Oct 6, 1510: Prominent humanist and physician, John Caius, was born. His classic account of the English sweating sickness is considered one of the earliest histories of an epidemic. English sweating sickness was and remains a mystery. A series of epidemics began in 1485 and spread to mainland Europe. Thousands were killed by this disease, which struck suddenly, progressed rapidly, and often killed in just a few hours. If the victim survived longer than 24 hours, the disease was usually not fatal. Infants and children were not affected. The last outbreak occurred in 1551, then the disease apparently vanished.
Oct 6, 1732: Nevil Maskelyne, English astronomer noted for his contribution to the science of navigation was born. In 1761, Maskelyne traveled to the island of St. Helena to make accurate measurements of a transit of Venus. These measurements gave the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and the scale of the solar system. He also experimented with the lunar position method of determining longitude. Maskelyne carried out trials of Harrison’s timepiece and was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1765. In 1774, he carried out an experiment on a Scottish mountain using a plumb line to determine the Earth’s density. He found it was approximately 4.5 times that of water.
Oct 6, 1735: Jesse Ramsden, British pioneer in the design of precision tools, was born. Ramsden became the most skilled designer of mathematical, astronomical, surveying and navigational instruments of 18th Century. He is best known for the design of a telescope and microscope eyepiece commonly used today called the Ramsden eyepiece.
Oct 6, 1783: French experimental physiologist, François Magendie, was born. He was the first to prove the functional difference of the spinal nerves. His pioneering studies of the effects of drugs on various parts of the body led to the introduction to medical practice of such compounds as strychnine and morphine. Magendie, with Johannes Peter Müller, founded the science of experimental physiology.
Magendie proved Charles Bell’s theory on the motor function of anterior roots and the sensory function of dorsal roots of spinal nerves, called the Bell-Magendie law. In addition to morphine and strychnine, he introduced the effects and uses of emetine, quinine, and other alkaloids. He’s considered the founder of experimental pharmacology.
Oct 6, 1783: The self-winding clock was patented by Benjamin Hanks.
Oct 6, 1790: Jacob Schweppe showed his process for making artificial mineral water, the basis of all modern carbonated beverages.
Oct 6, 1831: (Julius Wilhelm) Richard Dedekind, German mathematician, was born. He developed a major redefinition of irrational numbers in terms of arithmetic concepts. Not fully recognized in his lifetime, his treatment of the ideas of the infinite and of what constitutes a real number continues to influence modern mathematics.
Oct 6, 1836: Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried von Waldeyer-Hartz, German anatomist and pathologist, was born. He coined the term neuron in 1891 and chromosome in 1888. He also created a number of embryological terms including those that describe the structure of developing teeth. He became professor of pathology at age 29 and studied the early diagnosis of cancer. He was director of the anatomy department at the University of Berlin for 30 years.
Oct 6, 1846: American engineer, inventor, and industrialist, George Westinghouse, was born. His father was an agricultural machine maker in New York. Westinghouse began at age 21, working on a tool he invented to guide derailed train cars back onto the track. His most famous invention and the foundation of the industrial empire he built was the air-brake. Until the invention of the air-brake, the brakes on railroad cars were manually operated by turning a large wheel on each car, which was extremely clumsy, unreliable, and dangerous. The air-brake solved all those problems at once and is inherently fail-safe. The brakes on each wheel are applied by strong springs and it takes air pressure to release the brakes. Any rupture in the brake system anywhere along the train causes the brakes for the entire train to be applied automatically.
Westinghouse did a great many things and was involved in various fields of technology. He personally held over 400 patents. He was friends with Nikola Tesla, developer of the alternating current system. Westinghouse was responsible for the adoption of alternating current. Thomas Edison did everything he could to stop the adoption of AC versus his DC system, but the vastly superior AC system couldn’t be stopped.
Oct 6, 1866: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, Canadian-American physicist, engineer and inventor, was born. He eventually held 300 patents. Early radio signals were generated by electromechanical means like rotary spark gaps and high speed alternators. Information could only be sent by Morse Code. No electronic devices existed yet. The vacuum tube had not been invented. There was no device that could amplify. The transmission of voice or music by radio was a dream that several were working on. Marconi’s understanding of how radio worked was wrong, resulting in all of his patents being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and awarded to Nikola Tesla in the 1940s. Tesla and Fessenden agreed that continuous radio waves was the right approach. Fessenden is considered the inventor of continuous wave AM radio and in December of 1906 made the first broadcast of voice and music.
Oct 6, 1868: A patent for nickel plating was awarded to inventor William H. Remington of Boston.
Oct 6, 1893: Indian astrophysicist, Meghnad N. Saha, was born. He is known for his development in 1920 of the thermal ionization equation, which, in the form perfected by the British astrophysicist E. Arthur Milne, has remained fundamental in all work on stellar atmospheres. This equation has been widely applied to the interpretation of stellar spectra, which are characteristic of the chemical composition of the light source.
Oct 6, 1893: Cream Of Wheat, a hot cereal, was created by millers in Grand Forks, North Dakota. During the economic depression of that year, the Diamond Mill of Grand Forks was looking to revive their business. The head miller, Thomas S. Amidon, convinced the owners of the mill to try making a porridge product using farina. The name Cream of Wheat was chosen because the product was so white.
Oct 6, 1897: Florence Seibert, American scientist who developed the protein substance used for the tuberculosis skin test, was born. In 1941, her improved TB skin test became the standard test in the U.S. and a year later was adopted by the World Health Organization. It is still in use today. She also contributed to safety measures for intravenous drug therapy. In the early 1920s, she discovered that the sudden fevers that sometimes occurred during intravenous injections were caused by bacteria in the distilled water used to make the protein solutions. She invented a distillation apparatus designed to prevent such contamination. Her later research involved the study of bacteria associated with certain cancers.
Oct 6, 1903: Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, Irish physicist, was born. He was corecipient, with Sir John Douglas Cockcroft of England, of the 1951 Nobel Prize for Physics for the development of the first nuclear particle accelerator. This accelerator, known as the Cockroft-Walton generator, used extremely high voltage to directly accelerate subatomic particles, mainly protons. On April 14, 1932, Walton directed the proton beam onto a lithium target and became the first to artificially split atoms. Walton was the first to see the reaction taking place. Together, Cockroft and Walton identified the disintegration products as alpha particles (helium nuclei).
Oct 6, 1908: The Ohio Art company, makers of the famous Etch-A-Sketch, was founded by Henry Simon Winzeler.
Oct 6, 1914: Norwegian ethnologist and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, was born. He organized and led the famous Kon-Tiki and Ra transoceanic scientific expeditions. The first in April 1947, the second in 1969-1970. Both expeditions were intended to prove the possibility of ancient transoceanic contacts between distant civilizations and cultures. The Kon-Tiki voyage from Peru to Polynesia was a 101-day, 4,300-mile drifting voyage on a raft, a replica of pre-Inca vessels.
He wished to show that Polynesia’s first settlers could have come from South America. Few scientists agreed with this hypothesis and it’s been essentially disproven by genetic and linguistic studies, which show that settlers traveled in the opposite direction. However, Heyerdahl’s efforts did prove that such voyages were possible.
Oct 6, 1914: A very important US patent was issued to Edwin H. Armstrong for a “Wireless Receiving System”. This patent US #1,113,149 described his famous regenerative, or feedback, circuit. This invention started Armstrong’s career of innovation. He went on to invent all three types radios: regenerative, superheterodyne, and superregenerative, which are still how radios are designed today. Armstrong also invented FM radio.
Oct 6, 1956: Dr. Albert Sabin reported that the oral polio vaccine he had developed was ready for mass testing on an international basis. It was expected to produce long-term, perhaps lifetime, immunity against the dreaded disease of poliomyelitis. Sabin said a single dose of the new vaccine would produce immunity against all three major strains of polio virus.
His vaccine with live polio virus had proven safe in extensive tests on animals and humans. Worldwide tests of the new vaccine were slated to begin in the following year in the U.S. and four foreign countries. Sabin said arrangements had been made for a phamaceutical company to produce the vaccine, which he said would cost less than the cherry syrup it was in when administered by mouth. It brought an alternative to the older hyperdermic method and resulting scars. (The author received this vaccine in 1959, given as two drops of liquid on a sugar cube.)
Oct 6, 1995: The first discovery of a planet around a star similar to the sun was announced. The planet is quite large, about 160 times the mass of Earth, orbiting the star 51 Pegasus.
Oct 6, 1997: American biology professor Stanley B. Prusiner won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering prions. Prions were “an entirely new genre of disease-causing agents.” The name means “proteinaceous infectious particle.” Prions cause brain diseases such as BSE, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or “mad cow disease”. The human variant is Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Prions are also responsible for kuru among some peoples in New Guinea and scrapie in sheep and goats.
Prions are too small to be seen with normal microscopes. They are self-replicating, but contain no nucleic acid. Prions are highly resistant to destruction or denaturation by common chemical and physical agents such as disinfectants, formalin, heat, UV, or ionizing radiation. Safe incineration of infected tissues requires a temperature over 900 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours.