Archive for September, 2021

Monday Morning Math: Ada Lovelace

September 27, 2021

Our Mathematician this week is Augusta Ada Byron, also known as Ada Lovelace.  She was born in London, England, on December 10, 1815, the daughter of the mathematically-inclined Anne Isabelle Milbanke and the poet George Gordon Byron (known more commonly as Lord Byron).  Her parents separated when she was a baby, and she was raised by her mother, who encouraged her in mathematics:

Lady Byron wished her daughter to be unlike her poetical father, and she saw to it that Ada received tutoring in mathematics and music, as disciplines to counter dangerous poetic tendencies. But Ada’s complex inheritance became apparent as early as 1828, when she produced the design for a flying machine. It was mathematics that gave her life its wings.

From ScienceWomen

When Ada was 17 she met Charles Babbage at a party, and he talked about his Difference Machine, a (very) early version of a computer.  Ada and Charles exchanged letters for nearly 20 years, throughout Ada’s marriage to William King, the Earl of Lovelace, and the birth of her children Byron, Anne Isabella, and Ralph Gordon.  After  a mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea published an article about another of Babbage’s inventions, the Analytic machine, Ada translated the article from French to English, including notes of her own that were longer than the original article:

Her translation, along with her notes, was published in 1843, and represent her greatest contribution to computer science: she described with clarity how Babbage’s device would work, illuminating its foundations in the Jacquard loom. Just as Joseph-Marie Jacquard’s silk-weaving machine could automatically create images using a chain of punched cards, so too could Babbage’s system—the engine, Lovelace explained, weaved algebraic patterns. She also wrote how it might perform a particular calculation: Note G, as it is known, set out a detailed plan for the punched cards to weave a long sequence of Bernoulli numbers, and is considered to be the first computer program. 

From The New Yorker

Ada died of cancer on November 27, 1852, when she was only 37 years old, and the computer language Ada is named in her honor

Like podcasts?  Then I recommend this episode about Ada Lovelace from The History Chicks.

Like biographies?  During Hispanic Heritage month the website Lathisms is publishing a biography every day of a Hispanic/Latinx mathematician.  Lathisms was founded in 2016 by Alexander Diaz-Lopez, Pamela E. Harris, Prieto-Langarica, and Gabriel Sosa.

Monday Morning Math: Alberto Pedro Calderón

September 20, 2021

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Monday Morning Math! Every Monday Morning during the semester we’ll be posting some information about a mathematician, or some fun math. (For us it is, admittedly, a nice way to say Hello! to the blog again, which has not had many posts lately [*cough* understatement *cough*].

Our first mathematician is Alberto Pedro Calderón.  He was born on September 14, 1920, in Mendoza, Argentina, and worked as an engineer before earning a PhD in mathematics.  This early engineering seems to have stuck with him:

[His] revolutionary influence turned the 1950s trend toward abstract mathematics back to the study of mathematics for practical applications in physics, geometry, calculus, and many other branches of this field. His award-winning research in the area of integral operators is an example of his impact on contemporary mathematical analysis. 

(From yourdictionary)

The prizes mentioned above include the Wolf Prize (“for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples”) and the National Medal of Sciences (for “outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences.”)

One of  Calderón’s  graduate students, Carlos E. Kenig, described him in the following way:

Alberto Calderón was a very unassuming man of natural charm, a person of great elegance and restraint, and wonderful company. Mathematically Calderón was exceptional not only for the strength of his talent but for his peculiar way of grasping mathematics. He redid whole theories by himself, got to the core of what he wanted to know by himself, found always his own way. His ideas and the methods he developed were always extremely original and powerful.

(From the AMS Notices)

Alberto Pedro Calderón passed away on April 16, 1998, in Chicago, Illinois.  A biography at the University of Chicago noted:

Calderón is survived by his wife, noted mathematician Alexandra Bellow (née Bagdasar), recently retired from Northwestern University, whom he married in 1989; and two children from his first marriage, Mary Josephine, of St. Charles, Ill., and Pablo, of New York, N.Y.His first wife, Mabel (née Molinelli Wells), to whom he was married for 35 years, died in 1985.

From the biography

Don’t want to wait a whole other week before reading about another mathematician?  The website Lathisms (Latinx and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences) is posting a biography every day during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15-Oct 15)