Meet a Lucerna Author: Whitney White

My Lucerna project is about the Divergence Theorem, a famous mathematical theorem with common applications in the branch of physics. I analyze the 1831 proof of The Divergence Theorem and connect it to our modern understanding of it as printed in our textbooks. This original proof had not previously been translated into English and is first published here in this paper. I also hope to rightfully credit the theorem’s initial author, Michael Ostrogradsky. Though his theorem is commonplace, his name is not, and I believe he should be recognized.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I graduated from UMKC in December 2018, and I have a B.S. in Mathematics and a B.S. in Physics. These two fields are my passions, and The Divergence Theorem is used in both. The most incredible part of this project was getting my hands on the original historical document, in French, from 1832, at Linda Hall Library. I was floored to hold that history in my hands, and I was over the moon to learn that no translation existed. The history is incredible and being the first person to translate it makes me feel like I have a small part in this history as well.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

I don’t speak French. Translating a very important piece of history from an unfamiliar language is scary and was the greatest challenge of my project. Of course, I did not want to disrespect or misrepresent the original work, so I had to be meticulous and accurate. I was lucky when my professor found a paper that translated common French mathematical terms into English. After completing the translation and connecting the original and modern proofs of The Divergence Theorem, I now better understand it. This more in-depth understanding of the logic behind each line of the proof is the greatest personal benefit of completing this project.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

A student hoping to publish in Lucerna should pick a novel topic that they find compelling. If you care about your research, it will show. It is also important to start your work early, compose multiple drafts, and ask for help in tearing them apart.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I plan to pursue a doctorate in Biostatistics at KU Medical Center beginning Fall of 2019. I will use that experience to pursue further research opportunities in the field of medical statistics. In my future work, I hope to continue to tie together past and present knowledge to spread new information.