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.