Schedule of Talks for the 1998-1999 Academic Year
Date:  Wednesday, October 14, 1998
Speaker: Professor Patricia R. Allaire,
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science,
Queensborough Community College,
Title: Artemas Martin: The Contributions of an Amateur Mathematician
Abstract: Artemas Martin (1835-1918) was a self-taught mathematician whose activity covered more than half a century. His work concentrated on prime numbers, generalizations of FLT, probability, geometry, calculus, and mathematics education. He was the founder two journals, The Mathematical Visitor and The Mathematical Magazine, which paved the way for more formal mathematical periodicals.

We present a brief biography and examine representative samples of Martin's work.  The role of his journals in the growth of the fledgling American mathematical community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century will be discussed.

Date:  Wednesday, November 11, 1998
Speaker: Professor Kim Plofker, 
Department of the History of Mathematics, 
Brown University
Title: "Guessing with intelligence:" experiments with fixed-point iterations and their convergence in medieval Indian astronomy
Abstract: Although mathematicians since antiquity have relied on iterative numerical methods for solving problems whose exact solutions were impossible or impractical, such methods were not formally studied in mathematics until very recently.  Hence very little is known about the extent to which pre-modern mathematicians actually investigated or understood the behavior of these "quick and dirty" techniques.  We will examine some hints on this subject that emerge from medieval Sanskrit texts during the 900-year development of iterative solutions to a classic problem of Indian astronomy, the determination of the "corner altitude" of the sun.
Date:  Wednesday, December 16, 1999
Speaker: Professor Herbert Kranzer and
Professor Michael Yanowitch
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science,
Adelphi University

Professor Sylvia Svitak
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science,
Queensborough Community College,

Title: A special program in honor of Frederick V. Pohle and his contributions to mathematics
Abstract: Accounts of the mathematical achievements of Fred's career and personal anecdotes, from two of his colleagues at Adelphi and one his former doctoral students.
Date:  Wednesday, February 17, 1999
Speaker: Professor Ed Sandifer,
Department of Mathematics,
Western Connecticut State University
Title: Two Early Tales of Divergent Series
Abstract: Leonhard Euler and Daniel Bernoulli were 18th Century contemporaries and friends.  They often used tools of infinite series, but were only beginning to become aware of the limitations of those tools, limitations which were not fully explained until the middle of the 19th Century.  We discuss one seldom-cited paper on infinite series by each of them.

In the first, Euler uses (or mis-uses) the harmonic series to give an elegant, but flawed proof of an otherwise hard to prove series identity.  In the second, Bernoulli shows how to evaluate the series 1-1+1-1 ... and get several different values, and, based on this, expresses some doubts about the generality of the tools of infinite series.

The two papers taken together provide a snapshot of the thoughts of the mathematical community at a time when it was just getting ready to confront the foundations of calculus.

Date:  Wednesday, April 14, 1999
Speaker: Professor Robert G. Stein
Department of Mathematics
Californai State University, San Bernardino
Title: The History of Logarithms
Abstract: John Napier, the idiosyncratic inventor of logarithms, revolutionized scientific computation, but he did not think in terms of inverses of exponential functions, integrals, or even exponents. How, then, did his brilliant invention come about? How did logarithms evolve after Napier?  The development of logarithms was influenced in crucial ways by other quests and controversies of the time. The story involves some fascinating characters and surprising twists.