Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008694, Thu, 2 Oct 2003 12:14:20 -0700

Fw: Bernoulli of lemniscate famenot buried in Bern
Bernoulli not buried in Bern
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: D. Barton Johnson
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2003 12:33 PM
Subject: Bernoulli not buried in Bern

CK or DN: Do you or anyone else reading this note know why J. Bernoulli was buried in Bern rather than in Basel? What about others of the family?

J. Bernoulli used the Latin word "lemniscus" (ribbon, from Greek lemniskos) for the curve he discovered and which in English is called the "lemniscate of Bernoulli". There is a later "lemniscate of Gerono" and perhaps other lemniscates. Bernoulli's is the most ribbon-like. The first reference to the English word "lemniscate" in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1781 and is spelled "lemnisicate". Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the modern spelling in 180l, if I'm reading the dictionary correctly.

Mathematicians of Bernoulli's time would have no need for translating his work.

Incidentally, can anyone suggest where I could find an accessible illustration of a Greek wreath with a lemniscus attached? And last - at last! - why does frog mean question?

Thanks for any responses.

Mary Krimmel

Dear Mary,

Bernoulli should have been buried in Bern for the alliteration. Mea culpa, you are correct, he was (and remains) buried in Basel. Looking the "L word" up in the correct edition of Webster's surprised me in that it gives not only Bernoulli's name as inventor, but even the mathematical formula.

I haven't been able to locate an illustration of a wreath with lemniscus attached, but while looking found that the lemniscus is also a structure in the brain. Remembering all the brain imagery in Pale Fire makes me think this might be worth pursuing.

I am reading a little book on Ada Lovelace and her mathematical pursuits, and find that she did some work with Bernoulli numbers, and that at least the author of the book, Joan Baum, has conjectured that Ada Lovelace may have something to do with Nabokov's Ada.

I use the word frog for question from the German "frage" -- just for fun. Some frogs are silly, of course, some are inconsequential, and some are wonderful. I love frogs!