What happened today in science history.

Tag: flight

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.

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.