Today in History of Science and Engineering

What happened today in science history.


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October 22nd in Science and Engineering

Oct 22, 1511: German mathematician, Erasmus Reinhold, was born. He was a leading mathematical astronomer in his time. He carefully calculated the first set of planetary tables applying Copernican theory, published in 1551. They were named after his financial supporter (Albert, Duke of Prussia) as the Tabulae Prutenicae. Although Reinhold’s work furthered the acceptance of Copernican views, he expressed no enthusiasm for the heliocentric assumption. He merely accepted it for having merit as a mathematical device yielding practical results. His tables were superceded in three-quarters of a century by Kepler’s improvements.

Oct 22, 1783: Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, French naturalist, traveller and writer, was born. Despite work of variable reliability, he still substantially expanded knowledge with extensive travels, collecting, cataloging and naming huge numbers of plants and some animals. He is credited with being the first to describe many new species.

Years ahead of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, Rafinesque conceived his own ideas. He thought that species had, even within the timeframe of a century, a continuing tendency for varieties to appear that would diverge in their characteristics to the point of forming new species. He was over-enthusiastic at distinguishing what he called new species. He wrote prolifically and often self-published. His work varied from brilliant to careless. His work was often dismissed and he died in poverty.

Oct 22, 1797: The first successful parachute jump was made by André-Jacques Garnerin. He was released from a balloon 2,230 feet above the Parc Monceau, Paris. He rode in a gondola fixed to the lines of a 23 foot diameter parachute, which was supported by a wooden pole and had 32 white canvas gores folded like a closed umbrella. Lacking a vent at the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations and suffered the first case of airsickness. For his next jump, he added a hole in the top of the parachute. He made his fifth jump on Sep 21, 1802 over London, from a height of 3,000 feet. This was the first parachute descent ever made in England. He omitted the vent this time, resulting in severe oscillations again, and another case of airsickness.

Oct 22, 1807: Swedish physician, Magnus Huss, was born. He coined the word “alcoholism” and was the first to define it as a chronic, relapsing disease.

Oct 22, 1843: American agricultural chemist, Stephen Moulton Babcock, was born. He is often called the father of scientific dairying, chiefly because of his development of the Babcock test in 1890. This is a simple method of measuring the butterfat content of milk. It consists in liberating the fat globules by dissolving the casein in a strong acid and then separating the fat by means of a centrifuge. The test discouraged milk adulteration and provided for the first time an adequate standard by which fair payment for milk could be determined. This stimulated improvement of dairy production and aided in factory manufacture of cheese and butter. He worked for 43 years at the University of Wisconsin, where he established a laboratory where he carried out pioneering research in nutrition and in the chemistry of vitamins.

Oct 22, 1872: Thomas A. Edison was issued U.S, patent #132456, which described a compact machine to punch perforated tape used to transmit telegraphic messages. Keys could punch either a single hole for a dot or three holes for a dash.

Oct 22, 1877: English bacteriologist, Frederick William Twort, was born. He worked with George Ingram and together were the first to publish, in 1912, a method for isolating and culturing the extremely fastidious Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. This is the bacterium that causes Johne’s disease, or chronic dysentery of cattle.

In 1915, he was the first to publish a report on viruses that prey on bacteria, called bacteriophages. Félix d’Hérelle independently made the discovery two years later. Twort’s somewhat accidental discovery happened when he noticed that the bacteria infecting his plates became transparent. Thinking the virus to be a primitive life form, he tried to grow viruses in artificial media, but had difficulty funding the research.

Oct 22, 1878: Thomas A. Edison was issued U.S. patent #209,241 for “Quadruplex-Telegraph Repeaters”. This invention is an improved method for one quadruplex circuit to repeat into another quadruplex circuit. The patent describes the electromagnets, local circuits, switches and connections. The circuits work into and operate each other so that the message is repeated automatically into one circuit by the receiving instrument of another circuit.

Oct 22, 1879: Edison’s long series of experiments testing materials for suitability as an electric light filament reached a turning point. Charles Batchelor, working at Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, produced illumination for 14-1/2 hours from a lamp using a carbonized cotton thread. It failed when extra power was added. However, this was such a substantial improvement that attention turned to improving the carbonized filament. Patents were filed, and within two months progress with the Edison light bulb was made public. An article was published on Dec 21, 1879 by the New York Herald. By then, the Menlo Park laboratory was continuously illuminated by Edison’s incandescent light bulbs.

Oct 22, 1881: American physicist, Clinton Joseph Davisson, was born. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 with George P. Thomson for discovering that electrons can be diffracted like light waves, thus verifying the thesis of Louis de Broglie that electrons behave both as waves and as particles. Davisson studied the effect of electron bombardment on surfaces and observed, in 1925, that the angle of reflection could depend on crystal orientation. Following Louis de Broglie’s theory of the wave nature of particles, he realized that his results could be due to diffraction of electrons by the pattern of atoms on the crystal surface. Davisson worked with Lester Germer in an experiment in which electrons bouncing off of a nickel surface produced wave patterns similar to those formed by light reflected from a diffraction grating. This supported de Broglie’s electron wavelength equation being lambda = h/p. This discovery was applied to the study of nuclear, atomic, and molecular structure. Davisson helped develop the electron microscope which uses the wave nature of electrons to view details smaller than the wavelength of visible light.

Oct 22, 1896: American biochemist, Charles Glen King, was born. He discovered vitamin C, an aid in the prevention of scurvy and malnutrition. After five years of painstaking research extracting components from lemon juice, King isolated vitamin C ini 1932. Its structure was quickly determined and it was synthesized by scientists such as Haworth and Reichstein in 1933. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a colourless crystalline water-soluble vitamin found especially in citrus fruits and green vegetables. The name “ascorbic” was chosen from Latin, “a” (without) “scorbus” (scurvy).

Most organisms synthesize Vitamin C from glucose but primates and various other species do not and must obtain it from their diet. It is required for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue. Deficiency leads to scurvy. Vitamin C is readily destroyed by heat and light.

Oct 22, 1902: American chemist, Frank Harold Spedding, was born. During the 1940s and 1950s, he developed processes for reducing individual rare-earth elements to their metallic state at low cost, thereby making these substances available to industry at reasonable prices. Earlier, upon the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939, the U.S. government asked leading scientists to join in the development of nuclear energy. In 1942, Iowa State College’s Frank H. Spedding, an expert in the chemistry of rare earths, agreed to set up the Ames portion of the Manhattan Project, resulting in an easy and inexpensive procedure to produce high quality uranium. Between 1942 and 1945, almost two million pounds of uranium was processed on campus, in the old Popcorn Laboratory.

Oct 22, 1903: George Wells Beadle, American geneticist, was born. He helped found biochemical genetics when he showed that genes affect heredity and act by regulating definite chemical events. He shared the 1958 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Edward Tatum and Joshua Lederberg. Beadle and Tatum succeeded in demonstrating that the body substances are synthesized in the individual cell step-by-step in long chains of chemical reactions, and that genes control these processes by individually regulating definite steps in the synthesis chain. This regulation takes place through formation by the gene of special enzymes.

Oct 22, 1905: Karl Guthe Jansky, American electrical engineer, was born. In 1932, he discovered cosmic radio emissions, the beginning of radio astronomy. At Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, Jansky was tracking down the crackling static noises that plagued overseas telephone reception. He found certain radio waves came from a specific region in the sky every 23 hours and 56 minutes. They came from the direction of Sagittarius toward the center of the Milky Way. In his published results, he suggested that the radio emissions were somehow connected to the Milky Way and that it originated not from stars but from ionized interstellar gas. At the young age of 26, Jansky had made a historic discovery.

Oct 22, 1906: Henry Ford became president of Ford Motor Company. Since the company incorporation paperwork was signed on June 16, 1903, the president had been the investor John S. Gray. Since the company was first formed, he had been the company Vice-President and Chief Engineer. When Gray died in July of 1906, the shareholders elected Ford to take the position of company president. Within two years, the Model T Ford car was made available to the public.

Oct 22, 1912: Thomas A. Edison was issued U.S. patents for a cement kiln conveyor and for a “Phonograph-Stylus” formed of crystallized boron which, because of its hardness could operate on sound records formed from hard materials without wearing away. Small crystals of boron could be formed in an electric furnace and were easier to polish than diamond, while not being as fragile.

Oct 22, 1938: Xerography was demonstrated by Chester F. Carlson. With his assistant, Otto Kornei, Carlson used a sulfur coating on a zinc plate, vigorously rubbed with a handkerchief to apply an electrostatic charge. A glass slide was prepared using India ink to write “10-22-38 ASTORIA” and laid on the sulphur surface in a darkened room. After illuminating them with a bright incandescent lamp for a few seconds, the slide was removed. When lycopodium powder was sprinkled on the sulphur surface and blown off, there remained a near-perfect image of the writing. Permanent copies were made by transferring the powder images to wax paper and heating the sheets to melt the wax. Xerox is a term coming from “xerography” which means dry writing.

Oct 22, 1981: Artificial sweetener, Aspartame, was approved for tabletop use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its permitted uses included candy, tablets, breakfast cereals, instant coffee and tea, gelatins, puddings, fillings, dairy-product toppings, as a flavor enhancer for chewing gum, and many others. It was first approved Jul, 26, 1974, but objections caused a delay on Dec 5, 1975. Years of scrutiny followed.

In December of 1965, while working on an ulcer drug, James M. Schlatter had made the discovery that a mixture of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, had a sweet taste. By weight it was about 200 times sweeter than sugar, with very few calories. G.D. Searle marketed it as NutraSweet, a low-calorie artificial sweetener without the bitter aftertaste of saccharin.

October 18th in Science and Engineering

Oct 18, 1616: English pharmacist, botanist and physician, Nicholas Culpeper, was born. He published the Complete Herbal in 1653, a comprehensive listing of English medicinal herbs and their uses. It’s still in print. While upper-class physicians withheld medical knowledge from the common people, Culpeper, of lower-class roots, did the opposite by spreading medical knowledge among the people and giving his time to charity patients. He wrote or translated a large number of medical works to give people access to a vast amount of health information. Culpeper died of tuberculosis at age 38.

Oct 18, 1787: U.S. engineer and ship designer, Robert Livingston Stevens, was born. He invented the inverted-T railroad rail and the railroad spike. He tested the first steamboat to use screw propellers, invented and built by his father, John Stevens. Robert Stevens invented a long list of designs and improvements for ships. He was the first to successfully burn anthracite coal in a cupola furnace.

Stevens found that steel rails laid on wooden ties, with crushed stone or gravel beneath, provided a roadbed superior to any known before. His rail and roadbed came into universal use in the United States and remains so to this day. He also invented the pilot (cowcatcher) for the locomotive and increased the number of locomotive drive wheels for better traction.

Oct 18, 1799: German-Swiss chemist, Christian Friedrich Schönbein, was born. He discovered and named ozone in 1840 and was the first to describe guncotton (nitrocellulose). He noted ozone appeared during thunderstorms and named the gas ozone for its peculiar smell (ozo is Greek for smell). Later experiments showed that sending an electric current through pure, dry oxygen (O2 molecules) creates ozone (O3 molecules).

His discovery of the powerful explosive called cellulose nitrate, or guncotton, was the result of a laboratory accident. One day in 1845 he spilled sulfuric and nitric acids and soaked it up with a cotton apron. After the apron dried, it burst into flame. He had created nitrated cellulose. He found that cellulose nitrate could be molded and had some elastic properties. It eventually was used for smokeless gun powder.

Oct 18, 1854: Swedish explorer, Salomon Auguste Andree, who led the ill-fated balloon expedition to the North Pole in 1897, was born. He and two companions lifted off on July 11, 1897 from Danes Island, Spitsbergen in the balloon, Eagle, which he had built himself. This was the first ever attempt to explore the Arctic by air. They hoped to drift over the North Pole.

They disappeared, and nothing was known of them for 33 years, until Aug 6th, 1930, when Norwegian explorers on White Island (Kvitöa) found remains of a balloonist, a diary and photos. Just two days after the launch, the balloonists had to make an emergency landing on the ice, where they eventually died in the bitter cold, hundreds of kilometers from the North Pole.

Oct 18, 1859: Italian archaeologist, Paolo Orsi, was born. He pioneered the excavation and research of sites from the prehistoric to the Byzantine in Sicily and southern Italy. He was an expert in the pre-Greek Siculan period he named after the Siculi, or Sikels, a native group or groups which were said to have inhabited southern Italy and eastern Sicily.

In 1889 through 1893, he undertook excavations in the Pantalica Valley, which has five necropoli with thousands of burial chambers hewn in the steep limestone cliffs. He discovered the Neolithic village of Stentinello. In 1911, he uncovered the doric temple at Punta Stilo, and more excavation revealed the layout of some city walls and some houses. The archaeological museum in Sicily is dedicated to him.

Oct 18, 1870: Sandblasting was patented by Benjamin Chew Tilghman. Sandblasting uses compressed air to force an abrasive material like sand through the nozzle of a sandblasting gun. He’s also considered the father shotpeening. This is where small spheres of hardened steel are blasted against steel objects to give them a hardened and crack resistant surface. This is used to strengthen metal that is under great stress such as the connecting rods in high-performance piston engines.

In 1866, he found that sulphurous acid would dissolve the intercellular matter of wood, freeing the fibres for pulp, and became famous as the inventor of the sulphite process to make wood pulp for making of paper.

Oct 18, 1878: Thomas Edison made electricity available for household usage.

Oct 18, 1892: The first long-distance telephone line between Chicago and New York was formally opened as Chicago Mayor Hempstead Washburn greeted his New York counterpart, Hugh J. Grant.

Oct 18, 1898: English brothers Alexander and Francis Elmore applied for a British patent (No. 21,948) for their flotation process to separate valuable ore, such as copper, from the gangue (worthless rock) with which it is associated when mined. It was the first practical equipment to extract metals from low-content ore. Pulverized ore is mixed with water and brought into contact with thick oil. The oil entraps the metallic constituents, which are afterwards separated, and gangue passed away with the water. Today, flotation methods remain vital in the mining industry, processing millions of tons of ores each year.

Pascual Jordan Oct 18, 1902: Ernst Pascual Jordan, a German physicist, was born. In the late 1920s, Jordan co-founded with Max Born the field of quantum mechanics using matrix methods. Werner Heisenberg later joined the team. They showed how light could be interpreted as composed of discrete quanta of energy.

Later, with Wolfgang Pauli and Eugene Wigner, Jordan contributed to the quantum mechanics of electron-photon interactions, now called quantum electrodynamics. He also originated, with Robert Dicke, a theory of cosmology that proposed to make the universal constants of nature, such as the universal gravitational constant G, variable over time.

Oct 18, 1919: George Edward Pelham (“Pel”) Box, English-American engineer and statistician, was born. He began as a chemist. At age 19, he published his first paper, on an activated sludge process to produce clean effluent. In the army during WW II, at Porton Down Experimental Station, he taught himself statistics to get more reliable results from his experiments on the chemistry of poison gases. Thus, he became “an accidental statistician”, the title of his autobiography.

He developed several statistical tools that bear his name: the Box-Jenkins model, Box-Cox transformations, and Box-Behnken designs. Box wrote or co-authored major statistics texts on evolutionary operation, times-series, Bayesian analysis, the design of experiments, statistical control, and quality improvement.

Oct 18, 1922: The British Broadcasting Company was formed five years before it received its first Royal Charter and became the British Broadcasting Corporation. In the 1920s, John Reith, the BBC’s founding father, knew of America’s unregulated, commercial radio, and the fledgling Soviet Union’s rigidly controlled state system. Reith’s vision was of an independent British broadcaster able to educate, inform, and entertain, without political or commercial pressure. Listening to the wireless in the UK quickly became a social and cultural phenomenon as the BBC in London and its regional stations gave birth to radio mass communication.

Oct 18, 1952: The New York Times reported that a mechanical heart was used for the first time to maintain the blood circulation of a 41-year-old man during an 80-minute operation on his heart. The Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart was developed by Dr. Forest Dodrill and built by the General Motors Research Laboratories.

Oct 18, 1955: A new subatomic particle called a negative proton or antiproton was discovered at UC Berkeley in California. The hunt for antimatter began in earnest in 1932 with the discovery of the positron, a particle with the mass of an electron and a positive charge. However, creating an antiproton would be far more difficult since it needed nearly 2,000 times the energy to accomplish.

In 1955, the most powerful “atom smasher” in the world, the Bevatron at Berkeley, could provide the required energy. Detection was accomplished with a maze of magnets and electronic counters through which only antiprotons could pass. After several hours of bombarding copper with protons accelerated to 6.2 billion electron volts (Gev) of energy, the scientists counted a total of 60 antiprotons.

Oct 18, 1962: Dr. James D. Watson of the U.S., Dr. Francis Crick, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins of Britain won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their work in determining the double-helix molecular structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA itself had first been identified and isolated almost a century before by Friedrich Miescher in 1869.

Oct 18, 1969: Cyclamates were banned in the USA. Sodium cyclamate is a non-caloric sweetener discovered in 1937. It has been widely used as a tabletop sweetener, in sugar-free beverages, in baked goods, and other low-calorie foods, particularly in combination with saccharin. The ban was based on concern raised by one experiment showing bladder tumors appearing in laboratory rats fed large doses of cyclamate. Following new experiments, in June 1985, the National Academy of Sciences affirmed the FDA’s Cancer Assessment Committee’s latest conclusion: “The totality of the evidence from studies in animals does not indicate that cyclamate or its major metabolite cyclohexylamine is carcinogenic by itself.” Cyclamate is approved for use in 130 countries.

Oct 18, 1971: In its first such action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shut down heavy industries in Birmingham, Alabama, when air pollution on this day was reaching dangerous levels. It was an emergency action under the Clean Air Act (1970). The EPA asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order. Among others, U.S. Steel had been belching too much smoke into an atmospheric inversion (stagnant air mass). Among idled workers, one said, “We’re going to choke to death before we starve to death.” Six months before, the city had suffered a five-day crisis that spiked on April 20, 1971. At that time, while the state failed in enforcement, the EPA was not notified early enough to start emergency action. Days with high particulate counts in the air thereafter drew close EPA scrutiny.

Oct 18, 1989: The Galileo space orbiter was released from the STS 34 flight of the Atlantis Space Shuttle. Then the orbiter’s upper stage rocket pushed it into a course through the inner solar system. The craft gained speed from gravity assists in encounters with Venus and Earth before heading outward to Jupiter. During its six year journey to Jupiter, Galileo’s instruments made interplanetary studies using its dust detector, magnetometer, and various plasma and particle detectors. It also made close-up studies of two asteroids, Gaspra and Ida in the asteroid belt. The Galileo orbiter’s primary mission was to study Jupiter, its satellites, and its magnetosphere for two years. It released an atmospheric probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere on Dec 7, 1995.

October 11th in Science and Engineering

Oct 11, 1755: Spanish chemist and mineralogist, Fausto D’Elhuyar, was born. He assisted his older brother Juan José in experiments to separate tungsten metal from its wolframite ore in 1783.

Two years earlier, Swedish chemist Carl Scheele discovered tungstic acid, though he did not isolate the elemental form of the metal. The mineral Scheele was working with was called “tung sten” (heavy stone in Swedish). This mineral is now known as Scheelite.

The Elhuyar brothers, working at the Seminary of Bergara, succeeded in extracting the metal by reducing tungstic acid with charcoal. For the first time, Basque scientists entered the history of science. Each became a director of a school of mines, but in different countries. Although Juan José discovered tungsten metal, Fausto became better known.

Oct 11, 1758: German physician and astronomer,Heinrich Wilhelm Matthaus Olbers, was born. While practicing medicine at Bremen, he calculated the orbit of the comet of 1779, discovered the minor planets (asteroids) Pallas (1802) and Vesta (1807), and discovered five comets, Olbers invented a method for calculating the velocity of falling stars (meteors). He is also known for Olber’s paradox, which asks “why is the night sky dark if there are so many bright stars all around to light it?”

Oct 11, 1799: Joseph Gillott, a pioneer of the steel pen, was born in Sheffield. An English engineer Bryan Donkin patented a steel pen point in 1803 but did not commercially exploit it. In 1830, steel makers William Joseph Gillott, William Mitchell, James Stephen Perry, working mainly in Birmingham, England, developed the machine production technique for cheap long-wearing steel pen nibs. Tempered steel sheet was stamped to produce the basic nib, which was then shaped, slit and the tip formed. More than most other metals, stainless steel has the elasticity needed to give the variety of penmanship styles available from the quill pen. By 1850 quill pen usage was fading and the quality of the steel nibs had been improved by tipping them with hard alloys of iridium, rhodium and osmium.

Oct 11, 1811: The first steam-powered ferryboat, the Juliana, began operating between New York City and Hoboken, New Jersey. Its inventor, John Stevens, designed improvements in steamboats, obtained one of the first US patents in 1791. He experimented on the Passaic River, from 1798 to 1800, with the steamboat, Polacca. The experiment was unsuccessful due to vibrations and leaks.

By 1803, Stevens had patented an improved multitubular boiler and outfitted the Little Juliana which sailed successfully in New York harbor in 1804. It was one of the earliest twin screw sailboats. After building other ships he bought a commercial ferry license in 1811 and operated a horse-powered ferry while building the first steam ferry, Juliana.

Oct 11, 1844: American businessman, Henry John Heinz was born. He founded the H.J. Heinz Co.and invented its “57 varieties” slogan. Heinz was a natural salesman. His entrepreneur and business genius had roots in post-Civil War Pittsburgh, where iron, steel, and glass factories were forging industrial America. By age 12 he was peddling produce from the family garden. At 25, in 1869, he and a friend launched Heinz & Noble. Its first product was Henry’s mother’s grated horseradish, bottled in clear glass to reveal its purity. Heinz & Noble thrived until an overabundance of crops in 1875 brought bankruptcy. Nevertheless, Henry plunged back in, eventually building a model factory complex along the Allegheny River. By 1896, at the age of 52, the pickle king had become a millionaire and celebrity.

Oct 11, 1855: American metallurgist, James Gayley, was born. He invented a device to ensure uniform humidity in the air stream going into blast furnaces. With prior experience at several iron works, Gayley was hired by the Edgar Thomson Steel Works as Superintendent of the Blast Furnaces in 1885. Gayley was an economizer and made a record reductions in coke consumption. He invented the bronze cooling plate for blast furnace walls, the auxiliary casting stand for Bessemer steel plants, and was the first to use the compound condensing blowing engine with the blast furnace.

He also invented the dry-air blast, for which the Franklin Institute awarded him the Elliott Cresson medal. Gayley rose to first vice-president of the US Steel Corporation and acquired a large fortune.

Oct 11, 1865: American zoologist, Charles Atwood Kofoid, was born. His classification of many new species of marine protozoans helped establish systematic marine biology.

Oct 11, 1871: American archaeologist and social activist, Harriet Ann Boyd Hawes, was born. Hawes gained renown for her discoveries of ancient remains in Crete. She went to Crete in 1900, and with the encouragement of Arthur Evans, began to excavate a Minoan site at Kavousi where she discovered Iron Age Tombs. From 1901-05 she led a large team that excavated the early Bronze Age Minoan town of Gournia, becoming the first woman to head a major archaeological dig.

As a community of artisans, Gournia was of particular interest to archaeologists because it complemented the more elaborate palaces being unearthed at Knossos and elsewhere. In 1908 she published her monumental work on Gournia. During WW I she went to Corfu to help nurse the Serbians.

Oct 11, 1881: British physicist and psychologist, Lewis Fry Richardson, was born. He was the first to apply mathematics to accurate weather prediction. In 1922, Richardson applied the mathematical method of finite differences to predicting the weather. He was also a chemist with National Peat Industries and in charge of the physical and chemical laboratory of the Sunbeam Lamp Co.

Early application of mathematical techniques to weather forecasting were severely limited by extensive computation times: three months to predict weather for the next 24 hours. With electronic computers available after WW II, his methods became practical. He wrote several books applying mathematics to the causes of war. He contributed to calculus and the theory of diffusion for eddy-diffusion in the atmosphere. The Richardson number, a quantity involving gradients of temperature and wind velocity, is named after him.

Oct 11, 1881: Roll film for cameras was patented by David H. Houston, who was a Scottish immigrant that travelled to North Dakota in 1879 to homestead a 400-acre farm, 30 miles NE of Fargo. His many patents ranged from a disc plow to a portable camera. George Eastman bought 21 patents on cameras from him, including the invention that made Houston famous. This was a portable camera designed in 1879, for which Houston received $5000 plus monthly royalties for life. This camera suited the everyday person, rather than a professional photographer’s big studio camera on wheels. First sold by Eastman in 1881 for $25, the Kodak camera came loaded with a 100-exposure film that Houston would process and then reload the camera for $10. Houston died a rich man in 1906.

Oct 11, 1884: German chemist, Friedrich Karl Rudolf Bergius, was born. In 1921, Bergius invented a process to convert coal dust and hydrogen gas directly into gasoline and lubricating oils without isolating intermediate products. During distillation of coal, Bergius succeeded in forcing hydrogen under high pressure to combine chemically with the coal, transforming more carbon from the coal into oils than is possible with conventional distillation. For his work in developing the chemical high pressure hydrogenation method necessary for this process he shared the 1931 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Carl Bosch of Germany.

Oct 11, 1887: A patent for the adding machine was granted to Dorr Eugene Felt of Chicago, Illinois. His Comptometer was the first practical key-driven calculator with sufficient speed, reliability, and cost to become commercially successful.

He called his original prototype the “Macaroni Box”, a rough model that Felt created over the year-end holidays in 1884-85. The casing was a grocery macaroni box, assembled with a jackknife using meat skewers as keys, staples as key guides and elastic bands for springs. He improved his design, producing his earliest commercial wooden-box Comptometer from 1887 thru 1903, leading to the first steel case Model A in 1904. Electric motor drive was introduced in the 1920’s.

Oct 11, 1938: R. Games Slayter and John H. Thomas patented glass wool (fiberglass) and the machinery to make it. Games Slayter, the driving force behind Owens Corning technology and innovation, sought to make a finer glass fiber material. In 1932, Dale Kleist, a young researcher under Jack Thomas (Slayter’s research assistant), working on an unrelated experiment accidentally caused a jet of compressed air to strike a stream of molten glass, resulting in fine glass fibers. By fall of 1932, Kleist refined the process by using steam, to make glass fiber material thin enough for commercial fiberglass insulation. From March 1933, Games Slayter directed Jack Thomas in experiments using glass wool instead of natural or other synthetic fibers on textile machinery.

Oct 11, 1945: American physician, Robert Peter Gale, was born. He co-founded the International Bone Marrow Registry, and was a pioneer in bone marrow transplantation. Gale received much attention for the assistance he gave to foreign governments in treating radiation victims — to the Soviet Union (1986) after the Chernobyl disaster and to Brazil (1987) following an accident in Goiania. As a specialist in bone marrow transplants, he volunteered to treat Chernobyl victims and was invited by Mikhail Gorbachev to travel with a group to Moscow immediately after the April 1986 accident. He operated with bone marrow transplants on 13 Chernobyl victims, however, many of the highly exposed Chernobyl survivors have since died from latent radiation effects.

Oct 11, 1957: The Jodrell Bank radio telescope, the world’s largest radio telescope at the time, began operating. Though the telescope is popularly known for tracking and communicating with man-made satellites, its prime function is the study of the universe by means of radio waves emitted by distant stars, galaxies, and quasars.

Oct 11, 1958: The lunar probe Pioneer 1 was launched by a Thor-Able rocket from the Eastern Test Range, now called the Kennedy Space Center. Its intended mission was to reach the moon but it failed to go as far as planned and fell back to Earth. It transmitted 43 hours of data before burning up in the atmosphere. NASA had just been formed at the beginning of the same month.

Oct 11, 1968: The first manned Apollo mission, Apollo 7, was launched on a Saturn 1-B rocket from Cape Kennedy. The astronauts onboard were Captain Wally Schirra, Jr. (Navy), with crew members Donn Fulton Eisele (Air Force) and R. Walter Cunningham (civilian). They circled for 11 days, up to 183 miles above the Earth, in 90 minute orbits. They tested maneuvering the Apollo, first by detaching it from the upper stage of the rocket. Then, they turned the Apollo around to reposition its nose toward the rocket. This maneuver was vital for future Moon missions.

Oct 11, 1983: The last hand-cranked (magneto) telephones in the United States went out of service as 440 telephone customers in Bryant Pond, Maine, were switched to direct-dial service. Prior to that time a resident’s number could be as short as two digits. The last hand-cranked telphone call in Bryant pond was made the following day, on Oct 12, 1983.

Oct 11, 1994: The space probe Magellan ended its mission to explore Venus when flight controllers lowered its orbit into Venus’ dense atmosphere and it plunged toward the surface. Radio contact was lost the next day. Although much of Magellan was vaporized, some sections are thought to have hit the planet’s surface intact.

Magellan was launched from the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis on May 4, 1989. Magellan arrived at Venus and entered orbit on Aug 10, 1990. Magellan collected radar imagery of the planet’s surface showing large shield volcanoes, lava plains, and few craters.

Oct 11, 1995: Americans Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland, and Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work warning that CFCs are eating away Earth’s ozone layer. In 1970, Dr. Crutzen showed that nitrogen oxides are important in the natural balance of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Research rapidly escalated into global biogeochemical cycles. In 1974, Drs. Molina and Rowland established that there was a threat to the ozone layer from man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), such as gases then used in spray cans. More than a decade before the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered, their research stirred the international response to control the emissions of CFCs to protect the ozone layer.

October 7th in Science and Engineering

Oct 7, 1806: Ralph Wedgwood secured the first patent for carbon paper, which he described as an “apparatus for producing duplicates of writings.” In his process, thin paper was saturated with printer’s ink, then dried between sheets of blotting paper.

His idea that became “carbon paper” was a byproduct of his invention of a machine to help blind people write. The “black paper” was intended as a substitute for ink. A blind person would have trouble with a dip pen and ink, and unable to see the resulting writing. So, a system was needed that allowed the person to write “blind” and know that the result would always appear. In its original form, Wedgwood’s “Stylographic Writer” provided a metal stylus instead of a quill for writing, with the carbon paper placed between two sheets of paper in order to transfer a copy onto the bottom sheet.

Oct 7, 1822: Rudolf Leuckart, German zoologist and teacher, was born. Leuckart founded the modern science of parasitology. As a youth, he showed an early interest in zoology and in insects in particular. While attending medical school at the University of Gottingen he studied under the renowned zoologist, Rudolph Wagner, who encouraged him to research in this branch of science. In 1847, he was appointed a zoology lecturer.

Leuckart described the complicated life cycles of various parasites including tapeworms and the liver fluke. He demonstrated that some human diseases such as trichinosis are caused by multicellular worm-like animals.

Oct 7, 1856: The first practical folding machine to fold book and newspaper sheets was patented by Cyrus Chambers of Pennsylvania, US #15,842. It made three right angle folds to produce a sixteen page folded result. The machine was installed in the Bible printing house of Jasper Harding & Son, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Accuracy of early folding machines was poor, with hand folding still predominating for high quality work. Development of the folding machine after 1862 was rapid, and in 1873 a machine was patented that would fold a 16-page section and one of 8 pages, inset the latter, and paste it in place. That same year devices to cut and slit paper as it went through the machine were introduced.

Oct 7, 1858: American meteorologist and inventor, Charles Marvin, was born. Marvin invented the clinometer that measures the height of clouds. These became standard equipment at airports. He was Chief of the US Weather Bureau from 1913 to 1934. He worked on and wrote about the Robinson cup anemometer.

For early systematic investigations of the upper air, he designed and constructed kites and kite mounted instruments. He also devised the Marvin pyrheliometer and inaugurated the regular measurement of solar radiation intensity by the Weather Bureau. Marvin designed a seismograph operated by the Weather Bureau. He was also particularly interested in the application of mathematical statistics to meteorological problems.

Oct 7, 1885: Niels Henrik David Bohr, Danish physicist, and one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th Century, was born. He was the first to apply the Quantum Theory, which restricts the energy of a system to certain discrete values, to the problem of atomic and molecular structure. For this work he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. He developed the so-called Bohr theory of the atom and liquid model of the nucleus.

Bohr was of Jewish origin and when the Nazis occupied Denmark he escaped in 1943 to Sweden on a fishing boat. From there he was flown to England where he began to work on the project to make a nuclear fission bomb. After a few months he went with the British research team to Los Alamos in the USA where they continued work on the project.

At Los Alamos, Bohr was such a towering intellect that nearly everyone at the laboratory was afraid of him, with the exception of Richard Feynman, an equally towering intellect.

Oct 7, 1931: The first short-exposure infrared photograph taken of a large group of people in apparent total darkness was taken in Rochester, NY at the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories. The people were in a room that was flooded with invisible infrared light (700 to 900 nanometers, beyond the red end of the visible spectrum). A group of 50 people visiting the laboratory were photographed on a new photographic emulsion sensitive to infrared.

Since then, scientists have made much use of infrared imagery in medical applications, aerial photography, and thermal analytics. Since plant chlorophyll reflects infrared rays more intensely than other green materials, infrared photos yield a precise indication of where vegetation is present on the ground, a fact used by satellites such as Landsat.

Oct 7, 1939: English chemist, Harold W. Kroto, was born. He shared, with Richard E. Smalley and Robert F. Curl, Jr., the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their joint discovery of the carbon compounds called fullerenes. These new forms of the element carbon contain 60 or more atoms arranged in closed shells. The number of carbon atoms in the shell can vary, and for this reason numerous new carbon structures have become known. Formerly, six crystalline forms of the element carbon were known, namely two kinds of graphite, two kinds of diamond, chaoit (1968) and carbon (VI) (1972). Fullerenes are formed when vaporised carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas. The carbon clusters can then be analysed with mass spectrometry.

Oct 7, 1954: In Poughkeepsie, New York, IBM displayed the first all-transistor calculator. It needed only 5 percent of the power of comparable electronic calculators based on vacuum tubes. Three years later, in 1957, IBM introduced the IBM 608, the first all-transistor commercial calculator. The 608 was plugboard programmable.

Oct 7, 1959: The dark far side of the Moon was photographed for the first time and pictures relayed back to Earth by Russia’s Luna 3 spacecraft. After passing the moon, the Luna 3 looked back from a distance of 63,500 km to take 29 photos of the sunlit far side of the moon. The film photos, taken over a period of 40 minutes, were developed onboard and radioed back to earth on October 18, 1959. The photos covered 70 percent of the far side. The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized. Despite the poor quality, they provided the first view in history of the far side of the moon. (Note that the far side of the moon cannot be viewed from Earth because the moon rotates and revolves at the same rate, so the same part always faces Earth.)

Oct 7, 1970: British Petroleum (BP) made the first big oil find in the British sector of the North Sea. The Sea Quest drilling platform found a 170 meter layer of oil 2,135 meters below the seabed, in water depth of 128 meters. This was the first major oilfield discovered in the British sector of the North Sea. The oil was a valuable light crude with low wax and low sulphur content. Production was inaugurated on November 3, 1975 by the Queen.

October 6th in Science and Engineering

Oct 6, 1510: Prominent humanist and physician, John Caius, was born. His classic account of the English sweating sickness is considered one of the earliest histories of an epidemic. English sweating sickness was and remains a mystery. A series of epidemics began in 1485 and spread to mainland Europe. Thousands were killed by this disease, which struck suddenly, progressed rapidly, and often killed in just a few hours. If the victim survived longer than 24 hours, the disease was usually not fatal. Infants and children were not affected. The last outbreak occurred in 1551, then the disease apparently vanished.

Oct 6, 1732: Nevil Maskelyne, English astronomer noted for his contribution to the science of navigation was born. In 1761, Maskelyne traveled to the island of St. Helena to make accurate measurements of a transit of Venus. These measurements gave the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and the scale of the solar system. He also experimented with the lunar position method of determining longitude. Maskelyne carried out trials of Harrison’s timepiece and was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1765. In 1774, he carried out an experiment on a Scottish mountain using a plumb line to determine the Earth’s density. He found it was approximately 4.5 times that of water.

Oct 6, 1735: Jesse Ramsden, British pioneer in the design of precision tools, was born. Ramsden became the most skilled designer of mathematical, astronomical, surveying and navigational instruments of 18th Century. He is best known for the design of a telescope and microscope eyepiece commonly used today called the Ramsden eyepiece.

Oct 6, 1783: French experimental physiologist, François Magendie, was born. He was the first to prove the functional difference of the spinal nerves. His pioneering studies of the effects of drugs on various parts of the body led to the introduction to medical practice of such compounds as strychnine and morphine. Magendie, with Johannes Peter Müller, founded the science of experimental physiology.

Magendie proved Charles Bell’s theory on the motor function of anterior roots and the sensory function of dorsal roots of spinal nerves, called the Bell-Magendie law. In addition to morphine and strychnine, he introduced the effects and uses of emetine, quinine, and other alkaloids. He’s considered the founder of experimental pharmacology.

Oct 6, 1783: The self-winding clock was patented by Benjamin Hanks.

Oct 6, 1790: Jacob Schweppe showed his process for making artificial mineral water, the basis of all modern carbonated beverages.

Oct 6, 1831: (Julius Wilhelm) Richard Dedekind, German mathematician, was born. He developed a major redefinition of irrational numbers in terms of arithmetic concepts. Not fully recognized in his lifetime, his treatment of the ideas of the infinite and of what constitutes a real number continues to influence modern mathematics.

Oct 6, 1836: Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried von Waldeyer-Hartz, German anatomist and pathologist, was born. He coined the term neuron in 1891 and chromosome in 1888. He also created a number of embryological terms including those that describe the structure of developing teeth. He became professor of pathology at age 29 and studied the early diagnosis of cancer. He was director of the anatomy department at the University of Berlin for 30 years.

Oct 6, 1846: American engineer, inventor, and industrialist, George Westinghouse, was born. His father was an agricultural machine maker in New York. Westinghouse began at age 21, working on a tool he invented to guide derailed train cars back onto the track. His most famous invention and the foundation of the industrial empire he built was the air-brake. Until the invention of the air-brake, the brakes on railroad cars were manually operated by turning a large wheel on each car, which was extremely clumsy, unreliable, and dangerous. The air-brake solved all those problems at once and is inherently fail-safe. The brakes on each wheel are applied by strong springs and it takes air pressure to release the brakes. Any rupture in the brake system anywhere along the train causes the brakes for the entire train to be applied automatically.

Westinghouse did a great many things and was involved in various fields of technology. He personally held over 400 patents. He was friends with Nikola Tesla, developer of the alternating current system. Westinghouse was responsible for the adoption of alternating current. Thomas Edison did everything he could to stop the adoption of AC versus his DC system, but the vastly superior AC system couldn’t be stopped.

Oct 6, 1866: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, Canadian-American physicist, engineer and inventor, was born. He eventually held 300 patents. Early radio signals were generated by electromechanical means like rotary spark gaps and high speed alternators. Information could only be sent by Morse Code. No electronic devices existed yet. The vacuum tube had not been invented. There was no device that could amplify. The transmission of voice or music by radio was a dream that several were working on. Marconi’s understanding of how radio worked was wrong, resulting in all of his patents being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and awarded to Nikola Tesla in the 1940s. Tesla and Fessenden agreed that continuous radio waves was the right approach. Fessenden is considered the inventor of continuous wave AM radio and in December of 1906 made the first broadcast of voice and music.

Oct 6, 1868: A patent for nickel plating was awarded to inventor William H. Remington of Boston.

Oct 6, 1893: Indian astrophysicist, Meghnad N. Saha, was born. He is known for his development in 1920 of the thermal ionization equation, which, in the form perfected by the British astrophysicist E. Arthur Milne, has remained fundamental in all work on stellar atmospheres. This equation has been widely applied to the interpretation of stellar spectra, which are characteristic of the chemical composition of the light source.

Oct 6, 1893: Cream Of Wheat, a hot cereal, was created by millers in Grand Forks, North Dakota. During the economic depression of that year, the Diamond Mill of Grand Forks was looking to revive their business. The head miller, Thomas S. Amidon, convinced the owners of the mill to try making a porridge product using farina. The name Cream of Wheat was chosen because the product was so white.

Oct 6, 1897: Florence Seibert, American scientist who developed the protein substance used for the tuberculosis skin test, was born. In 1941, her improved TB skin test became the standard test in the U.S. and a year later was adopted by the World Health Organization. It is still in use today. She also contributed to safety measures for intravenous drug therapy. In the early 1920s, she discovered that the sudden fevers that sometimes occurred during intravenous injections were caused by bacteria in the distilled water used to make the protein solutions. She invented a distillation apparatus designed to prevent such contamination. Her later research involved the study of bacteria associated with certain cancers.

Oct 6, 1903: Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, Irish physicist, was born. He was corecipient, with Sir John Douglas Cockcroft of England, of the 1951 Nobel Prize for Physics for the development of the first nuclear particle accelerator. This accelerator, known as the Cockroft-Walton generator, used extremely high voltage to directly accelerate subatomic particles, mainly protons. On April 14, 1932, Walton directed the proton beam onto a lithium target and became the first to artificially split atoms. Walton was the first to see the reaction taking place. Together, Cockroft and Walton identified the disintegration products as alpha particles (helium nuclei).

Oct 6, 1908: The Ohio Art company, makers of the famous Etch-A-Sketch, was founded by Henry Simon Winzeler.

Oct 6, 1914: Norwegian ethnologist and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, was born. He organized and led the famous Kon-Tiki and Ra transoceanic scientific expeditions. The first in April 1947, the second in 1969-1970. Both expeditions were intended to prove the possibility of ancient transoceanic contacts between distant civilizations and cultures. The Kon-Tiki voyage from Peru to Polynesia was a 101-day, 4,300-mile drifting voyage on a raft, a replica of pre-Inca vessels.

He wished to show that Polynesia’s first settlers could have come from South America. Few scientists agreed with this hypothesis and it’s been essentially disproven by genetic and linguistic studies, which show that settlers traveled in the opposite direction. However, Heyerdahl’s efforts did prove that such voyages were possible.

Oct 6, 1914: A very important US patent was issued to Edwin H. Armstrong for a “Wireless Receiving System”. This patent US #1,113,149 described his famous regenerative, or feedback, circuit. This invention started Armstrong’s career of innovation. He went on to invent all three types radios: regenerative, superheterodyne, and superregenerative, which are still how radios are designed today. Armstrong also invented FM radio.

Oct 6, 1956: Dr. Albert Sabin reported that the oral polio vaccine he had developed was ready for mass testing on an international basis. It was expected to produce long-term, perhaps lifetime, immunity against the dreaded disease of poliomyelitis. Sabin said a single dose of the new vaccine would produce immunity against all three major strains of polio virus.

His vaccine with live polio virus had proven safe in extensive tests on animals and humans. Worldwide tests of the new vaccine were slated to begin in the following year in the U.S. and four foreign countries. Sabin said arrangements had been made for a phamaceutical company to produce the vaccine, which he said would cost less than the cherry syrup it was in when administered by mouth. It brought an alternative to the older hyperdermic method and resulting scars. (The author received this vaccine in 1959, given as two drops of liquid on a sugar cube.)

Oct 6, 1995: The first discovery of a planet around a star similar to the sun was announced. The planet is quite large, about 160 times the mass of Earth, orbiting the star 51 Pegasus.

Oct 6, 1997: American biology professor Stanley B. Prusiner won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering prions. Prions were “an entirely new genre of disease-causing agents.” The name means “proteinaceous infectious particle.” Prions cause brain diseases such as BSE, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or “mad cow disease”. The human variant is Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Prions are also responsible for kuru among some peoples in New Guinea and scrapie in sheep and goats.

Prions are too small to be seen with normal microscopes. They are self-replicating, but contain no nucleic acid. Prions are highly resistant to destruction or denaturation by common chemical and physical agents such as disinfectants, formalin, heat, UV, or ionizing radiation. Safe incineration of infected tissues requires a temperature over 900 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours.

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