What happened today in science history.

Category: Computing

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 1st in Science and Engineering

Oct 1, 1842: French inventor and poet, Charles Cros, was born. His work in several fields foreshadowed and paralleled important developments in science. He was interested in mechanical and physical sciences. Cros designed an automatic telegraph and showed it at the Worlds Fair of 1867. In 1869, he sent to the Société Française de Photographie, a system for reproduction of color images. In April 1877, he delivered plans for an apparatus he called a paléophone, which was a phonograph. Thus, he had the idea before Edison. He died in poverty and was never recognized for his discoveries due to more influential and better funded competitors for fame.

Oct 1, 1846: Ten years after his voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin began his study of barnacles, which was to appear in four volumes on living and fossil Cirripedes (barnacles). For his observations, he used a single lens microscope made to his own design with a large stage to take shallow dishes for aqueous dissections.

Oct 1, 1847: Maria Mitchell, the first woman astronomer in the United States, discovered a comet. One night in the fall of 1847, Maria looked at the sky through the telescope in her homemade observatory at Nantucket, Massachusetts, and saw a star five degrees above the North Star, where there had been no star before. She had memorized the sky and was sure of her observation. It occurred to her that this might be a comet. Maria recorded the presumed comet’s coordinates. The next night the star had moved — a comet. For this discovery, she was awarded a gold medal by the king of Denmark. She became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Oct 1, 1862: American archaeologist, Esther Boise Van Deman, was born. While studying on a scholarship in Rome when she decided that Roman archaeology was to be her chosen field of work. In 1907, while attending a lecture in the Atrium Vestae, she noticed that the bricks blocking up a doorway were different from those in the structure itself. She speculated that those differences in building materials might provide a wealth of information for dating the chronology of Roman structures. Thus began thirty years of life in Rome. She was the first woman to specialize in Roman field archaeology. She established lasting criteria for the dating of ancient constructions, which advanced the serious study of Roman architecture and the construction of the great aqueducts.

Oct 1, 1880: Thomas Edison opened his first electric incandescent lamp factory in Menlo Park, New Jersey — The Edison Lamp Works. More than 130,000 bulbs had been manufactured by the time the plant was moved to Harrison, NJ in April of 1882.

Oct 1, 1881: William Edward Boeing, American aviation pioneer, was born. He began in the lumber business in 1902, but his interests shifted to aviation. He trained at Glenn L. Martin’s flying school in 1915, and bought his own aircraft. In 1916, Boeing co-founded Pacific Aero Products Company, soon renamed Boeing Airplane Company. By 1920, he received a major order for 200 MB-3 fighter planes. Boeing Air Transport began flying mail and passengers in July of 1927. By mergers with other aircraft industries, he built United Aircraft and Air Transport the most profitable aviation company of its time. In 1934, government antitrust action split the company up and United Airlines became an independent business. Embittered, Boeing sold all his stock in the company, but volunteered as a consultant during WW II.

Oct 1, 1890: An Act of Congress reserved areas of forest land in California and created Yosemite National Park, under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. This followed the original Yosemite Grant made on June 30, 1864 by Act of Congress to the State of California of the “Yo-Semite Valley” and the land embracing the “Mariposa Big Tree Grove,” by which, for all time, the area was protected for “public use, resort, and recreation.” On March 3, 1905, the State of California ceded and granted the Yosemite Valley land back to the USA, transferring responsibility and maintenance costs to the federal government for the National Park. Yosemite National Park is the USA’s third oldest national park.

Oct 1, 1904: Austrian-British nuclear physicist, Otto Robert Frisch, was born in Vienna. Frisch, with his aunt Lise Meitner, described the division of neutron-bombarded uranium into lighter elements. He named the process fission in 1939, borrowing a term from biology. At the time, Meitner was working in Stockholm and Frisch at Copenhagen under Niels Bohr. Bohr brought their observations to the attention of Albert Einstein and others in the United States.

Frisch did research with James Chadwick from 1940 to 1943, and was the head of the Critical Assembly Group at Los Alamos project on the Manhattan Project from 1943 to 1946. After World War II, Frisch became a science writer describing atomic physics for the layman.

Jerome Bruner Oct 1, 1915: American psychologist, Jerome Seymour Bruner, was born. He pioneered techniques for investigating infant perception. His investigations of various aspects of cognition, learning, and memory in young children complemented studies by Jean Piaget. Their work was influential on education in America. Bruner observed, “there is no unique sequence for all learners, and the optimum in any particular case will depend upon a variety of factors, including past learning, stage of development, nature of the material, and individual differences.”

Oct 1, 1939: Black-American astrophysicist, George R. Carruthers, was born. He was the principal inventor of a new space camera to measure ultraviolet light which can be used to identify interstellar atoms and molecules. After several years in development, it was taken to the moon on the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Positioned on the moon’s surface, the camera could also image the gases of the Earth’s atmosphere and the concentration of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, in the air surrounding large cities.

Other space cameras developed by Carruthers and his colleagues have surveyed the ozone layer and transmitted photos of distant stars and planets for computer analysis. He was also a pioneer in the development of electronic telescopes.

Oct 1, 1940: A 260-km stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Irwin and Carlise in the State of Pennsylvania, was officially opened to the public as the first American limited-access interstate-type highway. It had been used earlier by the U.S. Army. It was not called an Interstate Highway at the time because the term didn’t exist. On June 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Act of 1956, which established a national system of interstate and defense highways. The Pennsylvania Turnpike became part of that Interstate Highway system.

Although not newly-constructed, it became part of the Interstate System. It’s been called the “The Granddaddy of the Pikes,” and can be regarded as the oldest U.S. Interstate Highway.

Oct 1, 1949: The first deliveries were made of the first practical rectangular television tube made in the USA. Prior television tubes (screens) were round. The tubes were manufactured by the Kimble Glass Co., a subsidiary of Owens-Illinois, and sold for about $12. The display face of the tube measured approx. 12 in. by 16 in.

Oct 1, 1956: The Physical Review published a paper by Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang on the Question of Parity Conservation in Weak Interactions. They addressed an issue that had long been believed, but for which there had been no experimental support.

There existed the Theta-Tau Puzzle in the disintegration of certain cosmic ray particles via the nuclear weak force. Lee and Yang believed this was because of parity violation, which contradicted the generally accepted Law of Conservation of Parity. They proposed experiments involving weak interactions. Chien-Shiung Wu validated non-conservation of parity on Dec 27, 1956.

Oct 1, 1957: The notorious drug thalidomide was first marketed in West Germany and shortly sold in at least 46 countries. First synthesized in 1953 by Chemie Grünenthal, as a sedative, it seemed a wonder drug for pregnant women to combat symptoms associated with morning sickness. Too late, it was found that the drug’s molecules crossed the placental wall, especially during the first trimester, tragically affecting the proper growth of the fetus. Worldwide, over 10,000 babies were born by the early 1960s with substantial birth defects, including deafness, blindness, internal disabilities, cleft palate, deformed or missing limbs.

Oct 1, 1969: The French Concorde prototype broke the sound barrier for the first time. The first test flight of the aircraft took place on March 2, 1969 in Toulouse, France. The first commercial passenger supersonic flights began on Jan 21, 1976.

The Concorde was a brilliant technological achievement. It was the first airplane to be entirely controlled by computer. But it was not destined to become widely successful due to high operating cost, high fuel consumption and the terrific noise it produced.

September 20th in Science and Engineering

Sep 20, 1819: The first patent leather manufactured in the U.S. was produced in Newark, N.J., by Seth Boyden. Boyden also invented a variety of other things including malleable cast iron, a nail-making machine, a cut-off switch for steam engines, a method for refining zinc from its ore and he developed a hybrid strawberry.

Sep 20, 1842: Scottish chemist and physicist, Sir James Dewar, who blurred the line between physics and chemistry was born. He gave dazzling lectures and his study of low-temperature phenomena led him to invent the Dewar flask, an insulating double-walled flask that uses a vacuum between two silvered layers of steel or glass. These are sometimes called vacuum flasks, but usually just “Dewars”. A domestic “Thermos” bottle is a Dewar flask. In June of 1897, it was reported that Dewar had succeeded in liquefying fluorine gas at a temperature of -185 degrees Celsius or 88 degrees Kelvin. He obtained liquid hydrogen in 1898, which requires a temperature below 33 Kelvin. Dewar also invented cordite, the first smokeless powder.

Sep 20, 1848: The first meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) was held at noon, in the library of the Academy of Natural Science, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The goal of the organization recorded in its original Rules and Objects included “to give a stronger and more general impulse, and a more systematic direction to scientific research in our country; and to procure for the labours of scientific men, increased facilities and a wider usefulness.”

Sep 20, 1853: Elisha Graves Otis sold his first safety elevator equipment. His customer was Benjamin Newhouse in New York City who used it for moving freight. In May 1854, at the Crystal Palace in New York City, Otis created public interest with a daring demonstration. He was hoisted high in the air on a platform fitted with his safety feature. When the rope was cut, the safety device stopped his fall. By 1857, he had installed the first department store passenger elevator. In 1889 he introduced the electric motor to power elevators.

Sep 20, 1859: A patent for the electric range was granted to George B. Simpson of Washington, D.C.. Simpson called his invention, an “electroheater.” Heat was generated by passing electricity through wire coils.

Sep 20, 1862: A patent for a revolving turret for battleships was granted to Theodore Ruggles Timby. The patent described “a revolving tower for defensive and offensive warfare, whether placed on land or water.” John Ericsson incorporated this design when building the ironclad ship, Monitor, the world’s first turret battleship. Timby was paid a royalty for the use of his patent.

Sep 20, 1888: American pathologist, David Marine, was born. His research on the treatment of goiter with iodine led to the iodizing of table salt. Goiter is a disease that causes major swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck. During 1917-22 he ran a trial on a large group of schoolgirls to show that an iodine supplement dramatically reduced the incidence of goiter. The results clearly showed the importance of iodine in the diet. Iodized table salt was first sold on May 1, 1924. Marine then worked with the World Health Organization to spread this knowledge around the world.

It’s interesting to note that French chemist Jean-Baptiste Boussingault observed that iodine-rich salt could treat goiter, but nothing was done with this information.

Sep 20, 1892: Wired glass or wire glass was patented by Frank Schulman. Wire glass, is plate glass with a wire mesh inside, which is useful for fire safety and security.

Sep 20, 1904: The first circular flight in an airplane happened on this day. On Sep 15, 1904, Wilbur was able to fly a half-circle. As the brothers improved the control of their airplane’s flight, a few days later, a complete circuit was accomplished. The flight was made by Orville Wright at Huffman Prairie, near Dayton, Ohio. The flight covered about 4,080 feet in 1-1/2 minutes. The flight was made in the Flyer II, an improved aircraft built after the first Flyer was overturned and damaged by wind in North Carolina.

Sep 20, 1952: Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase published a report confirming that DNA holds hereditary data.

Sep 20, 1954: On this day, the first successful compilation and execution of a computer program using what became FORTRAN was run by Harlan Herrick at IBM. It took until 1957 to develop an operational commercial product. FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) was designed as a high-level language aimed at technical and scientific applications that performed calculations, rather than primarily working with characters.

John Backus at IBM supervised the development of FORTRAN, which allowed users to express problems as commonly understood equations. By 1958, the language had grown to become Fortran II, which included subroutines, functions, and common blocks. Fortran IV was introduced by IBM in 1962.

Sep 20, 2013: The Deep Impact spacecraft was declared dead by NASA after nine productive years making fly-bys of comets. Radio contact was lost on Aug 8, 2013, possibly caused by solar panel failure. Without power, the craft likely froze up. Deep Impact released an impactor craft to crash into the comet Tempel 1 on July 3, 2005. On July 4, 2005, the plume of debris created by the impactor was studied to reveal its composition. Deep Impact performed fly-bys of several other comets.

September 18th in Science and Engineering

Sep 18, 1752: Adrien-Marie Legendre, French mathematician who contributed to number theory, celestial mechanics and elliptic functions, was born.

Sep 18, 1819: French physicist, Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault was born. Using a long pendulum that would swing for many hours, Foucault directly proved that Earth rotates on its axis. The plane under the pendulum rotated, relative to the pendulum, at a rate related to the latitude of the site and Earth’s angular velocity. He made accurate measurements of the velocity of light. He proved that light travels slower in water than in air. He invented an accurate test still used today to measure the spherical and chromatic aberrations of lenses and telescope mirrors.

Sep 18, 1830: On this day, the first railroad locomotive built in the U.S., B&O locomotive Tom Thumb, the first locomotive built in America, lost a 14 kilometer race with a horse due to a boiler leak.

Sep 18, 1831: German-Austrian inventor, Siegfried Marcus, was born. He built four of the world’s first gasoline powered automobiles. He first began working on self-propelled vehicles in 1860. He made many inventions including an electric lamp, a carburetor, and an igniter for explosives. He also taught physics.

Sep 18, 1839: John Aitkin, Scottish physicist and meteorologist, John Aitkin is born. He’s know for his studies on atmospheric dust, the formation of dew, cyclones and evaporation. He invented instruments to study dust particles. Most importantly, Aitkin determined that condensation of water vapor from the air begins on the surface of microscopic particles, now called Aitken nuclei. This is critical to the formation of dew and rain.

Sep 18, 1895: Daniel David Palmer gave the first chiropractic adjustment to Harvey Lillard in Davenport, Iowa – now the home of Palmer Chiropractic College.

Sep 18, 1907: U.S. physicist Edwin Mattison McMillan was born. McMillan shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Glenn T. Seaborg for their discovery of element 93, neptunium. Uranium is the heaviest naturally occurring element (92). By bombarding uranium with fast neutrons or deuterons, isotopes of the first element (93) beyond uranium were produced at a laboratory at UC Berkeley. By 1940, McMillan, Seaborg, and other colleagues found that the radioactive decay of neptunium produced element 94, which they named plutonium.

Sep 18, 1927: Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System, the first radio network, first went on the air with 47 radio stations. The radio network lost money in its first year. On Jan 18, 1929, Columbia sold out to a group of private investors for $400,000, headed by William S. Paley, a Philadelphia cigar manufacturer. The radio network was renamed The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Sep 18, 1980: Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo-Mendéz became the first person of color and the first Latin American to fly into space. He flew on Soyuz 38, one of two men comprising the seventh international crew of the Intercosmos program. Tamayo-Mendéz spent several days aboard the Soviet space laboratory Salyut 6. He engaged in several experiments and measured the speed at which sugar crystals grow in space.

September 17th in Science and Engineering

Sep 17, 1683: Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek wrote to the Royal Society reporting his discovery of microscopic living animalcules (live bacteria). He had made observations on the plaque between his own teeth.

Sep 17, 1822: Jean-François Champollion, at the French Academie Royale des Inscriptions, read a paper on his solution to the mystery of the triple inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone. He had worked on deciphering the hieroglyphics for 14 years.

Sep 17, 1844:  Thomas F. Adams of Philadelphia, PA is issued the first U.S. patent (3,744) for a printing press that applied different colors of ink in one impression. The inventor called it polychrome printing.

Sep 17, 1871: The world’s first major mountain tunnel, the Mont Cenis Tunnel is opened. It burrows eight miles through granite under the Alps, linking Switzerland and Northern Italy. The tunnel is wide enough to accommodate two railroad tracks. Started in 1857, for the first three years, progress was only 8 inches a day. Then, Germain Sommeiller introduced the first high-powered pneumatic tools to tunneling, greatly speeding up the work.

Sep 17, 1872: Phillip W. Pratt is issued the first U.S. patent (131,370) for an automatic fire sprinkler system. This first system used valves held closed by springs and cords. The cords were equipped with fuses. Fire would ignite the fuses, burning the cords and releasing the valves.

Sep 17, 1901: Peter Cooper Hewitt is issued the first U.S. patents (682,692-682,699) for a mercury vapor light. The design consisted of a long glass tube with a mercury electrode at one end and an iron one at the other. Electric current through the tube produced a stark blue-green light with no red. Lamps of this type were common for street lighting in the middle of the 20th Century. They were ugly but much more efficient than incandescent lights, and were manufactured by the Cooper Hewitt Electric Company of New York. Hewitt’s invention was a forerunner of modern fluorescent lamps.

Sep 17, 1906: Three men from Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition, Douglas Mawson, Edgeworth David and Alistair Mackay, walk over 1,200 miles across perilous Antarctica and claim to have located the Magnetic South Pole, which they claimed for the British Empire.

Sep 17, 1908: Thomas Etholen Selfridge becomes the first airplane fatality in the U.S. at Arlington Heights, Virginia. He was a passenger with Orville Wright, demonstrating the Wright Flier airplane to the Army. Wright had installed new, longer propellers the day before but had not flight tested them. One of the propellers struck one of the wings’ guy wires and disintegrated. The aircraft fell 75 feet and crashed. Selfridge was 26 and an officer with the Balloon Corps. He died of a fractured skull. Wright suffered a fractured thigh and several fractured ribs.

Sep 17, 1911: “Cal” (Calbraith Perry) Rogers began the first transcontinental flight across the U.S. in a 35 horsepower Wright biplane. Forty-nine days, 30 stops, 82 flying hours, and 19 crashes later, he completed the flight in Pasadena, California. By the time he arrived he had completely rebuilt the aircraft at least once. He was sponsored by a soft drink maker, Vin Fiz. William Randolph Hearst was offering a $50,000 prize to the first person to complete such a flight in 30 days or less. Rogers was 19 days too slow to win the prize.

Sep 17, 1931: Early 33 RPM long-playing (LP) records were first demonstrated at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York by RCA (Radio Corporation of America). The equipment was too expensive to become a practical product. The first vinyl LP records and more practical equipment came out in 1948, produced by RCA’s competitor, Columbia.

Sep 17, 1953: The first successful surgical separation of siamese twins took place at the Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. Carolyn Anne and Catherine Anne Mouton were connected at the waist and were born in July of 1953.

Sep 17, 1991: Birth of the Linux operating system. The first Linux kernel was released by Linus Torvalds.