What happened today in science history.

Category: On This Day (Page 3 of 4)

September 24th in Science and Engineering

Sep 24, 1501: Italian physician, mathematician and astrologer Girolamo Cardano (a.k.a. Geronimo, Gerolamo, or Anglicized as Jerome Cardan) was born. He was the first to give a clinical description of typhus fever. His book, Ars Magna (“Great Art,” 1545) is one of the great achievements in the history of algebra, in which he published the solutions to the cubic and quartic equations. His mechanical inventions included the combination lock, the compass gimbal consisting of three concentric rings, and the universal joint to transmit rotary motion at various angles, used in nearly every automobile today. He contributed to hydrodynamics and held that perpetual motion is impossible, except in celestial bodies. Cardano published two encyclopedias of natural science, introduced the Cardan grille, a cryptographic tool in 1550. He died by suicide.

Sep 24, 1852: A new invention, the dirigible, a semi-rigid airship, was demonstrated in a flight from Paris to Trappe. Henri Giffard (1825-82) installed a 3 horsepower steam engine of his own design in the gondola of a 147-foot-long spindle shaped coal-gas balloon. This engine turned an 11 foot propeller producing a speed of 5 mph over a distance of 17 miles on a 3 hour trip. This was the first powered and controlled flight ever achieved by humans.

In 1858 he patented a steam injector which became widely used in locomotives, making him rich. However, Giffard was depressive and died by suicide in 1882.

Sep 24, 1870: Georges Claude, French chemist, engineer and inventor was born. He invented the neon light, which was the forerunner of the fluorescent light. Claude was the first to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas around 1902 and make a neon lamp. He first publicly displayed the neon lamp on Dec 11, 1910 in Paris. His French company Claude Neon, introduced neon signs to the U.S. with two “Packard” signs for a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles, purchased by Earle C. Anthony for $24,000.

Sep 24, 1889: Alexander Dey patented the dial time recorder or “punch clock” for employees to record their arrival and departure times from work.

Sep 24, 1891: William F. Friedman was born today. He was one of the world’s greatest cryptologists, who helped decipher enemy codes from World War I to World War II. He was born as Wolfe Friedman in Kishinev, Russia. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. Originally trained as an agricultural geneticist, he had become interested in cryptology. During World War I, with his wife Elizabeth, he set up a cryptology school for military personnel, which led to appointment by the U.S. as head of the Signal Intelligence Service in 1930. He broke the Japanese “Purple” code before 1940, thus allowing Americans to read much of Japan’s secret messages during World War II.

Sep 24, 1895: French-American physiologist and physician André Frederic Cournand was born today. He shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with two others “for their discoveries concerning heart catheterization and pathological changes in the circulatory system”. Cournand helped develop the technique by which a catheter could be threaded through a vein into the heart to withdraw blood samples to determine cardiac abnormalities. In addition, it permits the measurement of blood pressure, blood flow or gas concentrations in various parts of the cardiac circulatory system (atrium, ventricles, or artery).

Sep 24, 1898: American astrophysicist Charlotte Moore Sitterly was born today. She organized, analyzed, and published definitive books on the solar spectrum and spectral line multiplets. Starting in 1945 until the age of 90, she conducted her work at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and the Naval Research Laboratory. She detected that technetium, an unstable element created by nuclear reactions in the laboratory, exists in nature. She made major contributions to the compilation of tables for atomic-energy levels associated with optical spectra, which are now standard reference material in astrophysics. She was awarded the Bruce Medal in 1990.

Sep 24, 1898: Sir Howard Walter Florey, Australian pathologist, was born today. He, with Ernst Boris Chain, researched, isolated and purified penicillin for general clinical use. From 1939, he worked with Chain on natural antibacterial agents produced by microorganisms, leading to their isolation and purification, and the determination of the chemical structure of penicillin. They performed the first clinical trials of the antibiotic. They shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Sir Alexander Fleming, who had discovered antibiotic penicillin in 1928. Florey was knighted in 1944.

Sep 24, 1905: Spanish-American biochemist and molecular biologist, Severo Ochoa, was born. He shared the 1959 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Arthur Kornberg for “for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid” Ochoa discovered an enzyme in bacteria that enabled him to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA), a substance of central importance to the synthesis of proteins by the cell.

Sep 24, 1906: Polidore F. F. Swings, Belgian astrophysicist, was born. He made spectroscopic studies to identify elements and structure of stars and comets. He discovered the first interstellar molecule, the CH radical, called methylidyne or carbyne in 1937. In comet atmospheres he studied the “Swings bands”, which are carbon emission lines. In 1941, with a slit spectrograph he identified a “Swings effect” in the violet CN bands around 387 nm, a fluorescence partly due to solar radiation that shows excitation differences dependant on the Doppler shift caused by a comet’s motion relative to the Sun.

Sep 24, 1907: John Ray Dunning, American nuclear physicist, was born. His experiments in nuclear fission helped lay the groundwork for the development of the atomic bomb. Fission of the rare U235 uranium isotope was verified in an experiment using the microscopic quantity of 20 nanograms. But, great difficulty remained in separating U235 from the more abundant U238. Dunning led the research team at Columbia University which studied the gaseous diffusion method for uranium separation. This process was based on the slightly smaller size of the U235 isotope molecules. When pushed through a porous barrier, U235 would move through faster, and several repetitions would produce almost pure U235.

Sep 24, 1909: Thomas M. Flaherty filed for a U.S. patent for a “Signal for Crossings”. This was the first U.S. patent application for a traffic signal. Patent 991,964 issued on May 9, 1911. His signal used a large horizontal arrow pivoting on a post, which turned to indicate the right of way direction. It was activated by an electric solenoid by a policeman beside the road. Although filed first, it was not the first patent actually issued for a traffic signal. Ernest E. Sirrine filed a different design seven months after Flaherty, but his patent was issued earlier, and thus he held the first U.S. patent for a “Street Traffic System”, 976,939 Nov 29, 1910.

Sep 24, 1918: Michael J. S. Dewar was a Scottish organic chemist who was born in India and attended boarding school in England. His career included both industrial and academic positions in England and the United States. As a theoretician, he was an early master of molecular orbital theory and wrote The Electronic Theory of Organic Chemistry (1949), the first book applying molecular orbital theory to organic chemistry. His experimental work studied carbenium ions, boron chemistry, superconductors, liquid crystals, the biosynthesis of fatty acids, and phenyl radicals.

Sep 24, 1930: John Watts Young, American astronaut, was born. He was the commander of the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, April 12, 1981. He walked on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission, April 21, 1972. He made the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft with Virgil Grissom. And he was on the aborted Apollo 13 flight. He became the first person to fly into space six times in a career that was one of the busiest of any NASA astronaut. He piloted four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, Apollo Command and Service Module, Apollo Lunar Module and the Space Shuttle. Young worked for NASA for 42 years and retired on Dec 31, 2004.

Sep 24, 1945: Ian Stewart, English mathematician was born. He authored many books on mathematics for the lay reader, and others for academics, and textbooks. As a young teenager with a zeal for mathematics, he always read the “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American. From this he not only expanded his knowledge of mathematics, but also acquired the skills needed to be an entertaining communicator. Now, he writes the “Mathematical Recreations” column in Scientific American.

In his career at the University of Warwick, he is a professor of mathematics with special responsibility for public understanding of science. He gave the 1997 Royal Institute Christmas Lectures. On June 8, 2009, he was presented with the award at the Science Museum in London as the first recipient of the Christopher Zeeman medal for public engagement in mathematics.

Sep 24, 1960: The first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, was launched in Newport, Virginia. It was the most astonishing vessel of its time and by far the largest warship in the world. It was powered by eight nuclear reactors. Since it doesn’t need to carry its own fuel oil it has much more room for aviation fuel and weapons. In 1963, the Enterprise and two similarly powered cruisers made a non-stop voyage around the world to demonstrate the viability of nuclear power. Length of the ship: 1120 ft, flight deck width: 250 ft, displacement: 93,970 tons, speed: 33 knots, range: 470,000 miles at 20 knots, air complement: 86 aircraft, crew: 5765.

September 23rd in Science and Engineering

Sep 23, 1624: Galileo sent one of his compound microscopes, along with a letter, to a leading scientist of the day, his friend Federico Cesi in Rome. Galileo wrote some tips on how to use the microscope. Galileo did not invent the microscope, but made improvements to it. Galileo also wrote of his own observations, “I have contemplated a great many animals with infinite admiration”. Cesi worked with Francesco Stelluti and viewed the anatomic structure of bees, described in their text, Apiarium (1625), the first publication on microscopic discoveries.

Sep 23, 1791: Johann Franz Encke, German astronomer, was born. In 1819 he established the period of the comet now known by as Encke’s Comet. At at 3.3 years it has the shortest period of any known comet.

Sep 23, 1819: French physicist, Armand-Hippolyte-Louis Fizeau, was born. In 1849, he was the first to measure the speed of light successfully without using astronomical calculations. Fizeau sent a narrow beam of light between gear teeth on the edge of a rotating wheel. The beam then traveled to a mirror five miles (8 km) away and returned to the wheel. If the wheel was spinning at the right speed, and fast enough, a tooth would block the returning light. Knowing the rotational speed and the mirror’s distance, Fizeau directly measured the speed of light. He also found that light travels faster in air than in water, which confirmed the wave theory of light, and that the motion of a star affects the position of the lines in its spectrum. With Jean Foucault, in 1847, he proved the wave nature of the Sun’s heat rays by showing their interference (1847).

Sep 23, 1846: The German astronomer Johann G. Galle discovered Neptune after only an hour of searching, within one degree of the position that had been computed by Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier. Independently of the English astronomer John C. Adams, Le Verrier had calculated the size and position of a previously unknown planet, which he assumed influenced the irregular orbit of Uranus, and he asked Galle to look for it.

Sep 23, 1861: German engineer and industrialist, Robert Bosch, was born. He invented the spark plug and the magneto for automobiles. His firm produced a wide range of precision machines and electrical equipment throughout the world.

Sep 23, 1869: Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) was born. She was the quarantined disease carrier known as Typhoid Mary, the famous typhoid carrier in the New York City area in the early 20th century. Fifty-one original cases of typhoid and three deaths were directly attributed to her. Countless more were indirectly attributed. She herself was immune to the typhoid bacillus (Salmonella typhi).

The outbreak of typhus in Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1904 puzzled the scientists of the time because they thought they had wiped out the deadly disease. Mallon’s case showed that a person could be a carrier without showing any outward signs of being sick. This led to most of the health code laws on the books today. She died not from typhoid but from the effects of a paralytic stroke.

Sep 23, 1879: Richard S. Rhodes invented the Audiophone, the first hearing aid.

Sep 23, 1915: American physicist Clifford G. Shull was born. Shull shared the 1994 Nobel Prize for Physics with Canadian physicist Bertram N. Brockhouse. Shull’s part of the award was for his development of neutron-scattering techniques, especially the neutron diffraction process that gave scientists a new tool to investigate the atomic structure of matter.

Sep 23, 1930: Johann Ostermeyer of Athegnenber, Germany, patented his “Improvements in flash lights used for photographic purposes.” The modern photographic safety flash bulb evolved from this design, which used aluminium wire or foil in oxygen. Unfortunately, all too frequently, these versions exploded. The flashbulb was introduced to the American market in 1930 by General Electric. Flash cubes appeared in 1966, and the percussively ignitable “Magicube” in 1970.

Sep 23, 1949: President Truman shocked America with a terse announcement, “We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the USSR.” The alarm stimulated activity in scientific and political circles. An arms race was the clear response. On Jan 31, 1950, President Harry S. Truman announced a program to develop the hydrogen bomb. He said, “I have directed … work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen or superbomb. Like all other work in the field of atomic weapons, it is … consistent with the overall objectives of our program for peace and security … until a satisfactory plan for international control of atomic energy is achieved.”

Sep 23, 1953: WD-40 was invented and recorded for the first time in the Rocket Chemical Company’s logbook. The aerospace company, located in San Diego, California Southern California was trying to develop a lubricant that penetrated and displaced water. The 40th formulation was successful. It was created by Norm Larsen. In 1958, it was packaged in cans and sold to consumers in San Diego, California as WD-40, its original test designation.

Larsen founded the company in 1953 with the intent to supply materials used in the manufacture of nuclear missiles. WD-40 was originally intended to coat structural components and prevent corrosion by displacing water. WD-40 was widely successful, but it was the company’s only product. So, the company’s name was changed in 1969 to the WD-40 Company.

Sep 23, 1999: the Mars Climate Observer apparently burned up as it was about to go into orbit around the Mars.

September 21st in Science and Engineering

Sep 21, 1756: John Loudon McAdam was born in Ayr, Scotland. He was the inventor of macadam (McAdam) road construction, which consists of three layers of progressively finer crushed stone. Unlike loose gravel, crushed stone tends to lock together and stay in place. He developed methods for road construction where the road surface was slightly above ground level and drainage was considered. He also invented tarmac, where a layer of hot asphalt is used to bind the top layer. (Tar plus mac, tarmac.)

Sep 21, 1832: French physicist and iron master Louis-Paul Cailletet was born. He is noted for his work on the liquefaction of gases. He worked at his father’s metallurgy business and discovered the permeability of iron to hydrogen and other gases, which accounts for the unpredictable behavior of some irons and steels due to dissolved gases. Every professional welder today is conscious of “hydrogen embrittlement”, which is the reason high strength and critical welds are made using low-hydrogen welding rods like 7018.

Later he became interested in liquefaction of gases and measuring if gases deviated from the Ideal Gas Law. He used the Joule-Thomson effect to liquefy gases by compressing them while at the same time cooling them, then allowing expansion again to cause additional cooling. In this way, he was the first to produce droplets of liquid hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, CO, NO2, and acetylene.

He also invented the high-pressure manometer and the altimeter.

Sep 21, 1853: Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes was born today. He received the 1913 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in low-temperature physics. He managed to liquefy hydrogen and helium. He obtained his first sample of liquid helium, the substantial amount of 60 cc, in 1908.

He also studied the resistance of metals at low temperatures and discovered superconductivity.

Sep 21, 1866: French physician and bacteriologist Charles-Jules-Henri Nicolle was born. He received the 1928 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery that typhus was transmitted by the body louse. The clue was that typhus patients continued to spread the disease until they were bathed and issued new clothing. Further investigation led to the body louse as the disease vector.

Sep 21, 1895: Spanish aeronautical engineer, Juan de la Cierva (Codorniu) was born today. He invented the autogiro (autogyro) in 1923. The autogyro can land and take off in much shorter distances than a fixed-wing aircraft. While it cannot hover because the rotor is not powered, it can still spin safety to the ground (autorotation) if the engine fails. Ironically, he died in a fixed-wing plane accident.

Sep 21, 1895: The Duryea Motor Wagon Company became the first American auto manufacturer to open for business. In 1893, Frank Duryea and his brother, Charles, designed the first gasoline-powered automobile built in the U.S. Since it didn’t need a horse, it was called a “horseless carriage”. It was first test driven in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Sep 21, 1901: American physicist Lee Alvin DuBridge was born. He was best known as the president of Caltech (California Institute of Technology) from 1946 to 1969. He had a long career as an academic administrator, advisor to three presidents, and served on the boards of the RAND Corporation and numerous great institutions like the Huntington Library.

Sep 21, 1907: English marine geophysicist Sir Edward (Crisp) Bullard was born. His work with geomagnetism produced the first satisfactory measurements of geothermal heat flow through the earth’s crust beneath the oceans. Bullard made early measurements of gravitational variations in the East African Rift Valley. He helped develop the theory of continental drift. He used computers to analyze the fit of the rifted continents on each side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Most importantly, perhaps, he developed the dynamo theory of geomagnetism, which explains that Earth’s magnetic field is generated by the convection of molten material in the Earth’s core.

Sep 21, 1909: Canadian-American oceanographer Richard Howell Fleming was born. He researched ocean currents, chemistry and biochemistry. He applied oceanography for military uses and studied the disposal of atomic wastes in the ocean. Fleming worked with the first comprehensive synoptic two-year survey of the Northern Pacific Ocean, charting currents, tides, winds, depths, and temperatures and observing plant and animal life.

Sep 21, 1921: A huge explosion at a fertilizer factory at Oppau, Germany, caused 500 deaths. Destruction at the site included hundreds of neighboring houses. The fertilizer made was a 50/50 mix of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate. Storage silos reached up to a hundred feet high. This fertilizer had a tendency to form solid clumps and it was routine to break it up with bulldozers and dynamite. The mixed fertilizer was not regarded as explosive because it was difficult to initiate and no explosion had ever happened before in such circumstances. However, this time, dynamite caused 4,500 tons of fertilizer to explode, creating a crater 250 feet diameter and 50 feet deep.

Sep 21, 1926: American physicist Donald Arthur Glaser was born. He received the 1960 Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of the bubble chamber, which is used to observe and photograph the tracks left by subatomic particles.

Sep 21, 1971: American medical patient known as The Bubble Boy, David Vetter was born. He was born with the genetic disease, severe combined deficiency syndrome (SCID) in which the immune system is non-functional. This disease is quickly fatal but modern technology allowed the design of a sterile plastic bubble in which he could live. He lived for twelve years. He was publically identified only as David or The Bubble Boy. He died after a bone marrow transplant from his sister that was hoped would save him. It might have saved him, but despite careful screening, the marrow contained the Epstein-Barr virus. This resulted in Burkitt’s lymphoma, which killed him.

The media was never fully informed of the truth about The Bubble Boy, and were fed benign information. In fact, the young man suffered terrible emotional turmoil from the loneliness and confinement. The movie made about this is also inaccurate.

With the diagnosis of lymphoma, he was released and lived his final 15 days outside the bubble. The most important thing learned for the first time here was that a virus can cause cancer.

Sep 21, 2003: The NASA Galileo space probe ended its eight-year mission to Jupiter as planned. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California directed the craft into Jupiter’s atmosphere to burn up, completely vaporizing its structure. This prevented the possibility of any later uncontrolled fall onto a moon causing contamination with bacterial life from Earth.

Contact was lost with the spacecraft slightly after 3:40 p.m. EDT. More than 1,000 people who worked on the Galileo program gathered at the Laboratory to celebrate the end of the mission. Galileo was first conceived in 1976 as a mission to Jupiter and its moons, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa.

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 19th in Science and Engineering

Sep 19, 1783: Jacques Etienne Montgolfier launched a duck, a sheep and a rooster aboard a hot-air balloon at Versailles in France.

Sep 19, 1838: Ephraim Morris patented the railroad brake.

Sep 19, 1839: George Cadbury, English businessman, Quaker, social reformer and chocolate manufacturer, was born in Birmingham, England. He joined his father’s chocolate business at the age of 21, along with his brother, Richard. When their father retired, the two brothers took over and built the famous business of Cadbury Brothers. They developed new cocoa bean processing methods. The resulting pure cocoa essence was a major breakthrough and resulted in new food laws prohibiting adulturation of foods.

Sep 19, 1848: Hyperion, the eighth moon of Saturn, was discovered in the U.S. by William Cranch Bond and his son George Phillips Bond and in England by William Lassell.

Sep 19, 1851: It can be said that Lever Brothers cleaned up the world. William Hesketh Lever (1st Viscount Leverhulme) was born on this day. He was a British manufacturer and philanthropist who formed the Lever Brothers soap manufacturing company. It was one of the first companies to manufacture soap from vegetable oils instead of animal tallow. In 1888, Lever established Port Sunlight, a model community providing housing for the company’s workers, who enjoyed conditions, pay, hours, and benefits far better than found in similar industries. By 1900 the factory was producing brands such as Lifebuoy, Lux, Monkey Brand, Vim, and Rinso.

Sep 19, 1876: On this day a patent was issued to American inventor Melville Bissell for the carpet sweeper (182,346). At his a crockery shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his wife’s health was affected by dust from the packing materials. Out of desperate need for self-preservation, he invented the carpet sweeper. They recognized the sweeper’s marketing possibilities and began to assemble them in a room over the store. The inner workings and cases were made by women working in their homes. Tufts of hog bristles were bound with string, dipped in hot pitch, inserted in brush rollers and then trimmed with scissors. Anna Bissell gathered the parts together in clothes baskets and brought them back to the store for assembly.

Sep 19, 1878: Charles-Victor Mauguin, French mineralogist and crystallographer was born. He was one of the first to make a systematic study of the silicate minerals. Using X-ray diffraction techniques, he determined the structure of a large number of micas. He also published the atomic structure of cinnabar, calomel, and graphite and devised a system of symbols to indicate the symmetry properties of crystals. It became an international standard.

Sep 19, 1888: James Waddell Alexander, American mathematician, was born. He founded the branch of mathematics now called topology. In 1912, he joined the faculty of the mathematics department at Princeton. Soon after, Alexander generalised the Jordan curve theorem and, in 1928, he discovered the Alexander polynomial which is much used in knot theory.

Sep 19, 1908: Viktor Frederick Weisskopf, Austrian-American theoretical physicist and administrator was born. He was a doctoral student of Max Born at Göttingen, and was a major contributor in the golden age of quantum mechanics. Weisskopf worked with Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Bohr and Pauli. To escape Nazism, he moved to the U.S. in 1937. He joined the Manhattan Project in 1943, where he became associate head of the theoretical division. After the war he taught at MIT. Murray Gell-Mann was one of his students. Weisskopf developed the “clouded crystal ball” model of the atomic nucleus. He served as director-general of CERN from 1961 to 1965, then returned to MIT, retiring in 1973.

Sep 19, 1947: Torunn Atteraas “Teri” Garin, a Norwegian chemical engineer, was born. After attending university in Norway, she moved to the U.S. for degrees in chemical engineering (1971) and environmental engineering (1977). Garin helped develop aspartame sweetener as a sugar substitute while working for General Foods. Earlier in her career, she researched ways to minimize water pollution caused by food production. She co-patented an adsoption process to extract caffeine from coffee (4,113,887) and a method to derive food dyes from natural sources to replace possibly cancer-causing synthetic dyes (4,409,254), for example, non-toxic betanin, a natural red pigment from red beet. These patents were assigned to General Foods Corp. She died from lung cancer.

Sep 19, 1957: The United States conducted its first underground nuclear test, in the Nevada desert, at Area 12 of the Nevada Test Site. This was the Atomic Energy Commission’s first fully contained underground nuclear detonation named the Rainier event. It was detonated in a horizontal tunnel, drilled about 1600 feet into the mesa and 900 feet beneath the top of the mesa.

Sep 19, 1982: Streetcars stopped running on Market St. in San Francisco after 122 years of service.

Sep 19, 1988: Israel launched its first satellite, Offeq-1 aboard a Shavit rocket, launched from the Negev Desert over the Mediterranean, thus becoming the ninth country in space. The satellite carried scientific data collection instruments but it’s believed to have included experimental surveillance functions.

Sep 19, 1991: Ötzi, the Iceman, a Stone Age traveler and the most ancient human being ever found, was discovered in the Similaun glacier in the Ötzal Alps on the Italian-Austrian border. His frozen body was found along with artifacts of his way of life. An examination of his gut contents showed the man took his last meal not long before setting out on a hike from which he never returned. The meal was a simple affair, consisting of a bit of unleavened bread made of einkorn wheat, one of the few domesticated grains in the Iceman’s part of the world at that time, some other plant, possibly an herb or other green, and meat. An Austrian reporter named him Ötzi.

Sep 19, 1994: The U.S. DNA Identification Act became law as part of comprehensive federal crime legislation. It authorized the FBI director to establish a national DNA database, but the system did not become operational until 1998. The Combined DNA Identification System (CODIS) was designed to enable the states to pool their crime-investigation resources. The central index includes identification records of criminals, and forensic analyses of DNA samples collected from crime scenes and unidentified human remains. The Act included requirements for proficiency testing and privacy protection requirements, with penalties for violations.

Sep 19, 2015: The Aerovelo Eta human-powered speedbike reached a top speed of 139.45 kmh or 86.65 mph on a highway outside of Battle Mountain, Nevada. The nearly-level and straight state highway 305 was the venue for the annual World Human-Powered Speed Challenge. The bicylist, Todd Reichert, was recumbent, encased in a lightweight, low-profile aerodynamically designed shell, which also shrouded most of the wheels. During several years of development the engineering team worked to overcome wobbles at high speed and steering issues to build the world’s most efficient vehicle.

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.

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