Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31 in History

In 1596 René Descartes was born in Le Haye Touraine, Touraine (present-day Descartes, Indre-et-Loire). A philosopher, mathematician, and writer, Descartes spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. Descartes' influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution. Descartes is perhaps best known for the philosophical statement "Cogito ergo sum" (French: "Je pense, donc je suis;" English: "I think, therefore I am"). Descartes died in Stockholm, Sweden on February 11, 1650.

In 1727 Sir Isaac Newton died at the age of 84. An English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, Newton is considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived. His monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics.

In 1934 Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia was born. A particle physicist and inventor, Rubbia shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics with Simon van der Meer for work leading to the discovery of the W and Z particles at CERN.

In 1918 Daylight saving time went into effect in the United States for the first time.

In 1927 U.S. actor William Daniels was born. In addition to his work on stage, in movies and television, Daniels is best known by geeks as the voice of the Knight Industries Two-Thousand (K.I.T.T.) in the 1980s NBC television series Knight Rider.

In 1966 the Soviet scientific probe Luna 10 was launched aboard a Molniya launch vehicle. Luna 10 entered lunar orbit on April 10, becoming the first artificial satellite to orbit the Moon. Luna 10 continued in operation until May 30.

In 1970 Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite to be successfully launched in to Earth orbit, re-entered Earth's atmosphere after 12 years in orbit. 

In 1997 after 25 years of operation, routine telemetry and ground control with the NASA robotic spacecraft Pioneer 10 was terminated. At that moment the probe was 6.7 billion miles from Earth, traveling at 28,000 miles per hour. Launched in 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt, the first to complete an interplanetary mission to Jupiter, and the first to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. It is estimated that in two million years, Pioneer 10 will reach the system of the red-giant star Aldeberan in the constellation of Taurus.


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