Organizer: James Ward (NUI Galway)
History of Mathematics
All talks will be held in the Dillon Lecture Theatre
Tuesday, April 7 2009
14:15 - 14:45
Marit Hartveit (University of St Andrews):
The Death of a Schoolmaster: how the Edinburgh Mathematical Society lost its teachers
The Edinburgh Mathematical Society was founded in 1883 as a research society mainly for and by teachers. Today the old schoolmasters have all been replaced by university researchers. In this talk I will explain how and why this change came about, focusing largely on the effects brought on by a change in the Society's publishing policy, but also on other aspects up to the time of the Second World War. Finally, I will argue that this change in membership did not represent a major change in the nature of the Society itself.
14:45 - 15:15
Daniel Mintz (University of St Andrews):
A Study of Error in the Geography
When presented with Ptolemy’s mid-second century map of Great Britain, the sideways orientation of Scotland never fails to catch the eye and dominate all discussion of error in the map. Many explanations have been put forth, but none with overwhelming certainty. Instead of concentrating on the singular anomaly of Scotland, this presentation will focus on the better-defined inland cities of Roman Britain. When faced with questions regarding Ptolemy’s sources, method, and errors, separating his cities from his coastal points clearly indicates two independent sets of data. Further dividing his map into groups based upon the system of Roman roads yields even more satisfying results that could lead to speculation on the lost cities of Ptolemy. This will be followed by a comparison of the map of Roman Britain to those of the Iberian and Italian peninsulas. Though still in its early stages, this rough analysis has begun to raise and answer questions linking Ptolemy’s mathematical cartography and the history of the Mediterranean world.
15:15 - 15:45
David Wilkins (Trinity College Dublin):
The Discovery of Conical Refraction
At Trinity College Dublin in the 1830s, two young mathematicians, James Mac Cullagh (1809--47) and William Rowan Hamilton (1805--65) were investigating the geometrical properties of the wave surface proposed by Fresnel to describe the propagation of light through a biaxial crystal. In 1832, Hamilton made the remarkable prediction that a beam of light, incident on or emerging from a biaxial crystal at an appropriate angle would be refracted at the surface of the crystal into a hollow cone of rays. This prediction was verified experimentally by Humphrey Lloyd, the Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. In this talk we discuss some of the circumstances surrounding this discovery, and examine some of the geometrical features of the Fresnel wave surface that led Hamilton to his prediction.
15:45 - 16:15
Cáit Ní Shúilleabháin (UCC):
Mathematical Freedom: De Valera's vision of Ireland's relationship with the Commonwealth.
A look at Éamon de Valera, former Taoiseach and President of Ireland, who initially trained as a mathematician. His interest in mathematics which permeated his political and personal life, led him to devise mathematical concepts as solutions for political situations.