Our speaker for this talk in the Pohle Colloquium Series on the History of Mathematics is Professor Neil Gallagher of the Webb Institute. He will be speaking on “Mathematics in the History of Navigation and Ship Design” All are welcome.
Probably the most fundamental principle for the marine world is Archimedes Principle, which describes buoyancy. Archimedes is one of the most famous mathematicians, and the link between mathematics and marine principles, which he discovered 2300 years, continues to this time. During the Age of Discovery the problem of navigation, that is, finding a ship’s location on the sea, was of utmost importance not just for safety of the ship but also of strategic importance for a country’s navy. The solution was to accurately measure time and the angles to objects in the sky. Beginning in the 18th Century and throughout the Industrial Revolution modern ship design methods were developed and continue to be used today. These include means to predict the resistance of ships moving in water, and thus the predicted speed, and calculation of the stability of ships, i.e., the ability to remain upright while floating. Many of the names of famous mathematicians – Newton, Descartes, Euler, and Bernoulli – as well as names particular to the marine field, are associated with solving these problems.