33 votes

Timeline of measurements of the electron's charge

If anyone's still reading this thread, here's a few more data points that appear to back Feynmann's interpretation. Erik Bäcklin, Nature vol 123, no. 3098, p. 409 (1929): $1.59875 \cdot 10^{-19} \pm ...
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  • 431
21 votes

Timeline of measurements of the electron's charge

The 16th (1995) edition of Kaye and Laby includes the following progression of the accepted values for the charge of an electron. The first value "is essentially Milikan's oil drop value" and the ...
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  • 1,144
18 votes
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What did Fermat do as a lawyer?

Fermat wasn't so much a "lawyer" as a magistrat which means that he sat on successively higher levels of the Parlement of Toulouse, France. This period (17th century) was before the emergence of the ...
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  • 3,639
17 votes
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Source for Hilbert's famous quote "Mathematics in Göttingen? There really is none anymore"

The following is how far we get from the direct English and German Wikipedia references. I had a look at the German Wikipedia reference wythagoras pointed out. In D. Nachmansohn, R. Schmidt: Die große ...
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  • 752
15 votes
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What major areas of mathematics have been abandoned?

I would say that no area of mathematics has ever been completely abandoned. The areas go in and out of fashion, but nothing seems to be completely abandoned. For example, approximately in 1940's most ...
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15 votes
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What was Kolmogorov’s point of view in the philosophy of mathematics?

Kolmogorov was not exactly free to express his views considering the situation in the Soviet Union. Philosophical issues, even concerning mathematics, were ideologically sensitive, and everyone had to ...
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14 votes

What resources are available for lives of recent mathematicians besides E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics?

I feel somewhat conflicted writing this because Bell's book inspired many people to become mathematicians, including some prominent ones. However, it is not a canonical introduction to the history of ...
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14 votes

Who was L. Aubry?

I am Camille Aubry, granddaughter of Léon Aubry (1882-1947), and I thank you for your interest in my great-grandfather. He was a wine grower, farmer, beekeeper, in Jouy-lès-Reims (51). He was also a ...
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13 votes

Is Spivak right in what he says about Galileo?

Yes, indeed when trying to obtain the law of falling bodies, Galileo's first conjecture was that the speed is proportional to the distance traveled. After some contemplation, Galileo understood that ...
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12 votes
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History of a result from Bézout

The big surprise I got from my research was that the theorem apparently originated with Maclaurin, whom we remember more for the Maclaurin series than this theorem. From this pdf (you have to go to ...
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  • 8,082
12 votes

Why do we call a linear mapping "linear mapping"?

The theory of Linear Algebra, along with the associated concept of linear mapping, was named as "linear" by its creator, Hermann Graßmann, which he developed in his 1844 linear algebra manifesto, Die ...
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12 votes
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The history and motivation of eigenvectors

Eigenvectors (but not the word for them!) gradually appeared in 18s century in solving differential equations which we write now as $y'=Ay$ describing all sorts of oscillatory phenomena in the nature (...
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12 votes
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How was curvature originally defined and calculated?

Apollonius (c. 262–190 BC) "calculated" curvature of conic sections implicitly when solving the problem of drawing normals to them in book V of Conica, but he did not think of it as a ...
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12 votes

What is the original source for Abel's quote about Gauss:"He is like the fox, who effaces his tracks in the sand with his tail"?

Bjerknes cites a letter from Abel to Christopher Hansteen, a fellow professor of Bjerknes at Christiania/Oslo, who had put up and mentored Abel in the beginning of his career. Den omgangskreds af ...
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  • 1,311
12 votes
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What theorem of Sophus Lie on the number of geometries is H. Poincaré referring to?

Poincare refers to the Lie's solution of the so-called problem of space, a.k.a. the Helmholtz , or Riemann-Helmholtz, or Helmholtz-Lie problem of space, which amounts to characterizing all manifolds (...
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11 votes

Books on the history of linear algebra

Are you familiar with Michael J. Crowe's book, A History of Vector Analysis? While I haven't read the book this article is well worth a read, and it seems to be a good summary. Of course, vector ...
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11 votes

Source for Hilbert's famous quote "Mathematics in Göttingen? There really is none anymore"

In my grandfather's book, lately translated from German: Recollections of a Jewish Mathematician in Germany, by Abraham A. Fraenkel, edited by Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, translated by Allison Brown. ...
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11 votes
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What manuscript is depicted in the HSM advertisement?

User plannapus points out that the proposer of the ad links to the original source, which is the first page of Diophantus’s Arithmetica, specifically the 1621 translation by Claude Gaspard Bachet de ...
11 votes
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What was the main language in science/mathematics before 1850

For what it’s worth, here are the languages of the 1645 math/phys paper and book titles from the years 1690–1919 in a bibtex file I have. Of course unscientific with all kinds of biases, but I imagine ...
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11 votes

Did Einstein say "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them"?

I am afraid there is no original source. Wikipedia has talk pages where sourcing is discussed, and its editors did extensive searches on this one and its variants. It is listed under the heading ...
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11 votes
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Some references for Vladimir Arnold's thesis "Mathematics is a part of physics"?

First, on the question in the narrow sense the answer is in the negative, I am afraid, although there are some other places where Arnold expresses his views on mathematics: An apologia for Applied ...
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10 votes
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How did Young perform his double slit experiment?

Young's original setup demonstrating interference of light was not double slit but sunbeam splitting with a single thin card. He presented a paper On the theory of Light and Color to the Royal Society ...
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10 votes
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Did Gauss say "there have been but three epoch-making mathematicians, Archimedes, Newton and Eisenstein"?

Wikipedia also says:"this is not a quote by Gauss, but is (a translation of) the end of a sentence from the biography of Eisenstein by Moritz Cantor (1877), one of Gauss's last students and a ...
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  • 65.8k
10 votes
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Where did Rayleigh derive the ultraviolet catastrophe?

The short answer is that you can not find it because it does not exist, Rayleigh never derived the "ultraviolet catastrophe". Chapter VI of Kuhn's book on the history of quantum mechanics reads: "...
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  • 65.8k
10 votes

Did Srinivasa Ramanujan have a surviving sibling?

There were actually two surviving brothers: source See also page 12 of Robert Kanigel's biography of Ramanujan.
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10 votes
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History of irreducible polynomials and motivation for them

I will skip the pre-history of solving polynomial equations and factoring polynomials. Let me mention that the analogy between long division of numbers and polynomials goes back to medieval Islamic ...
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  • 65.8k
10 votes
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A branch of mathematics which refused to be rigorous?

You might be looking for the Italian School of Algebraic Geometry. It has become the canonical example of problems with a lack of rigour. The short summary is that the school started with some ...
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10 votes
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What was Richard Courant's saying about mathematical research apart from applications?

There is river imagery in a passage from the preface (written by Courant) to Courant-Hilbert's Methods of Mathematical Physics, vol. 1, but the point of the metaphor is somewhat different. It is ...
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