What happened today in science history.

Tag: astronomy

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 3rd in Science and Engineering

Oct 3, 1716: Giambatista Beccaria, a.k.a. Giovanni Battista Beccaria (originally Francesco), was born. He was an Italian physicist who spread knowledge of Benjamin Franklin’s discoveries with electricity, which he extended with his own research. He designed an electrical thermometer and investigated the relative powers of parallel plate capacitors. He formed explanations for meteorological and geophysical phenomena in terms of “natural electricity”. With his students, he experimentally probed the atmosphere with metal poles, kites and rockets. He published his work in five books.

Oct 3, 1803: John Gorrie, American physician who pioneered the artificial manufacture of ice, refrigeration, and air conditioning, was born. While he was a Naval officer stationed at Apalachicola, Florida, when treating malaria patients with fever, he reasoned that he needed ice, since people living in cold climates never got malaria. He built a small steam engine to drive a piston in a cylinder immersed in brine. The piston first compressed the air, and then on the second stroke, when the air expanded, it drew heat from the brine. The chilled brine was used to cool air or make ice. He was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in May of 1851, US #8080. Dr. Gorrie was posthumously honored by Florida, when his statue was placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Oct 3, 1805: The first comprehensive pharmacopoeia prepared by a medical society in the USA was authorized by the members of the Massachusetts Medical Society of Boston, Mass. It became the 286-page The Pharmacopoeia of the Massachusetts Medical Society, 1808, edited by Drs. James Jackson and John Collins Warren.

The earliest pharmacopoeia produced in the USA was prepared for the army in 1778 and consisted of just 32 pages with a small type area. It was titled “Pharmacopoeia simpliciorum et efficiorum, in usum noscomii militaris, etc.”

Oct 3, 1818: Scottish publisher, Alexander MacMillan, was born. Though not himself a professional scientist he did much to promote science by publishing the journal Nature, arguably the most recognized journal in the world today.

The first issue was published on 4 Nov 1869. The journal had the support of many influential contributors, including Thomas Huxley. Yet, for the first 30 years, it was a financial burden for MacMillan because the journal never made money. He tolerated the losses because of his committment to the journal’s mission “to place before the general public the grand results of scientific work and scientific discovery; and to urge the claims of science to move to a more general recognition in education and in daily life.”

Oct 3, 1830: George Bailey Brayton, American engineer, was born. He invented the first liquid-fueled internal combustion engine, patented on April 2, 1872. He manufactured and sold these engines in Providence, Rhode Island. Its principle of continuous ignition later became the basis for the turbine engine. A pressurized air-fuel mixture from a reservoir was ignited upon entering a water-cooled cylinder. The Brayton engine was given trials powering watercraft.

Oct 3, 1844: Scottish physician and parasitologist, Sir Patrick Manson, was born. He has been called the “father of tropical medicine.” In 1877, he was the first to identify an insect for the spread of infection. While working at Amoy, China, he found the development phase of filaria worms in the tissues of blood-sucking mosquitoes. This parasite worm causes the filariasis disease when transferred to human body tissues. In 1894, he proposed a mosquito-malaria hypothesis. Manson moved to Hong Kong in 1883, where he set up a medical school. In 1886 he co-founded Dairy Farm to produce contamination-free milk. He also researched sleeping sickness and beri-beri, and helped introduce vaccination to the Chinese. He inspired Alphonse Laveran’s discovery of the malarial parasite, and Sir Ronald Ross’s proof of transmission of malaria by Anopheles mosquitoes.

Oct 3, 1854: Major William Crawford Gorgas, U.S. Army surgeon, was born. He contributed greatly to the building of the Panama Canal by introducing mosquito control to prevent yellow fever and malaria. At first, Gorgas doubted the conclusion of Walter Reed’s Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba in 1900, which said that the mosquito was the only means by which the disease spreads. Nevertheless, Gorgas supported the new policy and eventually became the most active proponent of the mosquito theory in the United States. In 1904, Gorgas led the ten-year anti-mosquito campaign to wipe out yellow fever in Panama.

Oct 3, 1899: The motor-driven vacuum cleaner was patented, US #634,042, as a “pneumatic carpet renovator” by John S. Thurman of St. Louis, Missouri.

Oct 3, 1904: Korean-American chemist, Charles J. Pedersen, was born. He, along with Jean-Marie Lehn and Donald J. Cram, was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his synthesis of the crown ethers – a group of organic compounds with structure-specific interactions of high selectivity when reacting with other atoms and molecules, much like the molecules in living organisms. These are molecules that can “recognize” each other and choose with which other molecules they will form complexes.

Oct 3, 1916: Irish cardiologist, Frank Pantridge, who developed the life-saving portable defibrillator, was born. He learned that death occurred within the first hour for 60 percent of males up to middle-age that died from heart attack. Of these, 90 percent suffered ventricular fibrillation.

So, to deliver treatment as fast as possible, in 1965, Pantridge equipped an ambulance with a portable defibrillator. It achieved a 50% long-term patient survival rate. This pre-hospital coronary care plan was adopted rapidly in America and was used in 1972 when President Lyndon Johnson suffered a heart attack during a visit to Virginia. In 1979, the first automated external defibrillators (AEDs) became available.

Oct 3, 1922: City telephone lines were used for the first time in the USA for the transmission of a facsimile photo in Washington, DC. Charles F. Jenkins sent an image from 1519 Connecticut Ave to the US Naval Radio Staion NOF at Anacostia, D.C. Witnesses from the US Navy and the Post Office Department attended the transmission. A photographic plate was used to record the signals at 5502 16th St, N.W. Washington, DC.

Earlier the same year, on June 11, 1922, a photograph had been sent by radio across the Atlantic from Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine. That transmission reproduced a 7 x 9.5 in. halftone picture, using light falling on a selenium cell to form the dots.

Oct 3, 1941: A patent for the first aerosol can used in a commercial application was filed by chemist Lyle D. Goodhue and entomologist William N. Sullivan, researchers at the US Department of Agriculture. It was titled a “Dispensing Apparatus” US #2,331,117, Oct 5, 1943. It was designed to apply oil-free insecticides in mushroom houses.

During WW II similar cans, dubbed “bug bombs”, were used to protect troops from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Under the public service patent, royalty-free licenses were issued for the manufacture of insecticidal aerosols until the patent expired in 1960.

Oct 3, 1944: Belgian mathematician, Pierre René Deligne, who was awarded the Fields Medal at the 1978 International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki, Finland, was born. He won the medal for his work in algebraic geometry. His work originated with André Weil’s ideas on polynomial equations which led to three questions on what properties of a geometric object can be determined purely algebraically. These three problems quickly became major research challenges to mathematicians. A solution of the three Weil conjectures was given by Deligne. This work brought together algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory. The solution to these problems had required the development of a new kind of algebraic topology.

Oct 3, 1945: Following a message from President Truman, a bill sponsored by the War Department and known as the May-Johnson bill was introduced into the US Congress. The purpose of this bill was to keep the atomic bomb a secret under stringent security restrictions. Because it failed to provide for the sharing of information with foreign countries, and granted a dominant role to the military, scientists throughout the country were galvanized in opposition. Due in part to lobbying by scientists such as Leo Szilard and other groups, the May-Johnson Bill was tabled in December. The McMahon Act, signed on Aug, 1, 1946, mandated civilian control of atomic energy under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

Oct 3, 1947: After 11 years of grinding and polishing the 200-inch (5.1 m) diameter mirror for the Mount Palomar Observatory was completed at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The mirror began in 1934 with 20 tons of molten Pyrex (borosilicate) glass at 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit poured into a ceramic mold at the Corning Glass Works in New York.

It was allowed to cool just one or two degrees per day for eleven months, then cooled to room temperature. Then came eleven years of careful grinding and polishing to bring the mirror to a near-perfect parabola, accurate to 2 millionths of an inch or 50 nanometers across its full diameter. Five tons of glass was removed during the grinding and polishing.

The finished telescope saw first light on January 26, 1949, at 10:06 pm PST under the direction of Edwin Powell Hubble, targeting NGC 2261. The Hale Telescope was dedicated to Dr. George Ellery Hale, who initiated the project but did not live to see its completion. The Hale Telescope was the largest in the world until 1976, and second largest until 1993. It was the last large telescope to use a parabolic mirror.

A list of discoveries made with this telescope would fill a book. It continues in full operation today imaging exoplanets and many other studies.

Oct 3, 1952: “Hurricane”, the first British atomic bomb was tested at Monte Bello, Australia, becoming the third country in the world to test such a weapon. The bomb used an improved plutonium implosion bomb similar to the US “Fat Man”. To test the effects of a ship-smuggled bomb, a threat of great concern at the time, Hurricane was exploded inside the hull of the HMS Plym, a 1450 ton frigate, anchored in 40 feet of water 400 yards offshore. The explosion, 9 feet below the water line, left a saucer-shaped crater on the seabed 20 feet deep and 1,000 feet across.

Oct 3, 1952: The first US video recording on magnetic tape giving credible results of off-air black and white recordings was made by John T. Mullin at the electronics division of Bing Crosby Enterprises, Inc. in Los Angeles, California.

Using a Video Tape Recorder, the images on magnetic tape were not only one-third less costly than photographic methods, but were also immediately available to reproduce on a standard TV monitor tube as soon as the tape was rewound. The 12-head VTR used one-inch tape running at 120 inches per second to record ten tracks of monochrome video information, a clock track to control synchronization, and an FM audio track. The basic idea used frequency division multiplexing with 10 channels covering the desired video range. This gave an effective tape speed of 1,200 inches or 100 feet per second.

From the above, it becomes clear why helical scan video tape recording was later developed. With helical scan, the tape moves much more slowly past an inclined head spinning at high RPM.

Oct 3, 1967: The X-15 rocket plane achieved a world record speed for a manned aircraft of Mach 6.7, or 4,520 mph, or 7,274 km/h, or over a mile per second, with USAF pilot Pete Knight. As of 2019, this record remains unchallenged. This level-flight record was set at an altitude of 192,100 feet (58.5 km).

The X-15 was built with a titanium frame and a skin of Inconel X. At high speeds, the aircraft would glow white hot from air-friction. In earlier flights, the X-15 set the still-unbroken altitude record for a manned aircraft at 354,200 feet (108 km), or 67 miles, well past the generally accepted “edge” of space.

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.