Monthly Archives: December, 2013

This is my new book!

mybook

This 2013 which ends today is the year of the publication of my new book. It’s written in Catalan and the English title is:

History of Mathematics. From Mesopotamia to the Renaissance

I started to write it as the didactic text of the subject “History of Mathematics” which I teach in the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Barcelona but the editor thought that it was better to publish it for everybody. Now my editor is reading the second part (from the 17th century to the first half of the 19th century) of the History and it will be published before Easter (I hope!). I am very proud of it because it’s the best of all of my books and it’s a work which I really wanted to write it.

Enjoy it (if you know Catalan). If not, maybe it will be a bestseller and then it will be translated to English! (I’m joking).

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014

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The National Portrait Gallery in London

Photography by Carlos Dorce (alloed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

This was one of the great moment in my last holidays in England! Newton and me together in the same picture! (I must thank the guard because he allowed me to take this picture) Today is 25 December and this is the reason because I am publishing today this picture: Newton was born on December 25, 1642 (Julian Calendar) so… Happy Birthday Great Mind! 

Photography by Carlos Dorce (alloed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) [by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)]

An immensely influential mathematical scientist, in one year (1665-6), when driven from Cambridge by plague, Newton formulated a series of important theories concerning light, colour, calculus and the ‘universal law of gravitation’. According to tradition, he developed the latter theory after seeing an apple fall from a tree. He published Principia (1687) and the Optiks (1704), and was knighted in 1705. Newton was President of the Royal Society from 1703 until his death.

Newton is not alone and he is accompanied by other great English scientist like Edmund Halley. The portrait of Halley is attributed to Isaac Whood (1688-1752) from 1720. Halley has a chart showing his predicted path accross Southern England of the total solar eclipse of 22 April 1715.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Edmond Halley (1656-1742)

Astronomer. At the age of twenty-two in 1678 he published his catalogue of the stars of the southern hemisphere, and in 1705 his celebrated work on comets. Halley published Newton’s Principia at his own expense, 1687; he was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1721. He successfully predicted the reappearance of the great comet in 1758 (‘Halley’s Comet’).

Sir Christopher Wren (showing a plan of St. Paul’s Cathedral) is also in the Gallery:

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Wren was an architect and scientist. After the Great Fire of 1666, he rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral and many of the London City Churches; his work includes the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (1664-9), Trinity College Library in Cambridge (1674-84), Chelsea Hospital and Greenwich Hospital (from 1696). He was professor of Astronomy at Oxford and later President of the Royal Society.

Herschel and Boyle are also exhibited in the Gallery but it was almost impossible to take a picture of them so it’s better if you go to the National Portrait Gallery web and you’ll see better pictures of them. 

Before ending this post, we must look at this anamorphic picture of King Edward VI:

Edward VI 1537-53 by William Scrots (active 1537-53). Oil on panel, 1546.

This unusual portrait of Edward was painted in 1546 the year before he became king. He is shown in distorted perspective (anamorphosis), a technique to display the virtuosity of the painter and amaze the spectator. Anamorphic portraits were relatively popular in mainland Europe at this time, but this painting was considered particularly remarkable […].

The anamorphosis is a very interesting mathematical technique which must be explained in detail but I am not going to do it now.

MERRY CHRISTMAS… or ….

HAPPY NEWTON’S BIRTHDAY!

Location: National Portrait Gallery in London (map)

Tycho Brahe’s doodle

Today is Tycho Brahe’s 467th birthday and there is a beautiful Doodle dedicated to him in Google’s main page.

The King’s School in Grantham

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

My last visit in Grantham was the King’s School. Why? Read it:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

A second plaque remebers us the value of this old building:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: The King’s School (map)

A statue of Newton in Grantham

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The statue was erected by W. Theed in 1858 and was originally surrounded by iron railings. It shows Newton holding a scroll with a drawing of an ellipse which is the path taken by a planet around the sun. The statue was cast from the metal of a Russian gun captured in the Crimean war.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Furthermore, the statue is opposite the Isaac Newton Shopping Centre:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: St. Peter’s Hill (map)

Newton’s birthplace in Woolsthorpe Manor

WoM06

One of my last visits in England in August was Woolsthorpe Manor House which is Newton’s birthplace. We had to take the flight in the afternoon but we got up early and we drove until we arrived to this sacred place!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Of course almost all the objects of the house are reproductions of the original ones which were used by Newton and his family. There also is a room dedicated to explaining his life and scientific contribution…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…where it’s possible to find a lock of his hair:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The room where he was born is absolutely reconstructed and a plaque remembers us the great date:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is the famous apple tree outside:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

A tree with a place in history

Woolsthorpe is the home of the Flower of Kent tree connected with Newton’s story of how he discovered the law of gravitation -a story told by Newton himself to William Stukeley, one of his biographers, in 1726:

Stukeley wrote:

“…after dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank tea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to himself: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it…”

The tree adquired a local reputation and after Newton’s death people would make the pilgrimage to the Manor House and to see the tree in the orchard. In 1820 the tree blew down after a storm. Sketches were made of it and the broken wood was used to make snuff boxes and small trinkets. Fortunately the tree remained rooted and re-grew strongly -this is the tree we have now.

There are descendants of the tree planted throughout the world, including at Trinity College, Cambridge, at the Massachussets Institute of Technology in the United States, and at Tianjin University in China. There are also several in this orchars, so that when the tree comes to the natural end of its life there will be descendants to carry on the story.

In another house there is a little exhibition about Newton’s experiments and discoveries:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is also little information about other contemporany scientists like Leibniz, Hooke or Flamsteed:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, there is a sundial in the orchard (of course!):

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Woolsthorpe Manor (map)

The childhood church of Newton

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

When I went to visit Manor House in Woolsthorpe I arrived too soon so I had to wait until the museum was open. Hence I decided to drive to Colsterworth to take a coffee but the restaurant was also closed. The restaurant was opposite a church and there were a lot of people going in and out of it. I came near it and… it was St. John the Baptist, Newton’s childhood church!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The people working and cleaning the church were the Friends of St. John the Baptist Colsterworth and they were very kind because they showed me the building and all the Newtonian things in it.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

For example, I could discover the font where he was baptisted…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

… and a desk with a bust and a copy of his will:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

I could also see the grave of Newton’s parents and a plaque remembering his presence there:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, there is a sundial on one of the walls which is supposed to be made by Newton when he was 9 y.o. Why not?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Thank all the Friends of St. John the Baptist for their welcome and their touristic information!

Location: St. John the Baptist Church (map)

Whipple Museum of the History of Science (and V)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The last post dedicated to Whipple Museum is for the calculators and their predecessors. All these objects are located in the next room which contains a lot of things in shelves and drawers as if they were in a store. There are calculators and a drawer dedicated to the Napier’s rods or bones:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There also are some interesting abacus like this one:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, different slide rules fill some drawers. You must be very patient and it’s a pity that this museum isn’t located in a larger building. 

WM27

Photography by Carlos Dorce

I have more pictures but you must go there if you want to have a real idea of the exhibition. It’s impossible to summarize it in some photos!

LocationWhipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge (map)

Whipple Museum of the History of Science (IV)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Some mathematical objects also exhibited here like this Gunter’s square made in 1567. Gunter also invented his scale for computing adapting the new logarithms invented by Napier in 1614. Hence, it’s time to start our visit to all the Napier’s rods and slide rules of the exhibition. Let’s have a look to a couple of them, like these English Napier’s rods from 1720…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

or this other ivory set made from the 17th century:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

From Gunter scales the slide rules were invented and this spiral logarithmic scale by John Holland (1650) is a very good example of the great inventions of the men from the Renaissance:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

After the slide rules and before the computers, ihis fragment of the ‘Difference Engine No. 1’ by Charles Babbage (1832-3)  assembled by his son Henry Babbage (c.1880) must also be exhibited:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, a very curious mathematical object: this magic cube made by A. H. Frost in 1877:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Each row, each column and each diagonal have the same sum!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

LocationWhipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge (map)

Whipple Museum of the History of Science (III)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

c

Indian astrologer’s celestial globe from the 19th century:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This celestial globe is extremely unusual in being inscribed in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, representing a blending of traditions. It was probably designed for astrological use.

English Ptolemaic armillary sphere, by Richard Glynne (c. 1715)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Ptolemy’s cosmology placed the moon along with Mercury, Venus, the sun, Jupiter and Saturn in orbit around the Eart, which stood at rest at the centre of the universe. Although a sun-centred universe was more widely accepted among astronomers in the 18th century, Ptolemaic armillary spheres such as this one continued to be made and sold.

Upstairs there is another exhibition related to globes and armilar spheres and we can find some terrestial globes and Copernican and more Ptolemaic spheres. Here you have one Ptolemaic one dated in 1790:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, I must point to two delicatessen. The first one is this little ivory plaque showing astronomers working with their instruments:

Photography by Carlos Dorc

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The other is this picture showing a figure pointing to a globe from a section of the Roman mosaic from mid-2nd century (Museo Nacional de Arte Romano):

WM28

LocationWhipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge (map)