What happened today in science history.

Tag: chemistry (Page 2 of 2)

September 29th in Science and Engineering

Sep 29, 1803: French mathematician, Jacques Charles-François Sturm, was born. Among other things, he developed Sturm’s theorem, an important contribution to the theory of equations. Sturm worked as a tutor of the de Broglie family in Paris around 1823, where he met many leading scientists and mathematicians. In 1826, working with Swiss engineer, Daniel Colladon, he made the first accurate measurement of the speed of sound in water (roughly 1,500 meters per second or 4,900 feet per second). In 1827 he wrote a prize-winning paper on the compressibility of fluids.

Since the work of mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650), a problem existed in finding the number of solutions of a given second-order differential equation within a given range of the variable. Sturm provided a complete solution to the problem with his theorem which he published in 1829. Sturm’s theorem has since been applied to many problems including the solution to the Schrödinger equation and its boundary values, a fundamental part of quantum mechanics.

Sep 29, 1859: American physician, Hermann M. Biggs, was born. He pioneered the use of bacteriological studies in the field of public health for the prevention and control of contagious diseases. In 1892, he became the first director of a new Division of Pathology, Bacteriology and Disinfection within the New York City Department of Health, addressing the problem of cholera infected immigrants arriving at the harbor. He eventually became the chief medical officer of the City of New York and in 1914, commissioner of health for the State of New York. The methods he developed spread throughout the USA.

Sep 29, 1901: Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1938, was born. He was one of the chief architects of the nuclear age. He was the last of the double-threat physicists: a genius at creating esoteric theories and also designing elegant experiments.

He developed the theory of beta decay in 1933, postulating that the newly-discovered neutron decaying to a proton emits an electron and a particle he called a neutrino.

Fermi developed theory to explain this decay, which led him to find the weak interaction force. He developed the statistical methods required to clarify a large class of subatomic phenomena. He discovered neutron-induced radioactivity, and he directed the construction and operation of the first controlled chain reaction involving nuclear fission — the first atomic reactor.

Sep 29, 1903: John Heysham Gibbon, the American surgeon who invented the heart-lung machine, was born. As a Harvard research fellow in surgery in 1930, he saw a patient undergoing heart-lung surgery suffocate on his own blood.

This inspired what became his life work. On May 10, 1935, he had built his first external pump, and was able to maintain the cardiac and respiratory functions of a cat. In the late 1940’s, Gibbon received financial and technical assistance from the IBM Corporation to develop an oxygenator with sufficient capacity for a human. On May 6, 1953, with his improved machine he was able to perform the first successful open-heart operation. He repaired an atrial septal defect on 18-yr-old Cecelia Bavolek, maintaining the patient’s heart and lung functions on the machine for 26 minutes.

Sep 29, 1914: A patent, US #1111999, for a “Phonograph-Record” was granted to Thomas A. Edison.

Sep 29, 1920: British biochemist, Peter Dennis Mitchell, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, was born. His work helped to clarify how ADP (adenosine diphosphate) is converted into the energy-carrying compound ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the mitochondria of living cells.

Sep 29, 1925: American engineer and inventor, Paul Beattie MacCready, was born. His life work focused on the design and construction of ultra-efficient flying machines. He invented the first human-powered flying machines and the first solar-powered aircraft to make sustained flights. In 1977, his pedal-powered Gossamer Condor flew a 1.15 mile figure-eight course demonstrating sustained, controlled, human-powered flight. For this, he won the Kremer Prize. Dr. Peter Lissamen was co-designer with MacCready. In 1979, their human-powered Gossamer Albatross won the second Kremer Prize when it crossed the English Channel.

Sep 29, 1931: American particle physicist, James Watson Cronin, was born. He shared, with Val Logsdon Fitch, the 1980 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons.

Their experiment proved that a reaction of subatomic particles run in reverse does not follow the path of the original reaction. This implies that time has an effect on subatomic particle interactions. The experiment demonstrated a break in particle-antiparticle symmetry for certain reactions.

Sep 29, 1954: The CERN (Centre Européenne de Recherche Nucléaire) convention was ratified by the 12 founding member states. As stated by CERN’s Director General Robert Aymar, “gave the new organization a mission to provide first class facilities, to coordinate fundamental research in particle physics, and to help reunite the countries of Europe after two world wars.” Geneva, Switzerland had been chosen as the site of the new laboratory.

September 27th in Science and Engineering

Sep 27, 1814: American astronomer and mathematician, Daniel Kirkwood, was born. Asteroids orbit the Sun in bands, with gaps in between. His explanation for these gaps was perturbations in the orbits of asteroids caused by Jupiter’s gravity. Objects that orbit in these gaps are regularly disturbed by Jupiter’s pull and eventually move to a different orbit that’s more stable, so gaps appear. A similar mechanism causes the gaps in Saturn’s rings. These gaps are now called Kirkwood gaps.

Sep 27, 1816: Robert Stirling, age 26, applied for a patent for his “Heat Economiser” at Edinburgh, Scotland, patent number 4081/1816. The patent described principles of heat regeneration to reduce fuel consumption in glass and other furnaces, with elements of what is now called the Stirling Cycle engine. While his furnace design came to nothing, 40 years later Siemens made the design practical. In 1827, Stirling patented an engine that worked successfully, now known as the Stirling Engine.

Sep 27, 1818: The German chemist Adolphe Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe was born. He accomplished the first generally accepted synthesis of an organic compound from inorganic materials. The commonly believed doctrine of Vitalism said this was impossible. He also succeeded in producing acetic acid from inorganic compounds, which according to the doctrine was impossible. This put an end to Vitalism. In 1859, he succeeded using phenol and carbon dioxide to produce salicylic acid, which led to the cheaper production of acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. The two reactions came to be called Kolbe’s synthesis.

Sep 27, 1825: The first locomotive to haul a passenger train was operated by George Stephenson’s Stockton & Darlington’s line in England. The engine named “Locomotion No. 1” pulled 34 wagons and 1 solitary coach on its journey of 21 miles from Shildon, via Darlington to Stockton in County Durham. This epic journey was the launchpad for the development of the railways, which was to take the world by storm over the following years. Passengers had been hauled before, but only in tests and demonstrations. This time was the beginning of regularly scheduled passenger and freight service.

Sep 27, 1849: Russian physiologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, who was awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was born. He pioneered the investigation that he named the “conditioned reflex”, as opposed to an innate reflex like pain.

In the experiment which made him famous, he trained a hungry dog to associate the sound of a bell with receiving food. Thereafter, the dog would salivate on hearing the bell alone. He had originally set out to study digestion in dogs, investigating how digestive secretions were regulated. He realized that digestion was partly controlled by external stimuli such as vision and smell, and discovered that the response could be associated with any stimulus, like sound. He published his results in 1903.

Sep 27, 1852: British civil engineer, Sir William Willcocks, was born. He proposed and designed the first Aswan Dam (1898-1902) on the Nile River in Egypt and executed major irrigation projects in South Africa and Turkey.

Sep 27, 1854: The first great disaster involving an an ocean liner on the Atlantic Ocean occurred when the steamship S.S. Arctic sank with over 300 lives lost. When launched in 1850, this oak-framed, pine-planked, masted side-paddle steamer was regarded as the best-outfitted ship travelling between England and New York. With steam power it could average thirteen knots. Its last voyage began on 20 Sep 1854 from Liverpool. Six days out, in a fog bank off Cape Race, Newfoundland, it collided with an iron-hulled French ship, the Vesta. Despite bow damage to each, both deemed it advisable to try to reach land. Only the Vesta reached land three days later. The Arctic lost power, its pumps stopped, and it sank. This loss prompted the universal adoption of on-board foghorns.

Sep 27, 1892: Book matches were patented by Joshua Pusey of Lima, Ohio, ptent #483165. He later sold the patent rights to the Diamond Match Company of Barberton, Ohio. The Diamond Match Company was a conglomerate and built by absorbing a number of smaller match manufacturing companies. In 1895, production exceeded 150,000 matchbooks a day. The first Diamond matchbooks were a dangerous and flimsy novelty, but they were improved. Soon, they became common and we often used for advertisement.

Sep 27, 1908: The first production Ford Model T car rolled out of the factory. It was assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan, which had built various earlier Ford models such as the B, D, F, K, N, R, and S, in the preceeding four years. The Model T was introduced to the public on Oct 1, 1908. It had a 20-hp 4-cylinder engine, with versions starting at $850. The first 12,000 model Ts were built at the Piquette Avenue Plant, before production was transferred to a new, larger factory at Highland Park.

The Model T was produced for 19 years, until May 26, 1927. Fifteen million were made, making a historic impact on society. As the manufacturing process was refined over the years, production time was reduced from 12 hours per unit to 1 hour 33 minutes in 1913. By the end in 1927, Model T cars rolled off the assembly line every 24 seconds. The Model T was available “in any color you like, as long as it’s black.” This is because black paint was the fastest to dry.

Sep 27, 1910: A U.S. patent for the production of ammonia was issued to Fritz Haber and Robert Le Rossignol, #971,501. This process could produce ammonia on a large scale directly from its component gases, hydrogen and nitrogen, by passing a mixture of them over hot finely-divided osmium metal which served as a catalyst. The Haber process typically takes place at a pressure of 175 atmospheres (2,600 psi) and a temperature of 550 degrees C. The Haber process could easily give an 8% by volume yield of ammonia. Ammonia is used in enormous quantities by modern industry and farming. It’s used directly and as a feedstock for many other processes.

Sep 27, 1918: English radio astronomer, Sir Martin Ryle, who worked on radar for British wartime defense, was born. After WW II, he became a leader in the development of radio astronomy by designing revolutionary radio telescope systems that used the synthetic aperture technique for accurate location of weak radio sources. Using these techniques and interferometry, he and his team located radio-emitting regions on the sun and pinpointed other radio sources so that they could be studied in visible light. Ryle observed the most distant known galaxies of the universe. His 1C – 5C Cambridge catalogues of radio sources led to the discovery of numerous radio galaxies and quasars. For his synthetic aperture work, Ryle shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics, along with Antony Hewish. This was the first Nobel Prize recognition of astronomical research.

Sep 27, 1920: American oceanographer and meteorologist, Henry Melson Stommel, was born, He was an expert on physical oceanography, primarily the interpretation of data associated with large scale ocean dynamics. He had a long standing interest in the Gulf Stream. He spent most of his career conducting research at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Stommel was one of the most influential oceanographers of his time. He proposed many theories that were later proven to be correct. He applied electromagnetic measurements to oceanic flows, the dynamics of estuaries, and the related problem of hydraulic controls, and the interaction of nonlinear eddy-like phenomena.

Sep 27, 1922: Scientists at the Naval Aircraft Radio Laboratory near Washington, D.C., demonstrated that if a ship passed through a radio wave being sent between two stations, that ship could be detected. This was the beginning of radar.

Sep 27, 1925: Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards was a British medical researcher who, with Patrick Steptoe, perfected in-vitro fertilization (IVF) of the human egg. Their technique made possible the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first “test-tube baby,” in July of 1978, to parents that had previously spent nine years trying to start a family. Edwards was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 2010, “for the development of in vitro fertilization.” His colleague, Steptoe, had died in 1988, so could not be a recipient.

Edwards and Steptoe began their research in the late 1960s, but their research had to be privately funded because the medical establishment found the idea of a “test-tube baby” repugnant. They worked in a secluded laboratory at a small hospital. The work was long and frustrating, with over 100 failures before the first success. Millions of births have since been enabled by IVF.

Sep 27, 1938: British ocean liner “Queen Elizabeth,” the largest passenger liner ever built, was launched at Clydebank in Scotland.

Sep 27, 1941: The first Liberty ship, the S.S. Patrick Henry, was launched. Three months later, it was delivered at Baltimore, Maryland to the U.S. Maritime Commission. It was built in 244 days by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipbuilding Co. The S.S. Patrick Henry could average a speed of about 11 knots, and had a general cargo capacity of 9,146 tons, although this was often greatly exceeded.

During WW2, the United States stunned the world with its industrial production capabilities. Nothing like it has ever been seen before or since, and the Liberty ships are possibly the best example. With WW2 looming, it was clear that an abundance of freighters would be required. The Liberty Ship was designed to be the first mass-produced freighter. Production was overseen by Henry Kaiser. The USA put 18 shipyards to work and produced 2,710 ships in four years. That’s an average of three ships every two days, an unprecedented level of production. Female workers played a big part in the work. While the ships were only designed for a five year working life, many had much longer careers.

Sep 27, 1950: The answering machine was invented.

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