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64 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

It seems ball lightning was disbelieved by scientists until around 1960. See Wikipedia . I knew a geologist who told us how his eye-witness account of ball lightning had been ridiculed. He had ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
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58 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first Iranian and first woman to win the Fields medal, died of breast cancer in July 2017. She was only 40 years of age.
Rieendstac's user avatar
56 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

In 1726's Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift mocked the learned scientists of Britain for not having solved the Longitude problem: Figure out a way to keep track of one's east-west location to within ...
Jasper's user avatar
  • 677
38 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866) died at the age of 39. Paraphrasing the following from Wikipedia: The son of a poor pastor, he enrolled at age 19 at the University of Göttingen to obtain a degree in ...
ShreevatsaR's user avatar
38 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

This isn't a topic I'm familiar with, just something I've read on Quanta, but according to this article, Richard Kershner of Johns Hopkins claimed to have a complete classification of convex pentagon ...
Kevin Long's user avatar
37 votes
Accepted

How was Lagrange appointed professor of mathematics so early?

Lagrange enrolled to the university at the age of 14, to study law. But he quickly switched to mathematics. According to his biography, his mother was surprised when the French ambassador presented ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
35 votes
Accepted

Story of a student who solves an open problem

That's John von Neumann, about whom George Pólya wrote: There was a seminar for advanced students in Zürich that I was teaching and von Neumann was in the class. I came to a certain theorem, and I ...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
33 votes
Accepted

Is the story about Fermat's writing on a margin true?

Yes, it is true. Fermat's own copy was used in the publication of Diophantus by Fermat's son Samuel, and he included Fermat's notes. The original with Fermat's handwriting is lost. https://www.joh.cam....
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
30 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

I think a famous example is the Monty Hall problem about switching doors. The problem was answered correctly by Marilyn vos Savant, but she got baskets of letters from experts that she is wrong.
Karl's user avatar
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29 votes
Accepted

What does it mean by "d-ism of Leibniz" and "dotage of Newton" in simple English?

It is a play of words by Charles Babbage. Deism was a religious belief or rather a movement promoting the idea that God exists but it does not interfere with whatever happens in this world. This old ...
AChem's user avatar
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29 votes
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Did president Garfield make any contributions to Mathematics?

No. The library of Congress has a well-organized website of Garfield's papers, and he did not publish anything on mathematics other than that one note on the Pythagorean theorem in April 1, 1876 issue ...
Conifold's user avatar
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28 votes
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How did Isaac Newton write the integral symbol?

Newton used both vertical bars ($\overset{|}{x}$) and rectangles ($\boxed{x}$) to denote integrals in his Quadratura curvarum published in 1704. Here, the bar notation is used on the bottom of page 9 ...
Scene's user avatar
  • 396
27 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Frank Ramsey died before his 27th birthday. He started Ramsey theory, which is a very active field in mathematics.
mau's user avatar
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27 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Take meteorites, for instance. By the end of the XVIIIth century, educated people “knew” that no rock found on Earth could possibly have fallen from the sky, in spite of the evidence (...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
27 votes
Accepted

Which mathematician traveled to and moved in with each collaborator?

The man is Paul Erdős. As pointed out by the OP in the comments, his "nomadic" lifestyle is briefly mentioned in the Brown Numbers - Numberphile video, 3.05-3.30. It is also concisely ...
Conifold's user avatar
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27 votes
Accepted

Does Arnold say that Hardy is responsible for Ramanujan's untimely death?

I think it is fairly obvious from the quote that Arnold is blaming Hardy's neglect for Ramanujan's death. The real question is whether his charge is supported by evidence. Arnold's evidence comes ...
Conifold's user avatar
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26 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Yutaka Taniyama (12 November 1927 – 17 November 1958) was a notable Japanese mathematician known for the Taniyama–Shimura or Taniyama–Shimura–Weil conjecture now referred to as the Modularity theorem ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 2,163
26 votes
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Was Kolmogorov enraged after learning about the Karatsuba multiplication algorithm?

Karatsuba's own report can be found in his 1995 paper Сложность вычислений (Complexity of computations). The phrasing he uses is "сильно взволновалo", which Google does translate as "...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76.1k
23 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Felix Hausdorff, his wife, and his wife's sister committed suicide in 1942 after being ordered to a Nazi death camp. He was 74 at the time but his death is certainly tragic. Wikipedia
user4894's user avatar
  • 1,345
23 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Just warning not to include pre-1920s medicine (and a lot of medical mantra thru the 20th century), as there was little to no science involved amongst physicians. Just look at how difficult it was ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar
23 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

The Wright Brothers, both bicycle mechanics, solved both the control and power problems of heavier-than-air manned flight in 1902, beating the well funded aeronautical academic scientists of the ...
russelld's user avatar
  • 331
23 votes
Accepted

Who was Heinrich Kornblum?

The Göttingen Digitalization Center provides a digital scan of the paper H. Kornblum: "Über die Primfunktionen in einer arithmetischen Progression." Mathematische Zeitschrift 5 (1919), 100–111 online. ...
njuffa's user avatar
  • 6,516
22 votes
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Why are there no known Roman mathematicans from the Roman Empire?

The Roman Empire did not consist of Latin-speaking "Romans" only. It included Greece, North Africa and parts of what we now call the Middle East. Probably, a majority of the inhabitants of ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
22 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

I'd be tempted to add Gregor Mendel, whose experiments on plants and his analysis demonstrated how genes work, to that list. It wasn't so much that the 'professional' scientists of the time considered ...
Mac Harwood's user avatar
21 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Michael Ventris, an amateur philologist, (he was an architect) managed to decipher the Mycenean script known as Linear B, a problem that professional specialists had been trying to solve for decades.
xxavier's user avatar
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21 votes
Accepted

Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

Ramanujan's Lost Notebook is one such collection of mathematical results. It consists of loose and unordered sheets of paper in which the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan recorded the ...
Big Brother's user avatar
  • 2,187
21 votes
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Who was Richard Thompson?

I was only able to find fragmentary information on Thompson. A good starting point is his PhD thesis, which gives us his full name: Richard Joseph Thompson, Transformational Structure of Algebraic ...
njuffa's user avatar
  • 6,516

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