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11 votes
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What are the earliest known proofs that planimeters 'work'?

Using planimeters to illustrate Green's theorem is a relatively recent didactic development. Neither Green, nor Cauchy, nor Riemann had any interest in the instruments, and vice versa, planimeter ...
Conifold's user avatar
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10 votes
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On what basis did Kennedy think that humans could land on the moon so quickly?

The decision to go to the Moon was made much sooner than September 1962. In his Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs made on 25 May 1961, President Kennedy announced that I ...
David Hammen's user avatar
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8 votes
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"Nuclear fusion is 30 years away" since when?

Although one can find claims that this joke goes back to the 1960s, the joke only really started to bite after the first 30 years of fusion research had passed and we seemed no closer to the goal. ...
David Bailey's user avatar
  • 1,242
7 votes

Old square bracket notation for units

The German DIN Norm 461 from 1973 explicitly says, that units must not be put in brackets and further relates to DIN 1313. The first version of DIN 461 is from 1923. Die Einheit darf keinesfalls in ...
Stefan's user avatar
  • 171
6 votes

Engineering problems leading to mathematical research

Here are a few examples. Wavelets. There was early work by Haar, but the subject became intensively studied only decades later, in part due to work by the engineer Jean Morlet, who in fact ...
KCd's user avatar
  • 5,647
6 votes

Examples of mathematical definitions motivated by engineering problems

Stable polynomials. A polynomial is called stable if its zeros lie in the left half-plane. This is a substantial research topic for the last 150 years. The problem arose as a pure engineering problem ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
6 votes
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When did mathematicians transition from peg and rope to straightedege and compass?

The transition that occurred took place outside of mathematics, although it eventually affected mathematical practice and teaching. Seidenberg documents early construction practices that used pegs and ...
Conifold's user avatar
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5 votes

How did scientists (or researchers ) discover prograde and retrograde burns?

It was a theoretical invention. A special case, optimal elliptic transfer between two circular orbits, a.k.a. the Hohmann transfer, was described by Hohmann in The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies (...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 77k
5 votes

When was double-paned glass first invented and used for insulation?

lmgtfy google cache of mimivanderhave.com 1945 The first double-pane, insulated window was introduced That's without attribution; door and window claims From single to double pane windows… ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar
5 votes

Math-education comparsion between Japan and United States from perspectives of engineering contributions

The progress of technology is not a function of the state of education system. US imports huge number of highly educated people. Japan does not. Math education in most countries of East Europe is by ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
4 votes

Engineering problems leading to mathematical research

O. Heaviside used things akin to the Dirac delta prior to 1900, helping to design transatlantic telegraph cables. For that matter, G. Green did, c. 1838, implicitly, in treatment of fundamental ...
paul garrett's user avatar
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4 votes
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Origin of the notation $s = \sigma + j\omega$ in electrical engineering/control theory

I'll be answering my own question, since an anonymous person reached out to me with the following information about the likely origin of the notation $s = \sigma + j\omega$ in electrical engineering. ...
KCd's user avatar
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4 votes

Was there ever a mathematician or physicist who spearheaded a concerted effort to create a flawless musical instrument?

Leon Theremin, born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1896, was a youthful enthusiast of both music and physics. As a young man working at the Physical Technical Institute in Petrograd, he noticed that ...
Big Brother's user avatar
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4 votes
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Was there ever a mathematician or physicist who spearheaded a concerted effort to create a flawless musical instrument?

There is probably nothing "flawless" in this world. But mathematicians and physicists indeed took part in the improvement of musical instruments. See, for example Wikipedia article Well ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
4 votes

What happened to cybernetics?

Perhaps Cybernetics lost some of its charm because Claude Shannon created Communications Theory 1 in 1948, which put the hazy concept of "communications" in firm, mathematical terms, which ...
nspies's user avatar
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4 votes
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Introduction of $\imath$ and $\jmath$ notations for the imaginary unit

In answer to your second part of the question regarding $j$ for $\sqrt{-1}$, this was introduced into text books describing Power System Analysis of AC power circuits in the early 1900s by Charles P. ...
K7PEH's user avatar
  • 1,139
3 votes
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What is the origin of French/Burmester's curves?

There seems to be little secondary literature on this so answering the OP questions fully would take some serious digging into the original sources. One promising secondary source that I was unable to ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 77k
3 votes

How did Archimedes's water clock work?

al-Jazari (and Ridwan too) explicitly says that Archimedes is the source for several of the components of his clock(s); he also says that one component of Archimedes' clock (the flow regulator) does ...
user2227111's user avatar
3 votes

Roman engineers

One of the most important contributions of Latins to engineering was road-building. This certainly pre-dates contacts with the Greek civilization: so called "strade consolari" departing from Rome (...
Nicola Ciccoli's user avatar
2 votes

Introduction of $\imath$ and $\jmath$ notations for the imaginary unit

I doubt it that the $i$ notation would have been used for $\sqrt{-1}$ before Euler because even Euler himself did not start using it until a rather late date, and moreover used $i$ in a different ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
  • 5,822
2 votes

When was the cogwheel gear invented?

In 2006 a fragment of a cogwheel was discovered in Olbia (Italy); the layer where the fragment was found has been dated to the second quarter of the 2nd century BCE (https://www.academia.edu/35795869/...
user2227111's user avatar
2 votes

Old square bracket notation for units

The / sign before the unit (e.g. mass/kg) would indeed be the most correct mathematical way for expressing a physical quantity in theory. However, I guess it falls short of being in wide usage because ...
Corentor's user avatar
  • 129
2 votes

Level of maths of engineers in the Industrial Revolution

Brunel (1806-1859) in 1822 was a candidate to the École Polytechnique. Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857) graduated in civil engineering and in 1816 was appointed professor at École Polytechnique. ...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
2 votes

Which modern sciences/technologies were contingent on the Copernican Revolution, & which could have developed even while believing in geocentrism?

Copernicus theory was crucial for the development of all sciences. It made possible Kepler's discovery of the true planet orbits, and this lead to the discovery of the Law of the Universal gravitation....
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
2 votes

Was there ever a mathematician or physicist who spearheaded a concerted effort to create a flawless musical instrument?

Maybe it does not have a direct relationship to your question, but I remember having a teacher in college for a Mechanics course, which developed a musical instrument himself in order to have more ...
jcf's user avatar
  • 121
1 vote

How were complex analysis methods, like the Joukowsky transform, used in early aircraft design?

"Theoretical and conceptual tool" is probably closer to what happened than "used directly", but how "integral" it was is probably in the eye of the beholder. Joukowsky's ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 77k
1 vote

How did Newcomen's Atmospheric Engine lift water above the 10.3m vacuum limit?

The engine in question does not lift water; rather it pushes water up from the bottom of the vessel. As is clearly shown in the animated image here, condensed steam is forced into the bottom of the ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar

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