discovered that the radius of the observable Universe is 46 billion ly?

I know that before the beginning of the 20th century it was thought that the Milky Way galaxy was the whole universe. Then there was the discovery of galaxy redshift, and the size of the Universe was ...
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2answers
1k views

How was the composition and structure of water determined?

Water is a pretty basic molecule that people used since early science. What were the steps in figuring out what water is made of and what is its structure?
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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 ...
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0answers
176 views

Who first used Banach's Contraction Principle to prove the Inverse Function Theorem?

The most common proof of the Inverse Function Theorem in textbooks relies on the Banach fixed-point theorem. QUESTION. It is possible to say, using historical references, which mathematician ...
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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{ ...
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3answers
395 views

Scientific discoveries that were made “late”

I'd like to ask a similar question from Math.SE for the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology and allied disciplines). What are examples of scientific results that were discovered ...
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2answers
515 views

Was Galileo a plagiarizer?

Was Galileo a plagiarizer? If we where to apply to the works of Galileo the general standards of plagiarism that we conform to today at our local institutions, would he be considered a plagiarizer? ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
354 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?
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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 ...
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1answer
1k views

Where does Markov operator come from?

I found this definition of "Markov operator" in the book Chaos, Fractals, and Noise by Lasota and Mackey. Denote by $L^1(\mu)$ the space of Lebesgue integrable functions according to the measure $\mu$...
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1answer
203 views

Why did Kronecker develop the “adjoining a root” construction?

Kronecker is generally credited with the formalization of "adjoining a root to $f(x)=0$". Nowadays it is interpreted as the quotient $K[x]/(f)$, where $K$ is some appropriate algebraic structure in a ...
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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 ...
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3answers
886 views

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 ...