Sep 27, 1814: American astronomer and mathematician, Daniel Kirkwood, was born. Asteroids orbit the Sun in bands, with gaps in between. His explanation for these gaps was perturbations in the orbits of asteroids caused by Jupiter’s gravity. Objects that orbit in these gaps are regularly disturbed by Jupiter’s pull and eventually move to a different orbit that’s more stable, so gaps appear. A similar mechanism causes the gaps in Saturn’s rings. These gaps are now called Kirkwood gaps.
Sep 27, 1816: Robert Stirling, age 26, applied for a patent for his “Heat Economiser” at Edinburgh, Scotland, patent number 4081/1816. The patent described principles of heat regeneration to reduce fuel consumption in glass and other furnaces, with elements of what is now called the Stirling Cycle engine. While his furnace design came to nothing, 40 years later Siemens made the design practical. In 1827, Stirling patented an engine that worked successfully, now known as the Stirling Engine.
Sep 27, 1818: The German chemist Adolphe Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe was born. He accomplished the first generally accepted synthesis of an organic compound from inorganic materials. The commonly believed doctrine of Vitalism said this was impossible. He also succeeded in producing acetic acid from inorganic compounds, which according to the doctrine was impossible. This put an end to Vitalism. In 1859, he succeeded using phenol and carbon dioxide to produce salicylic acid, which led to the cheaper production of acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. The two reactions came to be called Kolbe’s synthesis.
Sep 27, 1825: The first locomotive to haul a passenger train was operated by George Stephenson’s Stockton & Darlington’s line in England. The engine named “Locomotion No. 1” pulled 34 wagons and 1 solitary coach on its journey of 21 miles from Shildon, via Darlington to Stockton in County Durham. This epic journey was the launchpad for the development of the railways, which was to take the world by storm over the following years. Passengers had been hauled before, but only in tests and demonstrations. This time was the beginning of regularly scheduled passenger and freight service.
Sep 27, 1849: Russian physiologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, who was awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was born. He pioneered the investigation that he named the “conditioned reflex”, as opposed to an innate reflex like pain.
In the experiment which made him famous, he trained a hungry dog to associate the sound of a bell with receiving food. Thereafter, the dog would salivate on hearing the bell alone. He had originally set out to study digestion in dogs, investigating how digestive secretions were regulated. He realized that digestion was partly controlled by external stimuli such as vision and smell, and discovered that the response could be associated with any stimulus, like sound. He published his results in 1903.
Sep 27, 1852: British civil engineer, Sir William Willcocks, was born. He proposed and designed the first Aswan Dam (1898-1902) on the Nile River in Egypt and executed major irrigation projects in South Africa and Turkey.
Sep 27, 1854: The first great disaster involving an an ocean liner on the Atlantic Ocean occurred when the steamship S.S. Arctic sank with over 300 lives lost. When launched in 1850, this oak-framed, pine-planked, masted side-paddle steamer was regarded as the best-outfitted ship travelling between England and New York. With steam power it could average thirteen knots. Its last voyage began on 20 Sep 1854 from Liverpool. Six days out, in a fog bank off Cape Race, Newfoundland, it collided with an iron-hulled French ship, the Vesta. Despite bow damage to each, both deemed it advisable to try to reach land. Only the Vesta reached land three days later. The Arctic lost power, its pumps stopped, and it sank. This loss prompted the universal adoption of on-board foghorns.
Sep 27, 1892: Book matches were patented by Joshua Pusey of Lima, Ohio, ptent #483165. He later sold the patent rights to the Diamond Match Company of Barberton, Ohio. The Diamond Match Company was a conglomerate and built by absorbing a number of smaller match manufacturing companies. In 1895, production exceeded 150,000 matchbooks a day. The first Diamond matchbooks were a dangerous and flimsy novelty, but they were improved. Soon, they became common and we often used for advertisement.
Sep 27, 1908: The first production Ford Model T car rolled out of the factory. It was assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan, which had built various earlier Ford models such as the B, D, F, K, N, R, and S, in the preceeding four years. The Model T was introduced to the public on Oct 1, 1908. It had a 20-hp 4-cylinder engine, with versions starting at $850. The first 12,000 model Ts were built at the Piquette Avenue Plant, before production was transferred to a new, larger factory at Highland Park.
The Model T was produced for 19 years, until May 26, 1927. Fifteen million were made, making a historic impact on society. As the manufacturing process was refined over the years, production time was reduced from 12 hours per unit to 1 hour 33 minutes in 1913. By the end in 1927, Model T cars rolled off the assembly line every 24 seconds. The Model T was available “in any color you like, as long as it’s black.” This is because black paint was the fastest to dry.
Sep 27, 1910: A U.S. patent for the production of ammonia was issued to Fritz Haber and Robert Le Rossignol, #971,501. This process could produce ammonia on a large scale directly from its component gases, hydrogen and nitrogen, by passing a mixture of them over hot finely-divided osmium metal which served as a catalyst. The Haber process typically takes place at a pressure of 175 atmospheres (2,600 psi) and a temperature of 550 degrees C. The Haber process could easily give an 8% by volume yield of ammonia. Ammonia is used in enormous quantities by modern industry and farming. It’s used directly and as a feedstock for many other processes.
Sep 27, 1918: English radio astronomer, Sir Martin Ryle, who worked on radar for British wartime defense, was born. After WW II, he became a leader in the development of radio astronomy by designing revolutionary radio telescope systems that used the synthetic aperture technique for accurate location of weak radio sources. Using these techniques and interferometry, he and his team located radio-emitting regions on the sun and pinpointed other radio sources so that they could be studied in visible light. Ryle observed the most distant known galaxies of the universe. His 1C – 5C Cambridge catalogues of radio sources led to the discovery of numerous radio galaxies and quasars. For his synthetic aperture work, Ryle shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics, along with Antony Hewish. This was the first Nobel Prize recognition of astronomical research.
Sep 27, 1920: American oceanographer and meteorologist, Henry Melson Stommel, was born, He was an expert on physical oceanography, primarily the interpretation of data associated with large scale ocean dynamics. He had a long standing interest in the Gulf Stream. He spent most of his career conducting research at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Stommel was one of the most influential oceanographers of his time. He proposed many theories that were later proven to be correct. He applied electromagnetic measurements to oceanic flows, the dynamics of estuaries, and the related problem of hydraulic controls, and the interaction of nonlinear eddy-like phenomena.
Sep 27, 1922: Scientists at the Naval Aircraft Radio Laboratory near Washington, D.C., demonstrated that if a ship passed through a radio wave being sent between two stations, that ship could be detected. This was the beginning of radar.
Sep 27, 1925: Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards was a British medical researcher who, with Patrick Steptoe, perfected in-vitro fertilization (IVF) of the human egg. Their technique made possible the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first “test-tube baby,” in July of 1978, to parents that had previously spent nine years trying to start a family. Edwards was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 2010, “for the development of in vitro fertilization.” His colleague, Steptoe, had died in 1988, so could not be a recipient.
Edwards and Steptoe began their research in the late 1960s, but their research had to be privately funded because the medical establishment found the idea of a “test-tube baby” repugnant. They worked in a secluded laboratory at a small hospital. The work was long and frustrating, with over 100 failures before the first success. Millions of births have since been enabled by IVF.
Sep 27, 1938: British ocean liner “Queen Elizabeth,” the largest passenger liner ever built, was launched at Clydebank in Scotland.
Sep 27, 1941: The first Liberty ship, the S.S. Patrick Henry, was launched. Three months later, it was delivered at Baltimore, Maryland to the U.S. Maritime Commission. It was built in 244 days by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipbuilding Co. The S.S. Patrick Henry could average a speed of about 11 knots, and had a general cargo capacity of 9,146 tons, although this was often greatly exceeded.
During WW2, the United States stunned the world with its industrial production capabilities. Nothing like it has ever been seen before or since, and the Liberty ships are possibly the best example. With WW2 looming, it was clear that an abundance of freighters would be required. The Liberty Ship was designed to be the first mass-produced freighter. Production was overseen by Henry Kaiser. The USA put 18 shipyards to work and produced 2,710 ships in four years. That’s an average of three ships every two days, an unprecedented level of production. Female workers played a big part in the work. While the ships were only designed for a five year working life, many had much longer careers.
Sep 27, 1950: The answering machine was invented.