Quote of the Day


In colonial days scientific and mathematical knowledge had a certain definite standing, largely for its practical value but in part also for its own sake. George Washington was a scientifically-minded gentleman farmer for much of his life, and in his youth was a skilled surveyor, familiar with trigonometry; Benjamin Franklin discovered experimentally the electrical nature of the lightening discharge, theorized concerning electricity as a fluid, and had enough mathematical interest to devise ingenious magic squares; Thomas Jefferson regarded geometry and trigonometry as "most valuable to everyman," algebra and logarithms as "often of value," while he classed "conic sections, curves of the higher order, perhaps even spherical trigonometry, algebraic operations beyond the 2d dimensions, and fluxions" as a "delicious luxury"; in his later years Jefferson spend much of his time in mathematical reading, and was ever a true friend of mathematics. The interest in science and mathematics continued to be genteel an amateurish among American scholars and devotees untilthoward the middle of the last century with few notable exceptions.

George Birkhoff

"Fifty Years of American Mathematics," Semicentennial Addresses of the American Mathematical Society, Vol II, New York: American Mathematical Society, 1938, p. 270.


Question: Who is Birkhoff?  What did his son do?