Authors:David Aubin Abstract: Abstract In this paper, we investigate the way in which French artillery engineers met the challenge of air drag in the nineteenth century. This problem was especially acute following the development of rifled barrels, when projectile initial velocities reached values much higher than the speed of sound in air. In these circumstances, the Newtonian approximation according to which the drag was a force proportional to the square of the velocity ( \(v^2\) ) was not nearly good enough to account for experimental results. This prompted a series of theoretical and experimental investigations aimed at determining the correct law of air resistance. Throughout the nineteenth century, contrary to what happened before or after, ballistician were—with very rare exceptions—alone in trying to tackle the problem of air resistance. This was a complex problem where theoretical considerations, experimental results, and computational algorithms intermingled with one another, as well as with the development of new materials and doctrine in artillery. By carefully studying the reasons why ballisticians finally opted for a complex empirical law at the end of the nineteenth century, we show that military procedures for evaluating materials became a yardstick for assessing the worth of mathematical theories as well. In conclusion, we try to assess why military specialists were not able to face the challenges posed by World War I and required the help of civilian scientists and mathematicians. PubDate: 2017-07-29 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0195-6

Authors:Gerd Graßhoff; Florian Mittenhuber; Elisabeth Rinner Abstract: Abstract In his Geography, Ptolemy recorded the geographical coordinates of more than 6,300 toponyms of the known oikoumenē. This study presents the type of geographical information that was used by Ptolemy as well as the methods he applied to derive his geographical coordinates. A new methodological approach was developed in order to analyse the characteristic deviations (displacement vectors) of Ptolemy’s data from their reconstructed reference locations. The clusters of displacement vectors establish that Ptolemy did not obtain his coordinates from astronomical observations at each geographical location. The characteristic displacement vectors reveal how Ptolemy derived the coordinates: (1) he constructed locations on maps using a compass and ruler, for which he employed a small amount of astronomical reference data and geographical distance information; (2) he made schematic drawings of coastlines, based on textual descriptions of coastal formations; (3) and he situated additional locations within the established framework using reports of travel itineraries. PubDate: 2017-07-24 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0194-7

Authors:Christopher D. Hollings Abstract: Abstract In the early years of the twentieth century, the so-called ‘postulate analysis’—the study of systems of axioms for mathematical objects for their own sake—was regarded by some as a vital part of the efforts to understand those objects. I consider the place of postulate analysis within early twentieth-century mathematics by focusing on the example of a group: I outline the axiomatic studies to which groups were subjected at this time and consider the changing attitudes towards such investigations. PubDate: 2017-07-20 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0193-8

Authors:Dirk Grupe Abstract: Abstract Earlier than the Arabic-Latin transfer of Ptolemaic astronomy via the Iberian peninsula, a serious occupation with Arabic astronomy by Latin scholars took place in crusader Antioch in the first half of the twelfth century. One of the translators of Arabic science in the East was Stephen of Pisa, who produced a commented Latin version, entitled Liber Mamonis, of Ibn al-Haytham’s cosmography, On the Configuration of the World. Stephen’s considerations about the physical universe in relation to the doctrines of Ptolemaic astronomy have hitherto received but little attention. The present paper discusses Stephen of Pisa’s treatment of the planetary spheres in regard to Ptolemy’s theory of oscillating deferents. Emphasis is given to geometric arguments in Stephen’s criticism of Ibn al-Haytham’s spherical model of the inner planets and to Stephen’s own attempt at an improved theory based on additional spheres. The paper argues that astronomical studies in Antioch were of an advanced level, involving independent judgement as well as an influence of contemporary trends in Arabic astronomy. PubDate: 2017-06-23 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0192-9

Authors:Nicola M. R. Oswald Abstract: Abstract Adolf Hurwitz’s estate contains a note from the early 1880s on the converse to Riemann’s proof of the functional equation for the zeta-function; this idea has later been elaborated by Hans Hamburger for a characterization of the zeta-function by its functional equation and by Eugène Cahen and Erich Hecke with respect to modular forms. In this note, we present Hurwitz’s reasoning and comment on the historical context. PubDate: 2017-04-27 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0190-y

Authors:Călin Galeriu Abstract: Abstract The study of an electric charge in hyperbolic motion is an important aspect of Minkowski’s geometrical formulation of electrodynamics. In “Space and Time”, his last publication before his premature death, Minkowski gives a brief geometrical recipe for calculating the four-force with which an electric charge acts on another electric charge. The subsequent work of Born, Sommerfeld, Laue, and Pauli filled in the missing derivation details. Here, we bring together these early contributions, in an effort to provide a more modern, accessible, and unified exposition of the early history of the electric charge in hyperbolic motion. PubDate: 2017-04-09 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0191-x

Authors:Steven Shnider Abstract: Abstract The following article has two parts. The first part recounts the history of a series of discoveries by Otto Neugebauer, Bartel van der Waerden, and Asger Aaboe which step by step uncovered the meaning of Column \(\varPhi \) , the mysterious leading column in Babylonian System A lunar tables. Their research revealed that Column \(\varPhi \) gives the length in days of the 223-month Saros eclipse cycle and explained the remarkable algebraic relations connecting Column \(\varPhi \) to other columns of the lunar tables describing the duration of 1, 6, or 12 synodic months. Part two presents John Britton’s theory of the genesis of Column \(\varPhi \) and the System A lunar theory starting from a fundamental equation relating the columns discovered by Asger Aaboe. This article is intended to explain and, hopefully, to clarify Britton’s original articles which many readers found difficult to follow. PubDate: 2017-03-04 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0189-4

Authors:Gert Schubring Abstract: Abstract When did the concept of model begin to be used in mathematics? This question appears at first somewhat surprising since “model” is such a standard term now in the discourse on mathematics and “modelling” such a standard activity that it seems to be well established since long. The paper shows that the term— in the intended epistemological meaning—emerged rather recently and tries to reveal in which mathematical contexts it became established. The paper discusses various layers of argumentations and reflections in order to unravel and reach the pertinent kernel of the issue. The specific points of this paper are the difference in the epistemological concept to the usually discussed notions of model and the difference between conceptions implied in mathematical practices and their becoming conscious in proper reflections of mathematicians. PubDate: 2017-01-28 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0188-5

Authors:Yaakov Zik; Giora Hon Abstract: Abstract The claim that Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) transformed the spyglass into an astronomical instrument has never been disputed and is considered a historical fact. However, the question what was the procedure which Galileo followed is moot, for he did not disclose his research method. On the traditional view, Galileo was guided by experience, more precisely, systematized experience, which was current among northern Italian artisans and men of science. In other words, it was a trial-and-error procedure—no theory was involved. A scientific analysis of the optical properties of Galileo’s first improved spyglass shows that his procedure could not have been an informed extension of the traditional optics of spectacles. We argue that most likely Galileo realized that the objective and the eyepiece form a system and proceeded accordingly. PubDate: 2017-01-20 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0187-y

Authors:Athanase Papadopoulos Abstract: Abstract Nicolas-Auguste Tissot (1824–1897) published a series of papers on cartography in which he introduced a tool which became known later on, among geographers, under the name of the Tissot indicatrix. This tool was broadly used during the twentieth century in the theory and in the practical aspects of the drawing of geographical maps. The Tissot indicatrix is a graphical representation of a field of ellipses on a map that describes its distortion. Tissot studied extensively, from a mathematical viewpoint, the distortion of mappings from the sphere onto the Euclidean plane that are used in drawing geographical maps, and more generally he developed a theory for the distortion of mappings between general surfaces. His ideas are at the heart of the work on quasiconformal mappings that was developed several decades after him by Grötzsch, Lavrentieff, Ahlfors and Teichmüller. Grötzsch mentions the work of Tissot, and he uses the terminology related to his name (in particular, Grötzsch uses the Tissot indicatrix). Teichmüller mentions the name of Tissot in a historical section in one of his fundamental papers where he claims that quasiconformal mappings were used by geographers, but without giving any hint about the nature of Tissot’s work. The name of Tissot is missing from all the historical surveys on quasiconformal mappings. In the present paper, we report on this work of Tissot. We shall mention some related works on cartography, on the differential geometry of surfaces, and on the theory of quasiconformal mappings. This will place Tissot’s work in its proper context. PubDate: 2016-12-16 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0186-z

Authors:C. Philipp E. Nothaft Abstract: Abstract A characteristic hallmark of medieval astronomy is the replacement of Ptolemy’s linear precession with so-called models of trepidation, which were deemed necessary to account for divergences between parameters and data transmitted by Ptolemy and those found by later astronomers. Trepidation is commonly thought to have dominated European astronomy from the twelfth century to the Copernican Revolution, meeting its demise only in the last quarter of the sixteenth century thanks to the observational work of Tycho Brahe. The present article seeks to challenge this picture by surveying the extent to which Latin astronomers of the late Middle Ages expressed criticisms of trepidation models or rejected their validity in favour of linear precession. It argues that a readiness to abandon trepidation was more widespread prior to Brahe than hitherto realized and that it frequently came as the result of empirical considerations. This critical attitude towards trepidation reached an early culmination point with the work of Agostino Ricci (De motu octavae spherae, 1513), who demonstrated the theory’s redundancy with a penetrating analysis of the role of observational error in Ptolemy’s Almagest. PubDate: 2016-11-11 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0184-1

Authors:Christián C. Carman Abstract: Abstract The eighth book of Martianus Capella’s famous De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii deserves a prominent place in the history of astronomy because it is the oldest source that came down to us unambiguously postulating the heliocentrism of the inner planets. Just after the paragraph in which Capella asserts that Mercury and Venus revolve around the Sun, he describes a method for calculating the size of the Moon, as well as the proportion between the size of its orbit and the size of the Earth. It is possible to find some descriptions of the argument in general histories of astronomy or in books dedicated to Capella’s work, but usually they do not try to make sense of the argument. Rather, they limit themselves to describe or paraphrase what Capella says. As far as I know, there is no single study of the argument itself. The explanation for this absence is simple: the calculation offers many difficulties in its interpretation, for it shows obvious inconsistencies in the steps of the argument and apparent arbitrariness in the selection of the data used. In this article, I offer an interpretation that tries to discover, behind Capella’s confusing presentation, a well-sound argument for calculating the Moon’s absolute size. Interestingly, we have no records of this argument in other sources, at least in the form described by Capella. PubDate: 2016-11-09 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0185-0

Abstract: Abstract The history of the Parallelogram Rule for composing physical quantities, such as motions and forces, is marked by conceptual difficulties leading to false starts and halting progress. In particular, authors resisted the required assumption that the magnitude and the direction of a quantity can interact and are jointly necessary to represent the quantity. Consequently, the origins of the Rule cannot be traced to Pseudo-Aristotle or Stevin, as commonly held, but to Fermat, Hobbes, and subsequent developments in the latter part of the seventeenth century. PubDate: 2016-11-01 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0183-2

Authors:Jip van Besouw Abstract: Abstract This article discusses the quest for the mechanical advantage of the wedge in the eighteenth century. As a case study, the wedge enlightens our understanding of eighteenth-century mechanics in general and the controversy over “force” or vis viva in particular. In this article, I show that the two different approaches to mechanics, the one that favoured force in terms of velocities and the one that primarily used displacements—known as the ‘Newtonian’ and ‘Leibnizian’ methods, respectively—were not at all on par in their ability to solve the problem of the wedge. In general, only those who used the Leibnizian concept of force or some related notion were able to get to the conventional results. This article thus rebuts the received view that the vis viva controversy was merely a semantic one. Instead, it shows that different understandings of “force” led to real and pragmatic differences in eighteenth-century mechanics. PubDate: 2016-10-17 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0182-3

Authors:Bernard R. Goldstein; José Chabás Abstract: Abstract In this paper, we analyze the astronomical tables for 1340 by Immanuel ben Jacob Bonfils (Tarascon, France) who flourished 1340–1365, based on four Hebrew manuscripts. We discuss the relation of these tables principally with those of al-Battānī (d. 929), Abraham Bar Ḥiyya (d. c. 1136), and Levi ben Gerson (d. 1344), as well as with Bonfils’s better known tables, called Six Wings. An unusual feature of this set of tables is that there are two kinds of mean motion tables, one arranged for Julian years from 1340 to 1380, months, days, hours, and minutes of an hour, and the other arranged in the Hebrew calendar for the times of conjunctions and oppositions of the Sun and the Moon only, with subtables for 19-year cycles, single years in a 19-year cycle, and months. The latter arrangement is found in Bonfils’s Six Wings for solar and lunar motions only, whereas in his Tables for 1340, this arrangement applies to all planets. Notably absent are tables for the trigonometric functions, etc., that are generally found in such sets of astronomical tables. PubDate: 2016-08-26 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0181-4

Authors:François Lê Abstract: Abstract This paper describes Alfred Clebsch’s 1871 article that gave a geometrical interpretation of elements of the theory of the general algebraic equation of degree 5. Clebsch’s approach is used here to illuminate the relations between geometry, intuition, figures, and visualization at the time. In this paper, we try to delineate clearly what he perceived as geometric in his approach, and to show that Clebsch’s use of geometrical objects and techniques is not intended to aid visualization matters, but rather is a way of directing algebraic calculations. We also discuss the possible reasons why the article of Clebsch has been eventually completely forgotten by the historiography. PubDate: 2016-07-05 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0180-5

Authors:Giovanni Capobianco; Maria Rosaria Enea; Giovanni Ferraro Abstract: Abstract Euler developed a program which aimed to transform analysis into an autonomous discipline and reorganize the whole of mathematics around it. The implementation of this program presented many difficulties, and the result was not entirely satisfactory. Many of these difficulties concerned the integral calculus. In this paper, we deal with some topics relevant to understand Euler’s conception of analysis and how he developed and implemented his program. In particular, we examine Euler’s contribution to the construction of differential equations and his notion of indefinite integrals and general integrals. We also deal with two remarkable difficulties of Euler’s program. The first concerns singular integrals, which were considered as paradoxical by Euler since they seemed to violate the generality of certain results. The second regards the explicitly use of the geometric representation and meaning of definite integrals, which was gone against his program. We clarify the nature of these difficulties and show that Euler never thought that they undermined his conception of mathematics and that a different foundation was necessary for analysis. PubDate: 2016-05-12 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0179-y

Authors:José Chabás Abstract: Abstract Bianchini called Tabulae magistrales a set of eight tables he compiled to solve problems in spherical astronomy. This set, which is the object of this paper, consists of auxiliary and trigonometric functions, including the sine and the tangent functions, for radii 10,000 and 60,000, and seems to be the first set of tables in Latin specifically devoted to mathematical tools for computational astronomy. Bianchini presented some of his tables in decimal form, which meant that for the first time one of the oldest astronomical tradition, the sexagesimal base ( \(R = 60\) ), was abandoned. PubDate: 2016-02-29 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0178-z

Authors:Vincenzo De Risi Abstract: Abstract The paper lists several editions of Euclid’s Elements in the Early Modern Age, giving for each of them the axioms and postulates employed to ground elementary mathematics. PubDate: 2016-02-24 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-015-0173-9

Authors:Andrea Del Centina Abstract: Abstract This is an attempt to explain Kepler’s invention of the first “non-cone-based” system of conics, and to put it into a historical perspective. PubDate: 2016-02-09 DOI: 10.1007/s00407-016-0175-2