What happened today in science history.

Category: Travel

October 2nd in Science and Engineering

Oct 2, 1608: Johannes Lippershey demonstrated his new invention, the first optical telescope. He showed it to the Netherlands States General. Lippershey was a lens grinder who made eyeglasses or spectacles. One of his apprentices discovered that by holding a long-focus lens at a distance from the eye and a short-focus lens directly in front of the eye, distant objects appeared closer. Lippershey mounted lenses in tubes and applied for a patent in 1608. He also offered them for sale to the Dutch government, which appreciated their military value.

When Galileo heard of the device, he made a similar one and used it to study the sky. The word “telescope” was coined by a guest attending a banquet honoring Galileo on April 14, 1611, where he demonstrated the device.

Oct 2, 1721: The first record of the importation of an African camel into America was an advertisement in the Boston Gazette, announcing that the camel was being exhibited in Boston, Massachusetts, and that it stood 7 feet high and 12 feet long. The first commercial importation of camels into the USA was made in 1856. They were to be used for military purposes, mainly in the desert Southwest.

Oct 2, 1832: Julius von Sachs, a German botanist famous for studying plant physiology, nutrition, and tropism (response to environmental stimuli) was born. He discovered transpiration — that absorbed water moves in tubes in the plant walls without the cooperation of living cells. In 1865, Sachs discovered chlorophyll, the green substance of plants, that it is located in special bodies within plant cells, later called chloroplasts, that glucose is made by the action of chlorophyll, and that the glucose is usually stored as starch. Sachs also studied the formation of growth rings in trees, the role of tissue tension in promoting organ growth, and he invented the clinostat to measure the effects of such external factors such as light and gravity on the movement of growing plants. His work was a significant contribution to the knowledge of plant physiology during the second half of the 19th century.

Oct 2, 1832: English anthropologist, Edward Burnett Tylor, regarded as the founder of cultural anthropology, was born. After travelling in the USA in 1855, he proceeded to Cuba where he met Henry Christy the ethnologist. Together, they visited Mexico, where Christy’s influence greatly stimulated Tylor’s interest in anthropology. Seeing the rich prehistoric remains in Mexico inspired Tylor to make a systematic study.

His most important work, Primitive Culture, published in 1871, was influenced by Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. Tylor developed the theory of an evolutionary, progressive relationship between primitive and modern cultures.

Oct 2, 1836: Charles Darwin returned from his famous five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle to the Pacific. It would be 23 years before he published Origin of Species.

Oct 2, 1846: American physician, Eliza Maria Mosher, whose wide-ranging medical career included an educational focus on physical fitness and health maintenance, was born. Upon receiving her doctorate in medicine in 1875, she began private practice in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1877 she was made resident physician at the Massachusetts State Reformatory Prison for Women at Sherborn, Massachusetts. Subsequently, she became superintendent of the institution, though an injury to her knee forced her to return to private practice and university positions.

In private research she investigated medical aspects of posture. She designed the seats in several types of rapid-transit streetcars, invented an orthopedically sound kindergarten chair, and was a founder of the American Posture League.

Oct 2, 1852: Scottish chemist, William Ramsay, who discovered who discovered the elements neon, krypton and xenon and co-discovered argon, radon, calcium and barium. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904, “in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air, and his determination of their place in the periodic system.” The so-called “inert gases” are now called “noble gases” because some examples of chemical reactions have been discovered.

Oct 2, 1854: Scottish biologist and sociologist, Sir Patrick Geddes, who was one of the modern pioneers of the concept of town and regional planning, was born. He studied under Darwin’s champion, Thomas Henry Huxley. As a professor of botany, Geddes emphasized the development of sexual reproduction as a major step in organic evolution and, with the naturalist John Arthur Thomson, published The Evolution of Sex (1889). Geddes turned his attention to sociology after an attack of blindness in Mexico hampered his biological experimentation. His researches in India, Palestine, Mexico, and Scotland led to his conviction that the development of human communities was primarily biological in nature, consisting of interactions among people, their environment, and their activities.

Oct 2, 1858: Gerhard (Jakob), Friherre De Geer (Baron), Swedish geologist, was born. He originated the varve-counting method used in geochronology. A varve is a seasonal coarse-fine layer of clay deposited in still water. The layers were produced by the annual meltwater sequence with rapid melting and discharge in summer depositing coarse sediments and slow settling of fine-grained material during the winter months. The method he devised of counting of layers in glaciers was good for dating back to 18,000 years. In 1920 De Geer visited the United States to study the varves of New England.

Oct 2, 1866: The first U.S. patent for a tin can with a key opener was issued to J. Osterhoudt of New York City, US #58,554.

Oct 2, 1878: German geophysicist and petroleum engineer, Conrad Schlumberger, was born. He is noted for his invention in 1927 of a method of continuous electric logging of boreholes. Beginning in 1912, Conrad Schlumberger conceived the idea for electrical measurements to map subsurface rock bodies. He was first joined by his brother, Marcel, in 1919 for work together in Normandy, France, opening their first office in 1921.

For three years, starting in 1923, Schlumberger teams conducted geophysical surveys in Romania, Serbia, Canada, South Africa, Belgian Congo and the USA. Electrical prospecting was used for the first time to map a subsurface oil-bearing structure: a salt dome in Romania. In 1927, the first electrical resistivity log was recorded in a well in Pechelbronn, France.

Today, Schlumberger Limited is the world’s largest oilfield services company. Schlumberger employs approximately 100,000 people working in more than 85 countries.

Oct 2, 1883: Karl (Anton von) Terzaghi, Austrian-American civil engineer, was born. He who founded the branch of civil engineering science known as soil mechanics, a term he coined for the study of the properties of soil under stresses and under the action of flowing water. Soil dynamics deals with soil properties and behaviour under changing stress, such as may occur due to earthquakes, bomb blasts, fast-moving traffic, wind, or wave action.

Oct 2, 1886: Swiss-American astronomer, Robert Julius Trumpler, who moved to the USA in 1915 and worked at the Lick Observatory, was born. In 1922, by observing a solar eclipse, he confirmed Einstein’s theory of relativity. He made extensive studies of galactic star clusters, and demonstrated the presence throughout the galactic plane of a faint haze of interstellar material that absorbs light generally, that dims and reddens the light of distant star clusters.

The presence of this obscuring haze revealed how the size of spiral galaxies had been over-estimated. Harlow Shapley, in 1918, determined the distance to the centre of the Milky Way to be 50,000 light-years away. Trumpler’s work reduced this to 30,000 light-years.

Oct 2, 1901: American aeronautical engineer, educator, and science administrator, Charles Stark Draper, was born. He who earned degrees from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. In 1939, he became head of MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory, which was a center for the design of navigational and guidance systems for ships, airplanes, and missiles from World War II through the Cold War. He developed gyroscope systems that stabilized and balanced gunsights and bombsights and which were later expanded to an inertial guidance system for launching long-range missiles at supersonic targets. He was the “father of inertial navigation.” The Apollo contract for guiding man and spacecraft to the moon was placed with the Draper Instrumentation Lab, which developed the Apollo’s onboard computer and many other instruments.

Oct 2, 1903: The first US steam-turbine of large capacity for commercial service was placed in service at the Fiske Street station of the Commonwealth Edison Co., Chicago, Illinois. It was built by General Electric Co in Schenectady, New York, and had been factory-tested on March 4, 1903. Compared to the reciprocating engine it replaced, the turbine needed only one-third the floor space, had one-eighth the weight, and cost one-third as much. The turbine developed 6,500 horsepower, operating at a steam pressure 175 psi and a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oct 2, 1906: German-American engineer, Willy Ley, who was a founder of the German Rocket Society, was born. The society was the first group of men (with the sole exception of Robert Goddard) to experiment with rockets. Ley introduced Wernher von Braun to the society. Ley was consultant for the science fiction film Frau im Mond in which the countdown from ten to zero was introduced. Fiercely anti-Nazi, unlike Von Braun, he emigrated to the USA in 1934 rather than pursue military applications of rocketry. In the USA, he became a popularizer of space exploration and travel, writing many popular books.

Oct 2, 1907: Baron Alexander R(obertus) Todd (of Trumpington), British biochemist, was born. His research on the structure and synthesis of nucleotides, nucleosides, and nucleotide coenzymes gained him the 1957 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Nucleotides, found in the chromosomes and also in cell plasma, are connected with the units of heredity. It was known that they are built up of three very different “building stones”: phosphoric acid, a sugar, and a heterocyclic base containing nitrogen, assembled in one macromolecule. Todd researched how they are connected to each other.

Oct 2, 1917: Belgian cytologist and biochemist, Christian René de Duve, was born. He discovered lysosomes (the digestive organelles of cells) and peroxisomes (organelles that are the site of metabolic processes involving hydrogen peroxide). Lysosomes have been shown by de Duve and others to be engaged in a series of cellular activities during which biological material must be degraded. The lysosomes are used in defense mechanisms against bacteria, during resorption, and secretion. They can also be used for a controlled degradation of the cell in which they are contained, for example, to remove worn out components. For this work he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1974 with Albert Claude and George Palade.

Oct 2, 1937: Motion pictures of moving X-ray images on a fluoroscopic screen showing the movement of organs of the human body were shown at the American Roentgen Ray Society convention in New York City. The images were filmed with a home 16 mm movie camera at 16 frames per second. Two second long shots could capture two or three beats of the heart, the act of breathing, movements of the diaphragm or motion of joints. The clips could be looped to show repeating motion. The films were made by Drs William H. Stewart, William J. Hoffman and Francis H. Ghiselin from Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital.

Oct 2, 1956: The Atomicron, the first atomic clock in the USA, was unveiled at the Overseas Press Club in New York City. The time base was the frequency of the transitions between two hyperfine grounds states of cesium, which results in a frequency of 9,192,631,770 Hz. For greatest precision this should be adjusted for the influence of Earth’s magnetic field and Earth’s orbit around the sun. However, when the cesium standard was adopted in 1960, these adjustments weren’t necessary because the precision of the clock exceeded the precision of all other scientific measurements ever made.

September 30th in Science and Engineering

Sep 30, 1802: Antoine Jérôme Balard, a French chemist who in 1826 discovered the element bromine, was born. He determined its properties, and studied some of its compounds. Later, he proved the presence of bromine in sea plants and animals.

Balard noticed that bromine had an atomic weight that was close to the arithmetic mean of two other known halogens, chlorine and iodine, suggesting that they formed a chemical family. (They do.) He also researched the inexpensive extraction of chemical salts from seawater and made other discoveries in chemistry. He studied and named amyl alcohol. Louis Pasteur and Marcellin Erthelot were among his students.

Sep 30, 1841: A machine “for sticking pins into paper” was patented (U.S. #2275) by Samuel Slocum. He had previous invented but not patented a sewing pin making machine. This new machine aligned several pins in parallel and #pushed them through a folded paper, a convenient way to package the product. One man tending both machines could produce 100,000 pins in 11 hours.

Sep 30, 1842: English geologist, Charles Lapworth who proposed what came to be called the Ordovician Period (505 to 438 million years ago) of geologic strata was born.

Lapworth is famous for his work with marine fossils called graptolites. By carefully collecting and cataloging the tiny fossilized sea creatures, he figured out the original order of layered rocks that had been faulted and folded in England’s Southern Uplands. This method of correlating rocks with graptolites became a model for similar research throughout the world. In 1879, Lapworth proposed a new classification of Lower Paleozoic rocks as the Ordovician Period, between the redefined Cambrian and Silurian periods.

Sep 30, 1846: Dentist Dr. William Morton used an experimental anesthetic, ether, for the first time on one of his patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for tooth extraction.

Sep 30, 1862: US patent #36,593 was issued for a revolving turret for battleships to the inventor, Theodore Ruggles Timby When Ericsson built the first turret battleship in the world, the Monitor, he added a turret based on Timby’s design.

Sep 30, 1870: French physicist, Jean-Baptiste Perrin, was born. His studies of the Brownian motion of minute particles suspended in liquids verified Albert Einstein’s explanation of this phenomenon and thereby confirmed the atomic nature of matter.

Perrin also determined by a new method one of the most important physical constants, Avogadro’s number. Avogadro’s number is the number of molecules in a given number of grams of a substance as indicated by the molecular weight. The Perrin obtained agreed closely to that given by the kinetic theory of gases. For this achievement he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1926.

Sep 30, 1881: The Godalming town council in Surrey, England, voted to have the world’s first public electricity supply. Instead of renewing the contract with the gas company that lit the community, the town council accepted a less expensive offer from Calder & Barrett to convert to electricity. The mayor and council members saw a demonstration of electrical lighting earlier that week.

The system was AC. The generator was powered by a water-wheel at a local leather mill and supplied lighting to the mill, streets, and some businesses and homes. This system preceeded Edison’s first electric utility by a year.

Sep 30, 1882: Born on this day was Charles Lanier Lawrance, an American aeronautical engineer who designed the first successful air-cooled aircraft engine. These engines were used on many historic early flights. He also designed a new type of wing with exceptionally good lift-to-drag ratio that was widely used in World War I. By the mid-1920s his improvements in engine power and reliability made a remarkable series of long-distance flights possible, including those of Admiral Byrd, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Clarence Chamberlin.

Despite the sensational publicity of these flights, Lawrance remained in obscurity. He once commented, “Who remembers Paul Revere’s horse?” For his J-5 Whirlwind engine, Lawrance was awarded the annual Collier Trophy in 1928.

Sep 30, 1882: Hans Wilhelm Geiger, a German physicist who developed the Geiger Counter, was born. The Geiger Counter was the first successful detector of individual alpha particles and other ionizing radiation. After earning his Ph.D. at the University of Erlangen in 1906, he collaborated with Ernest Rutherford. He used the first version of his particle counter and other detectors in experiments that led to the identification of the alpha particle as the nucleus of the helium atom and to Rutherford’s statement in 1912 that the nucleus occupies a very small volume in the atom.

The Geiger-Müller counter (developed with Walther Müller) had improved durability, performance and sensitivity to detect not only alpha particles but also beta particles (electrons) and ionizing electromagnetic photons. Geiger returned from England to Germany in 1912 and continued to investigate cosmic rays, artificial radioactivity, and nuclear fission.

Sep 30, 1882: The first hydroelectric power plant in the U.S. was opened on the Fox River, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Powered by a water wheel, a single dynamo provided 12.5 kilowatts, enough for 180 lights of ten candlepower each.

Sep 30, 1883: American civil engineer, Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, was born. Her professional and political activities built on her family’s tradition of women leaders. In 1905, she was the first woman in the US to earn a degree in civil engineering and the first junior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She wrote a paper on the water supply of Washington, DC, which became a reference work used for over 50 years for studies on the transport of solids in liquids.

In 1908, she married Lee De Forest, inventor of the radio vacuum tube, for whom she worked as a laboratory assistant until 1909, when they separated. In 1908, on a honeymoon trip to France, De Forest transmitted voice communication from the Eiffel Tower to receivers 500 miles away.

Sep 30, 1887: Leslie Herbert Lampitt, English analytical chemist and food scientist, was born. As chief chemist of Lyons, he founded the largest food laboratory in Europe. After serving in WW I, he suggested to Samuel Gluckstein of the food company J. Lyons & Co. that science should be applied to food production.

In Jul 1919, he founded a 3,000 sq. ft. biochemical department, a laboratory analyzing food samples that was the first of its kind in Europe. The staff and activities grew. By 1928, the lab occupied 35,000 sq. feet in a seven-story building. In June of 1949, Oxford graduate Margaret Roberts joined as a research chemist. Later, as Margaret Thatcher, she became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister.

Sep 30, 1902: The “making of cellulose esters” was jointly patented by William H. Walker, Arthur D. Little, and Harry S. Mork of Massachusetts. (US #709,922). A month later, Oct 28, 1902, they also patented artificial silk (US #712,200). Viscose was an early name for the product, which has a silk-like luster. The term Rayon was adopted by the textile industry in 1924 to replace “artificial silk” and other names.

Unlike most man-made fibers, rayon is not synthetic. Made from wood pulp, Rayon’s properties are more similar to those of natural cellulosic fibers, such as cotton or linen, than those of petroleum-based synthetic fibers like nylon.

Sep 30, 1905: Nevill Francis Mott, English physicist, was born. In 1977, he, along with Philip W. Anderson and John H. Van Vleck of the US, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for his independent researches on the magnetic and electrical properties of amorphous semiconductors.

The properties of crystaline semiconductors are described by the Band Theory, which compares the conductivity of metals, semiconductors, and insulators. A famous exception is provided by nickel oxide. According to Band Theory, nickel oxide ought to be a metallic conductor but in reality is an insulator. Mott refined Band Theory to include electron-electron interaction and explained so-called Mott transitions, by which some metals become insulators as the electron density decreases.

Sep 30, 1906: The world’s first international balloon race began. The race began at Jardin des Tuleries, with 17 entrants and 250,000 spectators. The race was sponsored by James Gordon-Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, who was known for financing Henry Stanley’s expedition into Africa to find David Livingstone.

The race was won by a coal-gas balloon from the United States. Pilot Lt. Frank P. Lahm of the U.S. Signal Corps and his co-pilot Maj. Henry B. Hersey, of the Weather Bureau, flew 402 miles (647-km) from Paris, France to Scarborough, England in 22 hours and 15 minutes. Only seven entrants reached England safely. The win promoted ballooning in the USA and the next race in 1907 was held at St. Louis, Missouri.

Sep 30, 1907: A letter was written to the London Times protesting motor car speed traps. The author, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, said, among other things, “the police neglect their other duties and look upon trapping as a regular sport, producing income to local government from the £5 or £10 fines for speeds of 20 or 30 mph.” In response to the complaints of dust clouds kicked up by automobiles, Lord Montagu suggested the construction of better roads.

Sep 30, 1917: American inventor, Irving B. Kahn, was born. He invented teleprompter and headed the TelePrompTer company. In the mid 1950’s, Kahn designed and built the first remotely controlled, multi-image, rear projection system. The system could randomly select between 500 slides and larger transparencies. It was built for the US Army facility in Huntsville, Alabama, for making persuasive presentations to visiting Congressmen. Kahn also made many technological contributions to the early cable TV industry. In 1961, Kahn and Hub Schlafley demonstrated Key TV, an early pay TV concept, by showing the second Patterson vs. Johansson heavyweight fight, giving birth to pay-per-view.

Sep 30, 1929: An early manned rocket-powered flight was made by German auto maker Fritz von Opel. His Sander RAK 1 was a glider powered by sixteen 50 pound thrust rockets. In it, Opel made a successful flight of 75 seconds, covering almost 2 miles. Prior to this, Opel had set several land speed records in rocket sleds he built and tested in secret. He gradually got the speed up to 254 km/h (158 mph).

Sep 30, 1935: Boulder Dam, (later renamed Hoover Dam) in Boulder City, Nevada, was dedicated. The concrete-arch dam was the first US hydroelectric plant to produce over a million kilowatts (1 gigawatt) of power. The first four generators came online on Oct 26, 1936. The full complement is 13. The 1 GW milestone was reached in June of 1943, with most but not all generators installed. With all generators on line, generating capacity was 1.45 GW. The power mainly serves the Los Angeles area.

In the 1990s, an upgrade of all electrical equipment was undertaken. Siemens used supercomputers to design the new generators and new turbine wheels. NGK provided all new switchgear and transformers. With no increase in water flow through the turbines, the maximum output power of Hoover Dam has increased to 4.0 GW (4,000 megawatts). Unfortunately, climate change has reduced the amount of water in the Colorado River system so much that the dam only operates at reduced capacity and other hydro facilities nearby are shutdown entirely.

Sep 30, 1939: French chemist, Jean-Marie Lehn, was born. He who shared, with Charles J. Pedersen and Donald J. Cram, the 1987 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for his contribution to the laboratory synthesis of molecules that mimic the vital chemical functions of molecules in living organisms. Such molecules have a highly selective, structure specific interaction. These molecules can effectively “recognize” each other and choose with which other molecules they will form complexes. Of low molecular weight and with very special properties, the molecules in these compounds bind in a selective manner, like a key fits a lock.

Sep 30, 1943: German biochemist, Johann Deisenhofer, was born. Diesenhofer received the 1988 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, along with Hartmut Michel and Robert Huber, for the determination of the three-dimensional structure of certain proteins that are essential to photosynthesis. Using X-ray crystallography, they unravelled the full details of how a membrane-bound protein is built up, revealing the structure of the molecule atom by atom. The protein was taken from a bacterium which, like green plants and algae, uses light energy from the sun to build organic substances. Photosynthesis in bacteria is simpler than in algae and higher plants, but the work has led to increased understanding of photosynthesis in those organisms as well.

Sep 30, 1954: USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, was commissioned at Groton, Connecticut. Its nuclear reactor eliminated diesel engines which previously limited a sub’s range and speed. Nuclear power also eliminated diesel fuel storage spaces and periodic surfacing to recharge batteries.

Nautilus was launched Jan 21, 1954. It could dive longer, faster, and deeper than any submarine before it. It was 319 feet long, with a 27 foot beam (hull diameter), could dive to 700 feet, and travel at over 20 knots. Nautilus broke records in 1958 as the first vessel to travel under the Arctic ice and cross the North Pole. Decommissioned in 1980, the sub was converted into a museum in 1985.

Sep 30, 1982: H. Ross Perot and Jay Colburn completed the first circumnavigation of the world in a helicopter, the Spirit of Texas. The took 29 days. For their trip around the world, which began and ended in Fort Worth, Texas, Perot and Coburn flew a Long Ranger with full navigation equipment, survival gear, and emergency items. Pop-out floats were added, and a 151-gallon auxiliary fuel tank in place of the rear seat was used to enable the Spirit of Texas to fly eight hours without refueling. An Allison 250-C28B turbine engine performed flawlessly for 246.5 hours of flight, flying more than 10 hours a day, over open ocean, barren desert, and tropical rain forest with an average ground speed of 117 mph.