Questions tagged [discoveries]

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

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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 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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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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When was the issue of time zones first described?

What are the earliest recorded acknowledgements of the concept that motivates time zones - that the sun and other celestial objects appear in different parts of the sky to people at different ...
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1answer
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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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What blogs or websites cover historical or contemporary science? [closed]

Apologies if this isn't quite the right place to ask this. The popular science sites like Wired and io9 are too biased and reactionary for my tastes. I'm looking for sites or blogs that cover ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Was the steam engine really known in ancient Egypt?

Some sources on the Internet state that the steam engine was known in ancient Egypt, although it wasn't used very widely. Is it true? If the answer is yes, it was known, or at least suspected, why ...
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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 ...
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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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1answer
416 views

Invention of Principle of Inclusion-Exclusion

I know the principle of inclusion-exclusion and solved some problems related to this principle but I don't know how this principle was discovered? Whenever I use this principle I was amazed thinking ...
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843 views

Discovery and Development of Coordinate Systems

I'm very interested to know how coordinate systems were discovered and why mathematicians discovered them? Actually I want to know what things motivated mathematicians to discover and develop ...
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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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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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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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1answer
502 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 ...
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791 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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
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What was the historical importance of the discovery of high-$T_c$ superconductors?

I remember very well from my (only) class in solid state physics how enthusiastically the professor recounted the discovery of high-$T_c$ superconductors. In one particularly vivid anecdote, he ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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684 views

Who discovered the “Comet” as a celestial object?

Who first discovered that comets were physical objects with a Keplerian orbit? Was this accidentally discovered or was it discovered as part of an intentional effort by astronomers after they ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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?
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1answer
562 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. ...
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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 ...
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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?
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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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?