Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Trivia on some mathematical physicists

Did you know that...

* In 1784 Laplace (the famous French mathematician) was appointed as examiner at the Royal Artillery Corps, and in this role in 1785, he examined and passed the 16 year old Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact this position gave Laplace much work in writing reports on the cadets that he examined but the rewards were that he became well known to the ministers of the government and others in positions of power in France.

* Shortly after publication of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World - Ptolemaic and Copernican the Inquisition banned its sale and ordered Galileo to appear in Rome before them. Illness prevented him from travelling to Rome until 1633. Galileo's accusation at the trial which followed was that he had breached the conditions laid down by the Inquisition in 1616. However a different version of this decision was produced at the trial rather than the one Galileo had been given at the time. The truth of the Copernican theory was not an issue therefore; it was taken as a fact at the trial that this theory was false. This was logical, of course, since the judgement of 1616 had declared it totally false.

Found guilty, Galileo was condemned to lifelong imprisonment, but the sentence was carried out somewhat sympathetically and it amounted to house arrest rather than a prison sentence. He was able to live first with the Archbishop of Siena, then later to return to his home in Arcetri, near Florence, but had to spend the rest of his life watched over by officers from the Inquisition. In 1634 he suffered a severe blow when his daughter Virginia, Sister Maria Celeste, died. She had been a great support to her father through his illnesses and Galileo was shattered and could not work for many months. When he did manage to restart work, he began to write Discourses and mathematical demonstrations concerning the two new sciences.

* Napoleon Bonaparte named Lagrange to the Legion of Honour and Count of the Empire in 1808. On 3 April 1813 he was awarded the Grand Croix of the Ordre Impérial de la Réunion. He died a week later.

Lagrange is famous for his Mécanique analytique (Analytical mechanics) in which he discuss physics (or mechanics) without requiring "constructions, nor geometrical or mechanical arguments but only algebraic operations, subject to a regular and uniform course". Lagrange equations is considered a simpler replacement of Newton's 2nd law of motion.

* James II became king of Great Britain on 6 February 1685. He had become a Roman Catholic in 1669. However, rebellions arose. Isaac Newton was a staunch Protestant and when the King tried to insist that a Benedictine monk be given a degree without taking any examinations or swearing the required oaths, Newton opposed this and when William of Orange landed in November 1688 and James fled to France the University of Cambridge elected Newton, now famous for his strong defence of the university, as one of their two members to the Convention Parliament on 15 January 1689. Newton was seen as a leader of the university and one of the most eminent mathematicians in the world. However, his election to Parliament let him see a life in London which appealed to him more than the academic world in Cambridge.

That's all for now...

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