50 & 100 years ago

    50 years ago

    Niels Henrik Abel: Mathematician Extraordinary — ... [Abel] was a very nineteenth-century genius. The son of a drunken Norwegian clergyman and his profligate wife, he faced poverty as a student; his subsequent rise to fame was hampered by the indifference, and sometimes the misunderstanding, of the established great; his hope of financial reward was frustrated by official vulnerability to pressure groups; and he died of consumption at the age of twenty-six ... The young genius of to-day will find difficulty not in getting his work published, but in getting it noticed amid the flood from his ordinary sound contemporaries. If he dies at twenty-six, it will not be of consumption, but in a mountaineering accident; and however real his genius, so dying, he will surely not leave so deep or so lasting a mark on so wide a sector of his subject as did Abel.

    From Nature 17 May 1958.

    100 years ago

    “The Daylight Saving Bill” ... proposes that early on the morning of each of the first four Sundays in April all the public clocks shall be set forward twenty minutes and be set back twenty minutes on each of the four Sunday mornings in September ... But Sir David Gill shows, in a letter in Tuesday's Times, that even to change the origin of time once for all requires careful preparation, and that to make changes in the manner proposed by the Bill must lead to confusion ... He points out that if, for example, the Bank of England could be persuaded to open business at 9 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. from April 1 to the end of September, no doubt all other banks and offices would follow suit, and if employers of labour would open their works an hour earlier in the spring and summer months the objects of the Bill would be in great part gained without difficulty and confusion.

    From Nature 14 May 1908.

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    50 & 100 years ago. Nature 453, 299 (2008) doi:10.1038/453299a

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