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May 16 in Scottish History

On this day in 1805 Sir Alexander Burnes, Scottish explorer and public official, was born. A noted explorer of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and southern Russia, he was author of 'Map of Central Asia' and 'Travels into Bokhara.' As an army officer in India, he studied Asian languages, and in 1832 he left Lahore in Afghan dress and travelled by way of Peshawar and Kabul across the Hindu Kush to Balkh; and from there, by Bukhara, Asterabad, and Tehran, to Bushire. In 1839 he was appointed political resident at Kabul, where he was assassinated two years later.

Today in 1935 Hector Munro Macdonald, Scottish mathematician, died. Macdonald worked on electric waves and solved difficult problems regarding diffraction of these waves by summing series of Bessel functions. He corrected his 1903 solution to the problem of a perfectly conducting sphere embedded in an infinite homogeneous dielectric in 1904 after a subtle error was pointed out by Poincaré.