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  • Joseph Petzval

    Reggie Jones
    This weekend is the 217th birthday for mathematician, physicist & engineer Joseph Petzval [1807-1891] (he is identified on Wikipedia as either German-Hungarian, or Slovak, depending on which pages you read).
    It was Petzval who discovered, and first studied, what we now call the Laplace transform, and we really should call it the Petzval transform. But George Boole [1815-1864] & Henri Poincaré [1854-1912] both chose to believe the false accusation that Petzval had plagiarized the work of Pierre-Simon Laplace [1749-1827], and so they named it after Laplace instead. As a result, Laplace transform is now indelibly enshrined in the mathematical lexicon.
    Petzval's fame today rests mostly on his invention of the flat-field portrait lens, called a Petzval lens, in 1840. But for many years Petzval was engaged in a bitter legal dispute against Peter Voigtländer [1812-1878], who had manufactured the first of Petzval’s lenses. The lenses had become well known throughout Europe, and they disputed the rights to the production of the lenses. And the Voigtländer family had a special license from the Hapsburg monarchy. Today Petzval is nearly forgotten for this achievement as well, although the Voigtländer trademark is alive & well in Germany today. The best example of this is the William Optics Redcat series of telescopes for astrophotography.
    Petzval was a master of optics, and was writing the manuscript for a major book in the field. But in 1859 someone broke into his home and destroyed all of his manuscripts, eliminating decades of research on optics and other fields.
    The engraving of Petzval depicted here comes from the digital collection of the Dibner Library of Science at the Smithsonian Institution. It is dated 1854, and is the work of Austrian lithographer Adolf Dauthage [1825-1883].
    https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Petzval/ (Mathematical biography - University of St. Andrews, Scotland)
    https://www.europeana.eu/.../optical-innovation-how-the... (“How the Petzval lens revolutionised portrait photography” - Europeana)
    https://monoskop.org/Joseph_Petzval (Petzval and the Petzval lens - Monoskop)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petzval_lens (Petzval lens - Wikipedia)
    Originally posted by Tim Thompson, Retired Senior Astronomer NASA JPL


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