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This Day in Science History

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October 4


Thomas Corwin Mendenhall

Born 4 Oct 1841; died 23 Mar 1924

American physicist and meteorologist, the first to propose the use of a ring pendulum for measuring absolute gravity. From 1889 to 1894 he served both as Director of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and also Superintendent of the U.S. Standard Weights and Measures where he oversaw the shift in the fundamental standards of the U.S. from the English yard and pound to the International Meter and Kilogram. Mendenhall devised a quarter second's pendulum for gravity measurements and instituted improvements in the measurement of base lines with wire tapes, in the construction of instruments for precise leveling and in the methods used in triangulation and gravity work, and developed a comprehensive plan for the study of terrestrial magnetism.

Max Planck

Died 4 Oct 1947 (born 23 Apr 1858)

Max (Karl Ernst Ludwig) Planck was a German theoretical physicist. He studied at Munich and Berlin, where he studied under Helmholz, Clausius and Kirchoff and subsequently joined the faculty.he became professor of theoretical physics (1889-1926). His work on the law of thermodynamics and the distribution of radiation from a black body led him to abandon classical Newtonian principles and introduce the quantum theory (1900), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. This assumes that energy is not infinitely subdivisible, but ultimately exists as discrete amounts he called quanta (Latin, "how much"). Further, the energy carried by a quantum depends in direct proportion to the frequency of its source radiation.



In 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union, to the dismay of the United States, launched Sputnik, the first manmade satellite, into orbit around the earth. The craft circled the earth every 95 minutes at almost 20,000 miles per hour 500 miles above the Earth. The Sputnik (meaning "companion" or "fellow traveller") was launched from Kazakhstan. It stayed in orbit for about three months. Sputnik fell from the sky on 4 Jan 1958. The 184-lb satellite had transmitted a radio signal picked up around the world, and instrumentation for temperature measurement.

Invention of navigation by satellite

In 1957, two Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory scientists tracking Sputnik found they could determine its orbit by analyzing the Doppler shift of its radio signals during a single pass. They conjectured that if a satellite's position were known and predictable, then the Doppler shift of its signals could be used to locate a receiver on Earth - thus, one could navigate by satellite. A system called Transit, was developed and from 1964 assisted the security of U.S. nuclear deterrent submarines. From 1967, this evolved into a navigation system for all nations, a forerunner of the present Global Positioning System (GPS). Transit also made key contributions to space science and technology, geodesy and health.



October 5


Robert Hutchings Goddard

Born 5 Oct 1882; died 10 Aug 1945

American professor, physicist and inventor, "father of modern rocketry". From age 17 Goddard was interested in rockets (1899) and by 1908 he conducted static tests with small solid-fuel rockets. He developed mathematical theory of rocket propulsion (1912) and proved that rockets would functioned in a vacuum for space flight (1915). During WW I, Goddard developed rocket weapons. He wrote A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, in 1919. Over the following two decades he produced a number of large liquid-fuel rockets at his shop and rocket range at Roswell, N.M. During WW II he developed rocket-assisted takeoff of Navy carrier planes and variable-thrust liquid-fuel rocket motors. At the time of his death Goddard held 214 patents in rocketry.

Alfred M Tozzer

Died 5 Oct 1954 (born 4 Jul 1877)

Alfred M(arston) Tozzer was a U.S. anthropologist and archaeologist who was an authority on the culture and language of the Maya Indians of Mexico and Central America. He conducted his initial anthropological fieldwork in California and New Mexico among the Wintun and Navajo nations during his undergraduate summers in 1900 and 1901, focusing on linguistics. He led (1909-10) an expedition to Guatemala, finding ruins at Holmul. His most important works on the Maya include Maya Grammar (1921) and Chichen Itza and its Center of Sacrifice (1957), a major synthesis of American prehistory. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard, where he taught for over 40 years (1905-47).


Rocket sled speed record

In 1982, an unmanned rocket sled reached a record 9,851 kph or 6,121 mph (Mach 8) over the 9.5 mile-long rail track at White Sands Missile Test Base, New Mexico.

First female US transcontinental pilot

In 1930, Laura Ingalls (1901-1967) was the first woman to make a transcontinental airplane flight departed from Roosevelt Field, New York. She flew her D.H. Gipsy Moth bi-plane to Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, Cal., making nine stops and arriving four days later. She logged 30 hrs 27 mins of flying time. On 18 Oct 1930 she made the return flight in the shorter time of 25 hrs 35 mins. Earlier in 1930, she established the Women's Loop record over Lambert-St. Louis Field on 4 May with 344 loops which she bettered 26 May at Muskogee, Okla. by making 980 consecutive continuous loops in 3:40. By 13 Aug, she had also established the world barrel-roll record for men and women of 714 rolls over Lambert-St. Louis Field.



October 6


Ernest Walton

Born 6 Oct 1903; died 25 Jun 1995

Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton was an Irish physicist, who 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, known as the Cockcroft-Walton generator. The accelerator was built in a disused room in the Cavendish Laboratory, and supplied with several hundred kilovolts from a voltage multiplier circuit designed and built by Cockroft and Walton. On 14 Apr 1932 Walton turned the proton beam on to a lithium target. Despite all the odds against them, they succeeded in being the first to split the atom, and Walton was the first to see the reaction taking place. They identified the disintegration products as alpha particles (helium nuclei).

Otto Meyerhof

Died 6 Oct 1951 (born 12 Apr 1884)

Otto Fritz Meyerhof was a German biochemist and corecipient, with Archibald V. Hill, of the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for research on the chemical reactions of metabolism in muscle. In 1940 he emigrated to America. Meyerhof demonstrated that the production of lactic acid in muscle tissue, formed as a result of glycogen breakdown, was effected without the consumption of oxygen (i.e., anaerobically). The lactic acid was reconverted to glycogen through oxidation by molecular oxygen, during muscle rest. This line of research was continued by Gustav Embden and Carl and Gerty Cori who worked out in greater detail the steps by which glycogen is converted to lactic acid - the Embden-Meyerhof pathway.



In 1997, American biology professor Stanley B. Prusiner won the Nobel Prize for medicine for discovering "prions," described as "an entirely new genre of disease-causing agents."

Radio patent

In 1914, a U.S. patent was issued to Edwin H. Armstrong for a "Wireless Receiving System" which described his famous regenerative, or feed-back, circuit (No. 1,113,149). This invention started Armstrong's career of innovation. He went on to become a pioneer in FM radio broadasting.



October 7


Sir Harold W. Kroto

Born 7 Oct 1939

English chemist who, with Richard E. Smalley and Robert F. Curl, Jr., was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their joint discovery of the carbon compounds called fullerenes. These new forms of the element carbon contain 60 or more atoms arranged in closed shells. The number of carbon atoms in the shell can vary, and for this reason numerous new carbon structures have become known. Formerly, six crystalline forms of the element carbon were known, namely two kinds of graphite, two kinds of diamond, chaoit (1968) and carbon(VI) (1972). Fullerenes are formed when vaporised carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas. The carbon clusters can then be analysed with mass spectrometry.

Emil Kraepelin

Died 7 Oct 1926 (born 15 Feb 1856)

German psychiatrist, one of the most influential of his time, who developed a classification system for mental illness that influenced subsequent classifications. Kraepelin made distinctions between schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis that remain valid today. Kraepelin employed Wundt's experimental techniques to study the effects of drugs, alcohol, and fatigue on psychological functioning and in 1881 published a study of the influence of infectious diseases on the onset of mental illness. In his first classification of disorders (1883) Kraepelin divided mental illnesses into exogenous disorders (treatable, caused by external conditions) and endogenous disorders (untreatable, from biological causes such as organic brain damage or hereditary factors).


Moon's dark side

In 1959, the dark far side of the Moon was photographed for the first time and pictures relayed back to Earth by Russia's Luna 3 spacecraft. After passing the moon, the Luna 3 looked back from a distance of 63,500 km to take 29 photos of the sunlit far side of the moon. The photos, taken over a period of 40 mins. were developed onboard and radioed back to earth on 18 Oct 1959. They covered 70% of the far side. The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized. Despite the poor quality, they provided the first view ever of this part of the moon. (The far side of the moon cannot be viewed from earth because the moon rotates and revolves in such a way that the same part always faces Earth.)

Infrared photographs

In 1931, the first U.S.short-exposure infrared photograph taken of a large group of people in apparently total darkness was taken in Rochester, NY at the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories. They were in a room that was flooded with invisible infrared light (waves 700 to 900 nanometers long, beyond the red end of the visible spectrum). A group of 50 people visiting the laboratory was photographed on a new photographic emulsion sensitive to infrared. Since then, scientists have made use of infrared photography in medical applications and aerial photography. Since plant chlorophyll reflects infrared rays more intensely than other green materials, infrared photos yield a precise indication of where vegetation is present on the ground.



October 8


Robert Rowe Gilruth

Born 8 Oct 1913; died 17 Aug 2000

American aerospace scientist, engineer, and a pioneer of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. He developed the X-1, first plane to break the sound barrier. Gilruth directed Project Mercury, the initial program for achieving manned space flight. Under his leadership, the first American astronaut orbited the Earth only a little over 3 years after NASA was created. In 1961, President Kennedy and the Congress committed the nation to a manned lunar landing within the decade. Gilruth was named the Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center and assigned the responsibility of designing and developing the spacecraft and associated equipment, planning and controlling missions, and training flight crews. He retired from NASA in 1973.

Christian Longomontanus

Died 8 Oct 1647 (born 4 Oct 1562)

Byname of Christian Severin, a Danish astronomer and astrologer who is best known for his association with, and published support for, Tycho Brahe. He became the first professor of astronomy at the University of Copenhagen, and in 1610 he received funds for instruments and he probably constructed a small observatory at his home. Longomontanus used Tycho's data to compile the Astronomia danica (1622), an exposition of the Tychonic system, which holds that the Sun revolves around the Earth and the other planets revolve around the Sun. He began the construction of the Copenhagen Observatory in 1632, but died before its completion.


Congreve rockets

In 1806, Congreve rockets were first used as destructive war implements at Boulogne, when they set the town on fire. Earlier in 1806, they been demonstrated in England in the presence of Mr. Pitt and several of the cabinet ministers. These carcase-rockets had been invented by Sir William Congreve about 1803. Improved rockets were made by Hales in 1846. Boxer's life-saving rope-carrying rockets, for communicating with stranded vessels were described in 1878.

Kepler's nova

In 1604, the supernova now called "Kepler's nova" was first sighted in the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. Johannes Kepler observed it from the time of its appearance as an apparently new star. It encouraged him to write The New Star in 1606.



October 9


Karl Schwarzschild

Born 9 Oct 1873; died 11 May 1916

German theoretical astrophysicist, born in Frankfurt, Germany, who made both practical and theoretical contributions to 20th-century astronomy. He developed the use of photography for measuring variable stars. He also investigated the geometrical aberrations of optical systems using ray optics by introducing a perturbation equation which he called the Seidel Eikonal. While on the Russian front during military service, he computed the first two exact solutions of the Einstein Field Equations of General Relativity, one in static isotropic empty space surrounding a massive body (such as a "black hole"), and one inside a spherically symmetric body of constant density - work which led directly to modern research on black holes.

Sir Henry Tizard

Died 9 Oct 1959 (born 23 Aug 1885)

English chemist, inventor and administrator. Around 1920, with David Pye, his work on aircraft fuels ultimately led to the octane rating system, which expresses the anti-knocking characteristics of the fuel. In the 1930-40's he advised the British government in the scientific aspects of air defence, particularly radar. He led a mission of leading British and Canadian scientists to the USA (29 Aug 1940) to brief official American representatives on devices under active development for war use and to enlist the support of American scientists. Thus began a close cooperation of Anglo-American scientists in such fields as aeronautics and rocketry. His influence probably made the difference between defeat or victory at the Battle of Britain in 1940.


Sakharov Nobel Prize

In 1975, Andrei Sakharov (21 May 1921 - 1989), often called father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, became the first Soviet citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as an outspoken dissident to the Soviet regime. In 1957 his concern with the radioactive hazards of nuclear testing inspired him to write a pioneering article on the effects of low-level radiation. This might be considered his first step towards dissent. The Nobel Committee citation called him "the conscience of mankind" saying he "has fought not only against the abuse of power and violations of human dignity in all its forms, but has in equal vigor fought for the ideal of a state founded on the principle of justice for all." The Soviet authorities denied him permission to go to Norway to receive his award.

First U.S. astronomy expedition

In 1780, the first U.S. astronomy expedition to record an eclipse of the sun left on this day from Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., for Penobscot Bay, led by Samuel Williams. A boat was supplied by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with four professors and six students. Although the country was at war with Britain, the British officer in charge of Penobscot Bay permitted the expedition to land and observe the eclipse of 27 Oct 1780. The eclipse began at 11:11 am and ended at 1:50 pm. They set up equipment to observe the predicted total eclipse of the sun. A solar eclipse occurred, but the expedition was shocked to find itself outside the path of totality. They saw a thin arc of the sun instead of its complete obscuration by the moon.



October 10


Lester Germer

Born 10 Oct 1896; died 1971

Lester (Halbert) Germer was an American physicist who, with his colleague Clinton Joseph Davisson, conducted an experiment (1927) that first demonstrated the wave properties of the electron. They showed that a beam of electrons scattered by a crystal produces a diffraction pattern characteristic of a wave. This experiment confirmed the hypothesis of Louis-Victor de Broglie, a founder of wave mechanics, that the electron should show the properties of an electromagnetic wave as well as a particle. He also studied thermionics, erosion of metals, and contact physics.

Sir Ferdinand von Mueller

Died 10 Oct 1896 (born 30 Jun 1825)

German-born Australian botanist and explorer. He migrated to Australia in 1848 for health reasons, and there became the country's greatest 19th-century scientist. Mueller gained an international reputation as a great botanical collector and writer. His contributions covered a wide field of sciences such as geography, pharmacy, horticulture, agriculture, forestry, paleontology, and zoology. His activity as a botanist is shown by hundreds of Australian plant names which are followed by 'F. Muell'. From 1853, he held the post as the first Government Botanist of Victoria until his death, 43 years later. He travelled widely throughout the colonies on botanical exploration, including as naturalist to the Gregory expedition to northern Australia (1855-57).



In 1986, a tiny asteroid, Asteroid 3753, was found orbitting the Earth - a body in addition to the Moon - by J. D. Waldron at Siding Spring Observatory. It was called Cruithne, (pronounced "Croo-een-ya") after Celtic tribes who came to Britain between about 880 and 500 BC. It is pulled alternately by the Sun and Earth. When viewed from the Earth, its 770-year orbit appears to be horseshoe shaped, but this is an effect of viewing an orbit from a rotating planet. It actually passes closer to the Earth than the Moon. At its closest approach it only gets to within about 15 million km (9 million miles) of our planet. Its diameter ranges between 2.9 - 6.4 km diameter wide. Cruithne will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.

Radio telescope

In 1980, the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope network in N.M. was dedicated. Conceived in the 60's and built in the 70's the VLA is versatile and sensitive, with angular resolution comparable to that of the best ground-based optical telescopes. The VLA is an "aperture synthesis" interferometric instrument, designed to gain the resolving power of a very large antenna by utilizing a number of smaller antennas. Information from all of its antennas is combined mathematically to produce resolving power equal to that of a single antenna as much as 36 km in diameter. The VLA is arranged in a "Y" pattern, with nine antennas on each of the three arms. Each of the 27 antennae is a fully-steerable 82-ft diam. parabolic dish, weighing approx. 230 tons.



October 11


Lewis Fry Richardson

Born 11 Oct 1881; died 30 Sept 1953

British physicist and psychologist who first applied mathematics in weather prediction. In his life, he held various posts: at the National Physical Laboratory, the Meteorological Office, and several university posts in physics or technology. Also, he was a chemist with National Peat Industries and in charge of the physical and chemical laboratory of the Sunbeam Lamp Co. Richardson applied the mathematical method of finite differences to predicting the weather (1922). 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.

James Prescott Joule

Died 11 Oct 1889 (born 24 Dec 1818)

English physicist, inventor, Joule's Law; who established that the various forms of energy - mechanical, electrical, and heat - are basically the same and can be changed, one into another. Thus he formed the basis of the law of conservation of energy, the first law of thermodynamics. Died at Sale, Cheshire.


Magellan ends mission

In 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. Launched 4 May 1989 in the cargo bay with the STS-30 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission, Magellan arrived at its planned polar orbit around Venus on 10 Aug 1990. As it circled once every 3-hr 15-min, the planet rotated slowly beneath it, and Magellan had collected radar images of the surface in strips about 17-28 km (10-17 mi) wide and radioed back the information on the large shield volcanoes, vast lava plains and sparse craters.

Jodrell Bank

In 1957, the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, the world's largest radio telescope, designed by Sir Bernard Lovell, 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 distatant stars. The radiation received from meteors, the moon, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way offers new information daily about the origins of life on this planet and the possibilities of life on other worlds. The building of the telescope was fraught with mishaps and frustrations-financial, political, and otherwise; yet, through his perseverance, Sir Bernard Lovell made its creation a reality.



October 12


Elmer Sperry

Born 12 Oct 1860; died 16 Jun 1930

American electrical engineer and inventor of the gyrocompass. In the 1890's he made useful inventions in electric mining machinery, and patent electric brake and control system for street- or tramcars. In 1908, he patented the active gyrostabilizer which acted to stop a ship's roll as soon as it started. He patented the first gyrocompass designed expressly for the marine environment in 1910. This "spinning wheel" gyro was a significant improvement over the traditional magnetic compass of the day and changed the course of naval history. The first Sperry gyrocompass was tested at-sea aboard the USS Delaware in 1911 and established Sperry as a world leader in the manufacture of military gyrocompasses for the next 80 years.

Robert Stephenson

Died 12 Oct 1869 (born 16 Oct 1803)

Outstanding English Victorian civil engineer, (son of George Stephenson) and builder of many long-span railroad bridges, most notably the tubular Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait, North Wales. After serving as as a mine supervisor in Colombia (1824-7) he managed Robert Stephenson and Company, manufacturers of locomotives, which was founded in 1823 by his father. Their first engine, the Lancashire Witch (1828) had inclined cylinders that were connected directly to crank pins on the wheels and was a direct predecessor to the famous Rocket (1829) which began the century of the steam locomotive. He built the world's first intercity passenger railway operated solely by steam locomotives (1830) between Liverpool and Manchester.


Voskhod 1

In 1964, Voskhod 1 was launched by the USSR, with Col. Vladimir Komarov as pilot. It was the world's first multi-manned spacecraft, and the first to carry a scientist (Konstantin Feoktistov) and a physician (Boris Yegorov) into space. In the rush to launch before the US Gemini flights, the crew were left at risk with no spacesuits, ejection seats, or escape tower. The mission returned television pictures of the crew from space, and it had a significant worldwide impact. The Gemini flights had been upstaged by the success, and the effect in the US was to heat up the "space race." The crew returned to land after 16 orbits of the earth, 1 day and 17 min after they had left, using retro rockets just prior to impact in order to cushion the parachute landing.

Iron lung

In 1928, the Iron Lung was used by its first patient, a young girl at the Children's Hospital in Boston. It was an artificial respirator that enabled her to breathe despite being paralyzed by polio. This negative pressure ventilator, invented by a young Harvard doctor, Philip Drinker, was the first widely used device of its kind. From the neck down, the patient's body lay in a sealed galvanized iron box. The 3 x 7 ft, 700-lb apparatus was powered by two household vacuum cleaners. As air was pumped out of the metal box, the patient's lungs drew in air, which was expelled as the air pump cycle next increased pressure, in a cycle to mimic a normal breathing rate.

(ED: a few errors in the above. [I once worked for Philip Drinker, Jr.] Philip Drinker, Sr. was an Industrial Hygienist and Mechanical Engineer, not an MD. The original Iron Lung is on display at the Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston)



October 13


Peter Barlow

Born 13 Oct 1776; died 1 Mar 1862

English mathematician and engineer who invented two varieties of achromatic (non-colour-distorting) telescope lenses. In 1819, Barlow began work on the problem of deviation in ship compasses caused by the presence of iron in the hull. For his method of correcting the deviation by juxtaposing the compass with a suitably shaped piece of iron, he was awarded the Copley Medal. In 1822, he built a device which is to be considered one of the first models of an electric motor supplied by continuous current. He also worked on the design of bridges, in particular working (1819-26) with Thomas Telford on the design of the bridge over the Menai Strait, the first major modern suspension bridge. Barlow was active during the period of railway building in Britain.

Bertram N. Brockhouse

Died 13 Oct 2003 (born 15 Jul 1918)

Canadian physicist who developed neutron diffraction techniques used for studying the structure and properties of matter for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1994 (with American physicist Clifford G. Shull). By devising instrumentation to measure the energy of neutrons scattered from a solid material, Brockhouse provided insight to its atomic structure. It made possible advances in semiconductor technology. His Triple-Axis Neutron Spectrometer is now widely used not only to investigate atomic structures, but also virus and DNA molecules.


Fermi Accelerator

In 1985, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, the first observation was made of proton-antiproton collisions by the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) with 1.6 TeV center-of-mass energy. In all, 23 of collisions were detected in Oct 1985. The Tevatron, four miles in circumference (originally named the Energy Doubler), is the world's highest-energy particle accelerator. Its low-temperature cooling system was the largest ever built when it was placed in operation in 1983. Its 1,000 superconducting magnets are cooled by liquid helium to -268 deg C (-450 deg F). Fermilab (originally named the National Accelerator Laboratory) was commissioned by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, in a bill signed by President Johnson on 21 Nov 1967.

Greenwich prime meridian

In 1884, Greenwich was adopted as the universal meridian. At the behest of the U.S. President, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, DC, for the International Meridian Conference. At the Conference several important principles were established: a single world meridian passing through the principal Transit Instrument at the Observatory at Greenwich; that all longitude would be calculated both east and west from this meridian up to 180°; a universal day; and studies of the decimal system to the division of time and space. Resolution 2, fixing the Meridian at Greenwich was passed 22-1 (San Domingo voted against, France & Brazil abstained). Greenwich lies on the River Thames, a few miles from central London.



October 14


W. Edwards Deming

Born 14 Oct 1900; died 20 Dec 1993

W(illiam) Edwards Deming was an American statistician, the father of "Total Quality Management." After WW II, he contributed to Japan's economic recovery by recommending statistical methods of quality control in industrial production. His method embraced carefully tallying product defects, examining their causes, correcting the problems, and then tracking the results of these changes on subsequent product quality. In his career before the war, he had developed statistical sampling techniques that were first used in the 1940 U.S. census. From the 1980's in the U.S. Deming taught quality control through the statistical control of manufacturing processes for companies such as Ford, Xerox, and GM.

Sir Martin Ryle

Died 14 Oct 1984 (born 27 Sep 1918)

British radio astronomer who developed revolutionary radio telescope systems and used them for accurate location of weak radio sources. With improved equipment, he observed the most distant known galaxies of the universe. Ryle and Antony Hewish shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974, the first Nobel prize in the field of astronomy. Ryle helped develop radar for British defense during WW II. Afterward, he was a leader in the development of radio astronomy. Using 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’s catalogues of radio sources led to the discovery of numerous radio galaxies and quasars. He was Astronomer Royal 1972 to 1982.


Outer-space telecast

In 1968, the first outer-space live telecast was beamed from Apollo VII in orbit. Captain Walter Schirra, Jr., Major Donn Eisele and Major Walt Cunningham showed views of the satellite and views through the windows. The primary objectives for the Apollo VII engineering test flight, were simple: "Demonstrate Command/Service Module (CSM) and crew performance; demonstrate crew/space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a manned CSM mission; demonstrate CSM rendezvous capability." The Apollo VII was launched 11 Oct 1968. For nearly 11 days, the Command Module was run through numerous tests. and was recovered after a 260-hour flight and 163 orbits.

First supersonic flight

In 1947, Chuck Yeager, a WW II fighter pilot, became the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, breaking through the sound barrier in a rocket powered Bell XS-1 airplane over Murac Dry Lake, California. The four rocket motors of this tiny needle-nosed research craft could gulp an entire supply of fuel in 2-1/2 minutes. To save fuel, the Bell XS-1 was carried aloft by a B-29 then released, and Yeager fired its rockets. At 37,000 feet the X-1 flew nicely, but began to buffet as it approached the sound barrier. When an airplane travels at the speed of sound the air particles ahead are compressed into an invisible "wall of thick air." Others flying with less powerful engines could not push through this wall, with hazardous and deadly results. Yeager succeeded.



October 15


Asaph Hall

Born 15 Oct 1829; died 22 Nov 1907

American astronomer, discovered and named the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, and calculated their orbits. Born in Goshen, Conn. and apprenticed as a carpenter at age 16, he had a passion for geometry and algebra. Hall obtained a position at the Harvard Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. in 1857 and became an expert computer of orbits. In August 1862, he joined the staff of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. where he made his discoveries, in mid- Aug 1877, using the Observatory's 26-inch "Great Equatorial" refracting telescope, then the largest of its kind in the world. He worked there for 30 years until 1891.He was followed by his son, Asaph Hall, Jr., who worked at the Observatory at various times between 1882 - 1929.

Sir Daniel Gooch

Died 15 Oct 1889 (born 24 Aug 1816)

English, laid the first successful transatlantic cables. Sir Daniel Gooch was an English railway pioneer and inventor who was trained in George Stephenson & Edward Pease's works at Newcastle upon Tyne. He was locomotive superintendent of Great Western Railway for 27 years, where as Brunel's right-hand man, he designed the best broad-gauge engines and invented "the suspended link motion with the shifting radius link" in 1843. Gooch also experimented with a dynamometer carriage. In 1864 he resigned to concentrate on developing telegraphic communication. Sir Daniel Gooch and his son Charles, were the engineers who laid the first Atlantic Cable from the steamship The Great Eastern. Daniel became member of Parliment.


First Chinese astronaut

In 2003, China became the third nation to send a man into space. Lieutenant Colonel Yang Liwei, 38, was launched on a Long March CZ-2F rocket in the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft at 9 am local time (1 am GMT). He completed 14 Earth orbits during a 21-hour flight which ended with a parachute-assisted landing in the on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia in northern China. The Shenzhou spacecraft was based on the three-seat Russian Soyuz capsule, but with extensive modifications. The country began planning manned spaceflight in 1992. Russia began providing advice on technology and astronaut training in 1995. The first of four unmanned test flights of a Shenzhou craft (took place in Nov 1999. The name Shenzhou translates as "divine vessel."


In 1928, the airship LZ127 Graf Zeppelin, christened on the 8th July 1928, landed in New Jersey after its first transatlantic crossing from Germany. It was 775 feet long and 100 feet high and had a crusing speed of 73 mph. The Naval Air Station Lakehurst, located in Lakehurst, New Jersey, was the western terminus for the commercial transatlantic flights of the German dirigibles Graf Zeppelin and also the Hindenburg. The Graf Zeppelin was a very successful airship whose success was eclipsed by the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.



October 16


Giovanni Arduino

Born 16 Oct 1714; died 21 Mar 1795

Italian geologist, known as the father of Italian geology, who introduced the terms Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary in 1760 to classify four broad divisions of the Earth's rock surface, each earlier in deposition. Within each he recognized numerous minor strata, and had a clear paleontological interpretation of the age sequence of the fossil record. The Primary order contained Paleozoic formations from the oldest, lowest basaltic rock from ancient volcanoes overlaid with metamorphic and sedimentary rocks which he saw in the Atesine Alps. He classified Mesozoic prealpine foothills as of the Secondary order, Tertiary in the subalpine hills and the Quaternary alluvial deposits in the plains.

Jon Postel

Died 16 Oct 1998 (born 6 Aug 1943)

Jonathan Bruce Postel was an American computer scientist who played a pivotal role in creating and administering the Internet. In the late 1960s, Postel was a graduate student developing the ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet for use by the U.S. Dept. of Defense. As director of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which he formed, Postel was a creator of the Internet's address system. The Internet grew rapidly in the 1990s, and there was concern about its lack of regulation. Shortly before his death, Postel submitted a proposal to the U.S. government for an international nonprofit organization that would oversee the Internet and its assigned names and numbers. He died at age 55, from complications after heart surgery.


Element 118

In 2006, the creation of the heaviest man-made element was announced by researchers from Russia's Joint Institute of Nuclear Research and the U.S. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The results were published in the journal Physics Review C. The element, if confirmed, is the first man-made noble gas, below radon on the periodic table. The new element resulted from the collision of accelerated calcium ions with atoms of the man-made heavy element californium, and existed barely a millisecond before decaying into element 114, then element 112 and then split in half. A claim in 1999 for element 118 from kryton and lead was retracted in 2001 after independent confirmation failed. The new work was closely scrutinized.

Halley's Comet

In 1982, Halley's Comet was observed on its 30th recorded visit to Earth, first detected using the 5-m (200-in) Hale Telescope at the Mount Palomar Observatory by a team of astronomers led by David Jewett and G. Edward Danielson. They found the comet, beyond the orbit of Saturn, about 11 AU (1.6 billion km) from the Sun. While 50 million times fainter than the faintest objects our eyes can see, they needed to use not only the largest American telescope but also special electronic equipment developed for the Space Telescope. In 1705, Halley used Newton's theories to compute the orbit and correctly predicted the return of this comet about every 76 years. After his death, for correctly predicting its reappearance, it was named after Halley.



October 17


Mae C. Jemison

Born 17 Oct 1956

American physician and the first African-American woman in space. Jemison holds degree in chemical engineering (1977) and a Doctor of Medicine degree (1981). Before she became an astronaut, Jemison worked as a doctor in West Africa. NASA selected Jemison for astronaut training in 1987. She was as a Science Mission Specialist aboard the Shuttle Endeavour on 12 Sep 1992. During the eight-day mission, she conducted space-sickness experiments and conducted research on bone loss in zero gravity. Jemison left NASA in 1993 and became the director of The Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries, an organization that researches, designs, implements and evaluates cutting-edge technology in a real-life context.

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff

Died 17 Oct 1887 (born 12 Mar 1824)

German physicist who, with Robert Bunsen, established the theory of spectrum analysis (a technique for chemical analysis by analyzing the light emitted by a heated material), which Kirchhoff applied to determine the composition of the Sun. He found that when light passes through a gas, the gas absorbs those wavelengths that it would emit if heated, which explained the numerous dark lines (Fraunhofer lines) in the Sun's spectrum. In his Kirchhoff's laws (1845) he generalized the equations describing current flow to the case of electrical conductors in three dimensions, extending Ohm's law to calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks. He demonstrated that current flows in a zero-resistance conductor at the speed of light.


First UK nuclear power

In 1956, the Queen opened Calder Hall, the first gas-cooled and Britain's first nuclear power station in the shadow of the massive chimneys of the Windscale plant, where explosives were made for Britain's first atomic bomb. "This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction," she said, "is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community." At 12:16 GMT, she pulled the lever which directed electricity from the power station into the National Grid for the first time. A crowd of several thousand people gathered to watch the opening ceremony, which was also attended by scientists and statesmen from almost 40 different countries. The plant closed on 31 Mar 2003.

Steel patent

In 1885, a steel-making process was patented by Sir Henry Bessemer, a British inventor and metallurgist. His patent was for a method of making steel by blasting compressed air through molten iron to remove impurities and excess carbon. The "Bessemer Process," made it possible to mass-produce steel inexpensively. In the course of his life, Bessemer earned more than 100 patents, knighthood, and great wealth.



October 18


Pascual Jordan

Born 18 Oct 1902; died 1980

(Ernst) Pascual Jordan was a German physicist who in the late 1920s founded (with Max Born and later Werner Heisenberg) quantum mechanics using matrix methods, showing how light could be interpreted as composed of discrete quanta of energy. Later, (with Wolfgang Pauli and Eugene Wigner), while it was still in its early stages of development, he contributed to the quantum mechancs of electron-photon interactions, now called quantum electrodynamics. He also originated (concurrently with Robert Dicke) a theory of cosmology that proposed to make the universal constants of nature, (such as the universal gravitational constant G), variable over time.

Thomas Alva Edison

Died 18 Oct 1931 (born 11 Feb 1847)

Inventor, died in West Orange, NJ. He invented the first phonograph (1877) and the prototype of the practical incandescent electric light bulb (1879). His many inventions led to his being internationally known as "the wizard of Menlo Park", from the name of his first laboratory. By the late 1880s he was contributing to the development of motion pictures. By 1912 he was experimenting with talking pictures. His many inventions include a storage battery, a dictaphone, and a mimeograph. Meanwhile, he had become interested in the development of a system for widespread distribution of electric power from central generating stations. He held over 1,000 patents.In 1962 his second laboratory and home in West Orange, NJ, would be designated a National Historic Site.


Jupiter orbiter Galileo launched

In 1989, the Galileo space orbiter was released from the STS 34 flight of the Atlantis orbiter. Then the orbiter's inertial upper stage rocket pushed it into a course through the inner solar system. The craft gained speed from gravity assists in encounters with Venus and Earth before heading outward to Jupiter. During its six year journey to Jupiter, Galileo's instruments made interplanetary studies, using its dust detector, magnetometer, and various plasma and particles detectors. It also made close-up studies of two asteroids, Gaspra and Ida in the asteroid belt. The Galileo orbiter's primary mission was to study Jupiter, its satellites, and its magnetosphere for two years. It released an atmospheric probe into Jupiter's atmosphere on 7 Dec 1995.


In 1955, a new atomic subparticle called a negative proton (antiproton) was discovered at U.C. Berkeley. The hunt for antimatter began in earnest in 1932, with the discovery of the positron, a particle with the mass of an electron and a positive charge. However, creating an antiproton would be far more difficult since it needs nearly 2,000 times the energy. In 1955, the most powerful "atom smasher" in the world, the Bevatron built at Berkeley could provide the required energy. Detection was accomplished with a maze of magnets and electronic counters through which only antiprotons could pass. After several hours of bombarding copper with protons accelerated to 6.2 billion electron volts of energy, the scientists counted a total of 60 antiprotons.



October 19


Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Born 19 Oct 1910; died 21 Aug 1995

Indian-born American astrophysicist who (with William A.Fowler) won the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics for formulating the currently accepted theory on the later evolutionary stages of massive stars. He was one of the first scientists to combine the disciplines of physics and astronomy. Early in his career he demonstrated that there is an upper limit, now called the Chandrasekhar limit, to the mass of a white dwarf star. A white dwarf is the last stage in the evolution of a star such as the Sun. When the nuclear energy source in the center of a star such as the Sun is exhausted, it collapses to form a white dwarf. Further, it shows that stars much more massive than the Sun must either explode or form black holes.

Sir Ernest Rutherford

Died 19 Oct 1937 (born 30 Aug 1871)

(baron) New Zealand-born British physicist who laid the groundwork for the development of nuclear physics. He worked under Sir J. J. Thomson at Cambridge University (1895-98). Then he collaborated with Frederick Soddy in studying radioactivity. In 1899 he discovered alpha particles and beta particles, followed by the discovery of gamma radiation the following year. In 1905, with Soddy, he announced that radioactive decay involves a series of transformations. In 1907, with Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, he devised the alpha-particle scattering experiment that led in 1911 to the discovery of the atomic nucleus. In 1919 he achieved the artificial splitting of light atoms. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.


First electronic digital computer

In 1973, a US Federal Judge signed his decision following a lengthy court trial which declared the ENIAC patent invalid and belatedly credited physicist John Atanasoff with developing the first electronic digital computer, the Atanasoff- Berry Computer or the ABC. Built in 1937-42 at Iowa State University by Atanadoff and a graduate student, Clifford Berry, it introduced the ideas of binary arithmetic, regenerative memory, and logic circuits. These ideas were communicated from Atanasoff to John Mauchly, who used them in the design of the better-known ENIAC built and patented several years later.

Atlantic solo boat crossing

In 1952, 27-yr-old Frenchman Alain Bombard left the Canary Islands, beginning a single-handed sea voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to test his theory that a shipwrecked person could survive without provisions. He speared fish with a home-made harpoon and netted surface plankton.. He drank seawater, limited to occasional sips. His Zodiac inflatable boat, l'Hérétique, was just 4.5 m (15-ft) long and fitted with a sail. Bombard, a biologist and physician (27 Oct 1924 - 19 Jul 2005), began with almost no provisions and his only navigation instrument was a sextant. He reached Barbados 65 days later on 23 Dec 1952, having lost about 25-kg (55-lb) in weight.



October 20


Sir James Chadwick

Born 20 Oct 1891; died 24 Jul 1974

English physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Physics (1935) for his discovery of the neutron. He studied at Cambridge, and in Berlin under Geiger, then worked at the Cavendish Laboratory with Rutherford, where he investigated the structure of the atom. He worked on the scattering of alpha particles and on nuclear disintegration. By bombarding beryllium with alpha particles, Chadwick discovered the neutron - a neutral particle in the atom's nucleus - for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935. In 1932, Chadwick coined the name "neutron," which he described in an article in the journal Nature. He led the UK's work on the atomic bomb in WW II, and was knighted in 1945. [/i]

Harlow Shapley

Died 20 Oct 1972 (born 2 Nov 1885)

Astronomer, known as "The Modern Copernicus," who discovered the Sun's position in the galaxy. From 1914 to 1921 he was at Mt. Wilson Observatory, where he calibrated Henrietta S. Leavitt's period vs. luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars and used it to determine the distances of globular clusters. He boldly and correctly proclaimed that the globulars outline the Galaxy, and that the Galaxy is far larger than was generally believed and centered thousands of light years away in the direction of Sagittarius. In the early 1920's, Shapley entered a "Great Debate" with Heber D. Curtis. They truly argued over the "Scale of the Universe."


The meter

In 1983, the length of the meter was redefined by the international body Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (GCPM) by a method to give greater accuracy. Originally based on one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, the meter was re-established as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.

Vacuum tube

In 1906, Dr. Lee DeForest (26 Aug 1873 - 30 Jun 1961), one of the "fathers of radio," announced his three-element electrical vacuum tube (now known as a triode) to a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers He had discovered that when a mesh, or grid, of wire was placed between the filament and collector "plate" in a diode tube (first made by J. Ambrose Fleming, 1904), a large voltage-amplifying effect could be produced. DeForest patented this vacuum tube on 15 Jan 1907. The ability of this tube to amplifiy weak signals was an invention as great as radio itself, because it made long-distance communication possible.



October 21


Georg Ernst Stahl

Born 21 Oct 1660; died 14 May 1734

German physician and chemist, born in Ansbach, Germany, who developed the phlogiston theory of combustion and of such related biological processes as respiration, fermentation, and decay. Combustible objects, he said, were rich in phlogiston, and during combustion is lost. The remaining ash, now having no phlogiston, could no longer burn.The theory dominated chemical thought for almost a century. He extended the idea to the rusting of metals: metal had phlogiston, rust did not. Air was only indirectly involved in his idea of combustion. It was a carrier of phlogiston, as when charcoal burns phlogiston could be transferred to a metal ore which then converts to metal. At times, Stahl believed in alchemy and animism, though he had rational views on mental disease.

Ejnar Hertzsprung

Died 21 Oct 1967 (born 8 Oct 1873)

Danish astronomer who classified types of stars by relating their surface temperature (or colour) to their absolute brightness. A few years later Russell illustrated this relationship graphically in what is now known as the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which has become fundamental to the study of stellar evolution. In 1913 he established the luminosity scale of Cepheid variable stars.


Nobel Prizes

In 1976, the United States made a clean sweep of the Nobel Prizes, winning or sharing awards in chemistry, physics, medicine, economics, and literature. (No peace prize was awarded.)

USS Constitution launched

In 1797, the USS Constiution - nicknamed "Old Ironsides" - was launched in Boston, Mass. The oak-wood hulled, three-masted frigate was one of several 44-gun frigates authorized by Congress in 1794 to protect commerce at sea. The vessel was designed by for the U.S. Navy by Joshua Humphreys and built by George Claghorn. Its copper sheathing protecting the hull was manufactured by Paul Revere, along with the copper spikes and bolts securing the planks. In the over 200 years since it was built the USS Constiution has been refitted and restored, and it remains active in the U.S. Navy as a "ship of state." With its crew of 55 modern-day sailors, it remains the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.



October 22


Karl Jansky

Born 22 Oct 1905; died 14 Feb 1950

Karl Guthe Jansky was an American electrical engineer who discovered cosmic radio emissions in 1932. At Bell Laboratories in NJ, Jansky was tracking down the crackling static noises that plagued overseas telephone reception. He found certain radio waves came from a specific region on the sky every 23 hours and 56 minutes, from the direction of Sagittarius toward the center of the Milky Way. In the publication of his results, he suggested that the radio emission was somehow connected to the Milky Way and that it originated not from stars but from ionized interstellar gas. At the age of 26, Jansky had made a historic discovery - that celestial bodies could emit radio waves as well as light waves.

Elvin Morton Jellinek

Died 22 Oct 1963 (born 15 Aug 1890)

Elvin Morton Jellinek was an American physiologist who was a pioneer in the scientific study of the nature and causes of alcoholism and in descriptions of its symptomatology. He was an early proponent of the disease theory of alcoholism, arguing with great persuasiveness that alcoholics should be treated as sick people. Jellinek gathered and summarized his own research and that of others in the important and authoritative works Alcohol Explored (1942) and The Disease Concept of Alcoholism (1960). In the latter book, Jellinek also recognized that some features of the disease (e.g., inability to abstain and loss of control) were shaped by cultural factors.


Edison patent

In 1878, Thomas A. Edison was issued a patent for "Quadruplex-Telegraph Repeaters" (U.S. No. 209,241). This invention is an improved method for one quadruplex circuit to repeat into another quadruplex circuit. The patent describes the electromagnets, local circuits, switches and connections. The circuits work into and operate each other, so that the message are repeated automatically into one circuit by the receiving instrument of the other circuit, instead of the finger key being operated by hand.

First parachute jump

In 1797, the first parachute jump was made by André-Jacques Garnerin, released from a balloon 2,230-ft above the Parc Monceau, Paris. He rode in a gondola fixed to the lines of a 23-ft diameter parachute, which was supported by a wooden pole and had its 32 white canvas gores folded like a closed umbrella. Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations, and suffered the first case of airsickness. For his next jump, he added a hole in the top of the parachute. He made his fifth jump on 21 Sep 1802 over London, from a height of 3,000-ft. This was the first parachute descent made in England, and landed near St. Pancras Church. Having eliminated the centre vent for this jump, he again suffered a fit of vomitting.



October 23


Felix Bloch

Born 23 Oct 1905; died 10 Sep 1983

Swiss-born American physicist who shared (with independent discoverer, E.M. Purcell) the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1952 for developing the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method of measuring the magnetic field of atomic nuclei. He obtained his PhD under Werner Heisenberg in 1928, then taught briefly in Germany, but as a Jew, when Hitler came to power, he left Europe for the USA. Bloch's concept of magnetic neutron polarization (1934) enabled him, in conjunction with L. Alvarez, to measure the neutron's magnetic moment. During WW II he worked on the atomic bomb. Thereafter, Bloch and co-workers developed NMR, now widely used technique in chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine. In 1954 he became the first director of CERN.

Luther George Simjian

Died 23 Oct 1997 (born 28 Jan 1905)

Turkish-born American whose over 200 inventions included the TelePrompter, a self-posing portrait camera, automatic postage metering equipment, and an indoor golf practice range. In WW II, his Range Estimation Trainer provided a simulator for pilots to learn to identify aircraft types, their distance and speed. It used synchronized moving mirrors, controlled lighting and a miniature airplane to present various speeds, lighting, and angles. From 1939, he held 20 patents for an early form of an automated teller machine, and in 1960 his Bankograph (US patent No. 3,079,603) was given a trial by New York's First National City Bank (now CitiBank). It was able to take deposits, photograph the money and issue a receipt showing those images.


Married Nobel laureates

In 1947, the first American husband and wife team to win a Nobel Prize, Carl and Gerty Cori (née Radnitz) of Washington University Medical School, were awarded the Physiology or Medicine Prize for "the discovery on how glycogen is converted to glucose in the body, and for the effects of hypophysis hormones on sugar metabolism." The prize was shared with Bernardo Alberto Houssay who worked on another aspect of sugar metabolism. In 1903, the French couple Pierre and Marie Curie were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel." (Marie was born in Poland.).

Dalton's atomic weights

In 1803, John Dalton presented an essay on the absorption of gases by water, at the conclusion of which he gave a series of atomic weights for 21 simple and compound elements. He read his paper at a meeting of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.

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