September 20th, 2006

krazy koati

Haven't I seen that face somewhere a long time ago?

It was a normal sort of day for me, involving getting up reluctantly, giving my lecture (it turned out well, despite running long), fiddling around with my lecture notes for Thursday's class, going to the library for references, discovering I'm being plagiarized by a time-traveller. The usual.

My evidence is based on something I do in all my lecture notes and in the manuscript of the recently completed manuscript. I include in the footnotes short biographical sketches of all the people named. I feel this adds a touch of human interest to the proceedings, particularly since so many mathematicians had fascinating personality flaws. This Numerical Analysis book I picked up, published 1997 if you believe the copyright page, does the same thing. Even more eerie, with quite a few of the people it mentions the same things I write about. Anyone who doesn't say Carl Freidrich Gauss was one of the, if not the, greatest mathematicians of all time doesn't have any appreciation for him, but how many different things can you say about Roger Cotes?

Well, all right, there isn't much of interest to say about Roger Cotes: he lived from 1682 to 1716, he edited Isaac Newton's papers, he developed some formulas for numerical approximations to integrals, and when Cotes died too early, Newton said, ``If he had lived we might have known something.'' Given he's only going to be mentioned for the Newton-Cotes formulas approximating integrals, and that Isaac Newton was prone to the cheerful and easy praise of others we commonly associate with Harlan Ellison, anyone describing Cotes in three sentences has to come to that. It's still startling to find substantially your own words in (presumably) someone else's writing.

At least I mentioned something about Thomas Simpson, 1710 - 1761, famed for the Simpson's Rule of approximating integrals (that's the thing about parabolas you never really understood, which is fine because the rule was actually discovered by Newton; it all balances, as Simpson put the Newton-Raphson iterative method for finding roots into the form we know it) (Joseph Raphson, 1648 - 1715, was made a member of the Royal Society in 1691; he graduated in 1692), that the other book didn't include: he was a teacher in the 18th century London ``Penny Universities''. In some coffee houses, patrons could attend, pay one penny admission, and take in a lecture while having coffee. Different coffee houses had different specialties. It was a fair way to get an education, even if it doesn't sound as much fun as open-mike guitar night.

Trivia: The conclave which named Clementi VII -- Robert of Geneva, the ``Butcher of Cesena'' -- the second pope, starting the Papal Schism from 1378, met in Fondi, in the territory of Naples. Source: A Distant Mirror, Barbara W Tuchman.

Currently Reading: Planets of Adventure, Murray Leinster.