What nobody writes about is something you may wish to consider as a useful topic for inclusion in a history of mathematics and their application to engineering problems. (Most engineers don't have the foggiest idea of who Chebyshev was, even from his mathematical works.)
Not unlike some of his modern counterparts, Chebyshev was paid a pittance by his universiy. To supplement his income, he took on private clients. Among the latter was the owner of a huge textile business. With the onset of the Crimean War, there was a huge demand for army uniforms. Chebyshev was assigned the task of developing a means of cutting fabrics more economically. All concerned seemed to believe that the difficulty of forming the shoulder seam should be the first task that Chebyshev took on. As might be expected, he saw the fabric, not as a limp piece of material, but as a kind of net. He became so interested in this that he abandoned his client and went on to develop a very important theory of cable nets. He wrote a book on the subject, but it has never been translated. In addition to the arcane mathematical notations of mid-nineteenth century Russia, the topic, per se, is of little interest except to a very narrow group of engineers. I think there may be fifteen of us all told. The class of cable-net structures Chebyshev described are now referred to as Chebyshev Nets.
JOC/EFR March 1996
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