To celebrate WebAssign’s 15th anniversary, each Monday we will be bringing you 15 anniversaries in science, technology, mathematics, and education that you can look forward to throughout the week. Here are some important dates in history coming up this week:
1900 – Dutch astronomer Jan Oort is born. While studying the motions of stars in our galaxy he notices the amount of observable objects in the galaxy do not account for its total mass. Although it is shown later that Oort’s measurements are erroneous, it is an error that reflects the greater truth, and is cited as the first evidence of dark matter. Oort also discovers the galactic halo, and is remembered for promoting the theory of the Oort cloud to explain the existence and behavior of comets.
1906 – Austrian-American mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel is born. Gödel proposes the existence of inherent limitations in mathematics when he publishes his incompleteness theorems in 1931 at age 25.
1854 – French physicist and mathematician Henri Poincaré is born. Poincaré proposes the Poincaré conjecture which remains unsolved until the early 2000’s. Poincaré is later remembered as one of the founders of several fields of physics and mathematics including special relativity, chaos theory, and topology.
1893 – American chemist Harold Urey is born. Urey is the first to detect the isotope of hydrogen, deuterium, and receives the Nobel prize for his discovery of heavy water. During World War II, Urey and his team develop a gaseous diffusion method of separating isotopes of the radioactive element uranium, a process which is necessary for the Manhattan Project to produce the atomic bomb. After the war, Urey conducts an experiment which demonstrates that the conditions of early earth were capable of producing amino acids necessary for the origin of life.
1777 – German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss is born. Beginning in his teens, Gauss produces a ground-breaking mathematical discovery in nearly every year of his life. Although most students of science and mathematics will later associate him with the invention of the Gaussian surface and Gauss’s law, Gauss is one of the greatest mathematicians in history.
1852 – Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal is born. Cajal investigates the structure and growth of neurons, showing that the nervous system is composed of a multitude of individual cells. Cajal’s discovery of what will later be known as the neuron doctrine earns him the Nobel prize.
1933 – American phyicist Steven Weinberg is born. Weinberg shows that electromagnetism and the weak interaction responsible for radioactive decay are the result of the same underlying physical phenomenon. This unification of two forces known as the electroweak interaction earn him the Nobel prize.
1825 – English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley is born. Huxley becomes an early and outspoken proponent of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and argues for reforms in science education in schools. As a result of his studies of the fossils of the dinosaurs Compsognathus and Archaeopteryx, Huxley correctly concludes that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs.