Today in Lab History highlights famous inventors, companies and discoveries on representative days for their important contributions to the world of laboratory equipment.
May 20, 1851- Emil Berliner
Emil Berliner German-American inventor who made important contributions to telephone technology and developed the phonograph record disk, the microphone in 1877 and the gramophone in 1887. Whereas Thomas Edison invented cylindrical records, Berliner came up with the idea of using disks. He coined the word gramophone as is trademark. Later, he became a pioneer in helicopter design.
May 15, 1923- Listerine introduced
In 1923, Listerine was registered as a trademark. The modern Listerine is a mouthwash, but the original amber-colored product was a disinfectant for surgical procedures, dating back to its formulation in 1879 by Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Lambert. The name they chose incorporated the name of the English surgeon, Joseph Lister, famous for performing the first antiseptic surgical procedure on Aug 12, 1865 and pioneering wider use of antiseptics by surgeons.
Other than that, Lister had no relationship to the product, or to the company founded in 1884 by Jordan Wheat Lambert to market it. In a few years, its usefulness was discovered as an oral antiseptic, and in 1895, Lambert extended the sale of Listerine to dentists. By 1914, it became available as a non-prescription mouthwash.
May 13, 1875- Joseph Henry
Joseph Henry was one of the first great American scientists after Benjamin Franklin. Although Henry at an early age appeared to be headed for a career in the theater, a chance encounter with a book of lectures on scientific topics turned his interest to science. He aided Samuel Morse in the development of the telegraph and discovered several important principles of electricity, including self-induction, a phenomenon of primary importance in electronic circuitry. He was the first Secretary (director) of the Smithsonian Institution (1846-1878), where he established the foundation of a national weather service. For more than thirty years, Henry insisted that basic research was of fundamental importance.
May 8, 1961- Seawater conversion
In 1961, the first practical seawater conversion plant in the U.S. was opened in Freeport, Texas, by the Office of Saline Water, U.S. Dept of the Interior. The plant was designed to produce about a million gallons of water a day at a cost of about $1.25 per thousand gallons.
The plant was dedicated 21 Jun 1961 by President John Kennedy, who pressed a switch from his office in Washington, D.C. The large-scale evaporation method used then has now been replaced by reverse osmosis as scientific advances have produced special polymers suitable for use as filtering membranes.
May 7, 1992- Endeavour launched
In 1992, the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off on its maiden voyage. The Endeavour launch, as the two billion dollar replacement for the Challenger, was the 47th shuttle mission. While capturing and correcting the orbit of a satellite, the astronauts set new U.S. records for duration of spacewalk and the number of astronauts outside the craft.
May 3, 1844- Wilbur Atwater
Wilbur Atwater was an American agricultural chemist who developed agricultural chemistry. Atwater received his PhD from Yale in 1869 for studies on the chemical composition of corn. At Wesleyan College he studied the effects of fertilizers in farming and established the first agricultural experimental station in the U.S. at Wesleyan in 1875 (which in 1877 became part of the famous Sheffield Scientific School at Yale Univ.).
From 1879 to 1882 Atwater determined the chemical composition and nutritive values of fish and animal tissues. During his life, he completed more than 500 energy-balance experiments. They confirmed that the law of conservation of energy governed transformation of matter in both the human body and inanimate world.
May 1, 1909- Hydroelectricity
In 1909, the first of five generating units was started in the power plant at the Minidoka Dam on the Snake River in Idaho. This was the first hydroelectric power plant to be built by the U.S. government. The first unit could generate 1,400 kilowatts of electricity.
Minidoka Dam was originally designed and constructed without a powerplant and was completed in 1907. The powerplant and three pumping plants were added shortly afterwards. The original Minidoka Powerplant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
April 26, 1879- Sir Owen Richardson
Sir Owen Richardson was an English physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1928 for “his work on the thermionic phenomenon [electron emission by hot metals] and especially for the discovery of the law named after him.”
This effect is why a heated filament in a vacuum tube releases a current of electrons to travel an anode, which was essential for the development of such applications as radio amplifiers or a TV cathode ray tube. Richardson's law mathematically relates how the electron emission increases as the absolute temperature of the metal surface is raised.
He also conducted research on photoelectric effects, the gyromagnetic effect and the emission of electrons by chemical reactions, soft X-rays and the spectrum of hydrogen
April 25, 1990- Hubble Space Telescope deployed
In 1990, the $2.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope was deployed in space from the Space Shuttle Discovery into an orbit 381 miles above Earth.
It was the first major orbiting observatory, named in honor of American astronomer, Edwin Powell Hubble. It was seven years behind schedule and nearly $2 billion over budget. In orbit, the 94.5-in primary mirror was found to be flawed, giving blurred images and reduced ability to see distant stars.
However, correcting optics was successfully installed in 25 Dec 1993. The telescope 43-ft x 14-ft telescope now provides images with clarity otherwise impossible due to the effect of the earth's atmosphere. Instrument packages capture across the electromagnetic spectrum.
April 16, 1838- Ernest Solvay
Ernest Solvay was a Belgian industrial chemist who invented the Solvay Process in 1863, a commercially viable ammonia-soda process for producing soda ash (sodium carbonate), widely used in the manufacture of such products as glass and soap.
Although a half-century before, in 1811, A.J. Fresnel had shown that sodium bicarbonate could be precipitated from a salt solution containing ammonium bicarbonate, many engineering obstacles had to be overcome. Solvay's successful design used an 80 foot tall high-efficiency carbonating tower in which ammoniated brine trickled down from above and carbon dioxide rose from the bottom. Plates and bubble caps helped create a larger surface over which the two could react forming sodium bicarbonate.
April 15, 1923- Insulin becomes available
In 1923, insulin became generally available for diabetics' use. It was first discovered in 1922. Today, insulin, is used daily in the treatment of diabetes.
Insulin, a natural and vital hormone for carbohydrate metabolism in the body, is manufactured by the pancreas. An overabundance of insulin causes insulin shock and leads to a variety of symptoms, including coma. It is extracted from the pancreas of sheep, oxen and other means, including synthesis in the laboratory.
April 10, 1995- National DNA database
In 1995, the world's first national DNA database was launched in England and Wales. New legislation gave police the authority to retain DNA samples from those previously arrested. This enabled a revolutionary new tool to uniquely match suspects to crime scene evidence. Mouth swabs or hair samples being routinely collected were used for analysis.
By 2005, three million profiles were held in the database. New Zealand followed on August 12, 1996, and subsequently other countries established their own national DNA databases. The technique for identifying individuals was discovered in 1984 by Alec Jeffreys, based on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, and made practical when, in 1986, Kary Mullis created the Polymerase Chain Reaction to replicate DNA for analysis.
April 8, 1911- Melvin Calvin
Melvin Calvin was an American biochemist who elucidated the mechanism by which carbon dioxide is incorporated into green plants, for which he received the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In the Calvin Cycle, he described the “dark reactions” of photosynthesis occurring through the night turning carbon dioxide into sugar.
Using carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin and his team mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting with absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds. The Calvin group showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds, rather than on carbon dioxide as was previously believed.
April 4, 1887- William Rose
William Rose was an American biochemist who researched the role of amino acids in nutrition determining which were essential, and calculated the minimum daily requirement for each of them. Having found that the milk protein, casein, was essential in a healthy rat's diet, he discovered (1936) the threonine in the casein was an essential amino acid.
Over several years he manipulated the rodent diet and finally established the primary importance of nine more amino acids: lysine, tryptophan, histidine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, valine and arginine. In 1942, Rose began a ten-year research project on human diet. By persuading students to restrict their diet in various ways Rose eventually established that eight of the above are essential amino acids for adults.
April 3, 1973- First cell phone call
In 1973, the first portable phone call was placed by inventor Martin Cooper. The phone was 10 inches in height, three inches deep and an inch-and-a-half wide and weighed 30-oz. Since then, cell phones have shrunk to a mere palm-size weighing 4-oz, and are used by a billion people around the world.
Cooper's first "shoebox" phone replaced a car phone of the time that weighed more than 30 pounds and cost thousands of dollars. A car phone owner had to drill a hole in his car to install the antenna and most of the phone sat in the trunk. A control unit with a handset was placed inside the car.
March 27, 1933- Polyethylene discovered
In 1933, polyethylene was discovered by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett. It was one of the earliest plastics to come into common use.
It was discovered by accident while reacting ethylene and benzaldehyde at high pressure. The demands of war and the need for a better insulator for cables stimulated the development of polyethylene and it played a key role in the development of radar.
March 25, 1786- Giovanni Amici
Giovanni Amici was an Italian physicist, microscopist, astronomer and optical instrument designer who is best known for his invention of the achromatic lens. He also introduced the Amici-Bertrand lens, a lens for the inspection of an objective's rear focal plane. The lens system he designed for a new type of microscope in 1837 improved the magnification, capable of up to 6000 times.
In 1840, he also introduced an immersion system for microscopes; the lowermost lens was immersed in a drop of oil to reduce improve clarity. He improved the design of mirrors used in reflecting telescopes. As a biologist, he investigated the sexual function of flowers; in particular he clarified the mechanism of the pollination of orchids.
March 22, 1394- Ulugh Beg
Ulugh Beg was a Mongol astronomer and mathematician who, although the only important Mongol scientist, was the greatest astronomer of his time. Pursuing this interest he built an observatory (begun in 1428) at Samarkand. In his observations he discovered a number of errors in the computations of the 2nd-century Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy, whose figures were still being used.
His star map of 994 stars was the first new one since Hipparchus. After Beg was assassinated by his son, the observatory fell to ruins by 1500, rediscovered only in 1908. Written in Arabic, his work went unread by the world's next generation of astronomers. When his tables were translated into Latin in 1665, telescopic observations had surpassed them.
March 18, 1987- Superconductivity revealed
In 1987, the discovery of "high-temperature" superconductivity was announced to thousands of scientists at a packed meeting of the American Physical Society in New York City.
The phenomenon, discovered 1911, was at first known to occur at only 4 degrees above absolute zero, when all electrical resistance in a metal sample disappeared. In 1986, researchers discovered a ceramic material that was a superconductor at a temperature of more than 30 degrees above absolute zero.
When published in September of that year, that news stirred the wider scientific community into action. By the time of the APS meeting, further discoveries had been made. The scene of excitement at the meeting was dubbed the "Woodstock of Physics."
March 15, 1806- Chondrite meteor identified
In 1806, a 6-kg chondritemeteorite – carrying carbon-based, organic chemicals – was unequivocally identified for the first time. Its arrival on earth was noted at 5:30 pm, outside Alais, France. The organic chemicals it carried suggested the possibility of life on whatever body was the source, somewhere in the universe.
March 13, 1733- Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley was an English chemist, clergyman and political theorist who discovered the element oxygen. His early scientific interest was electricity, but he is remembered for his later work in chemistry, especially gases.
He investigated the "fixed air" (carbon dioxide) found in a layer above the liquid in beer brewery fermentation vats. Although known by different names at the time, he also discovered sulfur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and silicon fluoride.
Priestley is remembered for his invention of a way of making soda-water (1772), the pneumatic trough and recognizing that green plants in light released oxygen. His political opinions and support of the French Revolution were unpopular. After his home and laboratory were set afire (1791), he sailed for America, arriving at New York on 4 Jun 1794.
March 6, 1953- DNA structure
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick submitted to the journal Nature their first article on the structure of DNA. It was published in the 25 Apr 1953 issue.
Their article read, "We wish to put forward a radically different structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. This structure has two helical chains each coiled around the same axis... Both chains follow right-handed helices... The novel feature of the structure is the manner in which the two chains are held together by purine and pyrimidine bases... They are joined together in pairs, a single base from one chain being hydrogen-bonded to a single base from the other chain, so that the two lie side by side with identical z-co-ordinates. One of the pair must be a purine and the other a pyrimidine in order for bonding to occur."
March 5, 1893- Emmett Culligan
Emmett Culligan was the American founder of a water treatment company. In 1936, Emmett Culligan launched the Culligan Zeolite Company (Water Softening) in Northbrook, Illinois. During WW II, Culligan built a facility to manufacture silica gel, a dehydrating material that protected metals from atmospheric corrosion that was greatly in demand during the war, and Culligan soon became one of the largest suppliers. He developed a novel process for manufacturing zeolite, the man-made mineral used in water softeners, and built a nationwide service industry in water conditioning and filtering, which then expanded internationally.
27 Feb 1904- Yuly Khariton
Yuly Khariton was a Russian physicist who played a key role in the development of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons and nuclear physics research. Khariton began his career as a researcher in chemical physics, studying combustion and explosion effects. In 1926-28 he studied and worked in Ernest Rutherford's Laboratory in Cambridge, England.
Upon his return to the Soviet Union, he directed nuclear research at the Arzamas-16 center through the 1930's and 1940's. He oversaw the preparation, assembly and detonation of the Soviet atomic bomb, which was built using stolen blueprints of the American plutonium bomb. The first Soviet A-bomb was detonated on 29 Aug 1949 at the Semipalatinsk test range.
February 26, 1866- Herbert Dow
Herbert Dow was a pioneer in the American chemical industry and founded the Dow Chemical Company (1896). Dow developed and patented an entirely new electrolytic method for extracting bromine from the prehistoric brine trapped underground at Midland, Mich. and in 1890 organized the Midland Chemical Company.
The Dow process was remarkable in that it did not result in a salt by-product, that it operated on comparatively little fuel and it was the first commercially successful use of the direct-current generator in the American chemical industry. He next developed the electrolysis of sodium chloride in order to yield sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and chlorine for bleaching powder.
In 1916, Dow extracted magnesium, a very lightweight metal from brine, and quickly saw its importance as a structural metal. His first patent was issued in 1889. By 1933 he had over 90 patents. His diverse inventions included electric light carbons, steam and internal combustion engines, automatic furnace controls and water seals, though most of his inventions were chemical in nature.
February 22, 1828- Urea synthesis
In 1828, German biochemist Friedrich Wöhler informed Jakob Berzelius that he had synthesized the organic chemical, urea. This was a landmark event, for it was the first time a material previously only associated with the body function of a living thing, was made from inorganic chemicals of non-living origin. In this case, urea had formerly been known only from the urine of animals.
February 21, 1791- John Mercer
John Mercer was an English chemist and industrialist who invented the mercerization process for treating cotton, which is still in use today, and was a pioneer in color photography.
From age 16, and throughout his life, he investigated and developed chemical textile dyes. Late in his life, in 1844, he found that when cotton is treated with caustic chemicals, it became thicker and shorter – thereby stronger and shrink-resistant. Further, the cotton was more easily dyed, needed 30 percent less dye, more absorbent and could be given an attractive silk-like luster.
He called his process mercerization and patented it in 1850. Mercerization was applied to many other materials, such as parchment and woolen fabric, and remains an important part of the cotton finishing process today.
February 12, 1941- First penicillin test
In 1941, the first injection of penicillin into a human test subject was conducted by Ernst Chain and Howard Walter Florey, who developed this antibiotic. The patient, Albert Alexander, 43, an Oxford policeman had scratched his face on a rose bush. When the scratches turned septic, there followed blood poisoning and numerous abscesses. Because he was "in great pain, desperately and pathetically ill," he was happy to be treated with the new drug.
According to the attending doctor, the result was that "within four days, there was a striking improvement... he was vastly better... with obvious resolution of the abscesses." Due to limited available penicillin, treatment stopped, the infection returned and he died four weeks later.
February 11, 1847- Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison was an American inventor who held a world record 1,093 patents (including those held jointly) and created the world's first industrial research laboratory. He showed an early curiosity for explanations of how everything worked and was especially interested in chemistry.
He began selling newspapers on the railroad at age 12, and learned how to operate a telegraph. In 1868, his first invention was an electric vote-recording machine. In 1869, he made improvements on the stock-ticker. In 1876 he moved his laboratory to Menlo Park, NJ, where he invented his phonograph (1877) and the first prototype of a commercially practical incandescent electric light bulb (1879).
Other inventions included storage batteries, a dictaphone and a mimeograph. By the late 1880s he made motion pictures, and by 1912 was experimenting with talking pictures. Edison developed electric power from central generating stations. He became known internationally as “the wizard of Menlo Park.” In 1962 his second laboratory and home in West Orange, NJ, was designated a U.S. National Historic Site.
February 8, 1906- Chester Carlson
Chester Carlson was an American physicist who invented xerography (22 Oct 1938), an electrostatic dry-copying process that found applications ranging from office copying to reproducing out-of-print books. The process involved sensitizing a photoconductive surface to light by giving it an electrostatic charge Carlson developed it between 1934 and 1938, and initially described it as electrophotography.
It was immediately protected by Carlson with an impenetrable web of patents, though it was not until 1944 that he was able to obtain funding for further development. In 1947 he sold the commercial rights for his invention to the Haloid Company, a small manufacturer of photographic paper (which later became the Xerox Corporation).
February 6, 1944- First test tube human egg fertilization
In 1944, American obstetrician and gynecologist John Rock (1890-1984) with Miriam Menkin fertilized the first human egg in a test tube. After hundreds of efforts, they had produced the first laboratory-fertilized, two-cell human egg. The embryo was not returned to the womb.
For some 15 years after 1938, Rock and Arthur Hertig sought to retrieve early fertilized human eggs from discarded hysterectomy tissue. Over that time they found thirty-four fertilized eggs, providing new knowledge about human conception. Aiding them in the search was Harvard physiologist Gregory Pincus. In 1938, Rock hired technician Miriam Menkin to try to extract and fertilize human eggs in his laboratory. Rock is best known as a developer of the birth control pill.
January 29, 1998- Big tobacco calls cigarettes dangerous
In 1998, for the first time, a top tobacco company executive acknowledged the health risk of tobacco products under oath to Congress. This testimony by Steven Goldstone, RJR Nabisco chairman and CEO, came at a hearing where industry leaders pushed Congress to enact a $368.5 billion deal giving them partial immunity from future lawsuits.
As recently as 1994, seven tobacco industry executives had stood before the House Commerce Committee and sworn nicotine is not addictive.
January 28, 1608- Giovanni Borelli
Giovanni Borelli was an Italian mathematician, physiologist and physicist sometimes called “father of biomechanics.” He was the first to apply the laws of mechanics to the muscular action of the human body. In De motu animalium (Concerning Animal Motion, 1680), he correctly described the skeleton and muscles as a system of levers, and explained the mechanism of bird flight. He calculated the forces required for equilibrium in various joints of the body well before the mechanics of Isaac Newton.
In 1649, he published a work on malignant fevers. He repudiated astrological causes of diseases and believed in chemical cures. In 1658, he published Euclidus restitutus. He made anatomical dissections, drew a diver's rebreather, investigated volcanoes, was first to suggest a parabolic path for comets and considered Jupiter had an attractive influence on its moons.
January 25, 1627- Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle was an Irish-English chemist and natural philosopher noted for his pioneering experiments on the properties of gases and his espousal of a corpuscular view of matter that was a forerunner of the modern theory of chemical elements. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of London.
From 1656-68, he resided at Oxford with Robert Hooke, who helped him to construct the air pump. With this invention, Boyle demonstrated the physical characteristics of air and the necessity of air for combustion, respiration and the transmission of sound, published in New Experiments Physio-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (1660). In 1661, he reported to the Royal Society on the relationship of the volume of gases and pressure (Boyle's Law).
January 22, 1561- Sir Francis Bacon
Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher remembered for his influence promoting a scientific method. He held that the aim of scientific investigation is practical application of the understanding of nature to improve man's condition. He wrote that scientists should concentrate on certain important kinds of experimentally reproducible situations, which he called "prerogative instances. After tabulating such phenomena, the investigator should also aim to make a gradual ascent to more and more comprehensive laws, and will acquire greater and greater certainty as he or she moves up the pyramid of laws. At the same time each law that is reached should lead him to new kinds of experiment, that is, to kinds of experiment over and above those that led to the discovery of the law.
January 16, 1953- Fermium discovered
In 1953, a sample amounting to about 200 atoms of fermium (Fm, atomic number 100) was identified at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. Like einsteinium, fermium was first isolated from the debris of the Nov 1952 test of the hydrogen-bomb (called the "Mike" event, conducted at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean). Samples of debris were collected by drone aircraft flying through the cloud. For security reasons, it was kept secret until 1955. Because it is short-lived, scientists doubt that enough fermium will ever be obtained to be weighed. Fermium was the eighth transuranium element of the actinide series to be discovered, and was named in honor of Enrico Fermi.
January 14, 1861- David Wesson
David Wesson was an American food chemist who created Wesson Oil. He experimented with purifying cotton seed oil, developed a system in 1900 to make the pure oil palatable, and formed the Southern Oil Company to market it. Wesson worked from 1901 to 1911 on a process for hydrogenating cottonseed oil. Cottonseed oil was the first vegetable oil used in the U.S. It is a versatile oil prized by chefs for its ability to allow the flavor of foods to come through.
January 10, 1947- Polio virus isolated
In 1947, Stanford Univ. reported the isolation of the polio virus, after three years of research funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The work was done by Hubert Loring and C.E. Schwerdt of the Stanford Dept. of Chemistry. Laboratory tests and photographs showed it to be at least 80 percent pure, and that it could lead to producing an impurity-free vaccine for use against infantile paralysis.
Other vaccines existing at the time had problems with large amounts of impurities. The virus was obtained by purification from ground-up brain and spinal cord of rats infected with the polio virus. Electron microscope photographs showed the virus as a spherical particle about 25 nanometers across.
January 8, 1905- Walter Diemer
Walter Diemer was an American businessman who was working as an accountant for the Fleer Chewing Gum Co., when in 1928 he accidentally invented bubble gum while experimenting during his spare time with recipes for a chewing gum base. Fleer sold a test batch in a Philadelphia grocery store, which sold out in one afternoon.
Diemer then taught Fleer salesmen how to blow bubbles, so they could demonstrate the product when they traveled from store to store selling the penny-a-piece gum. He later became senior vice president of Fleer. Almost ¾ of a century later, Diemer still could not believe "all the bubble gum in the world came from my five-pound batch. It's the most popular confection in the world." Since the first batch, the pink color is still standard.
January 3, 1919- Artificial transmutation of elements
In 1919, Prof. Ernest Rutherford succeeded in splitting the atom. By bombarding nitrogen atoms with alpha particles emitted by radioactive materials he transmuted the nitrogen atoms into oxygen.
January 2, 1872- Albert Barnes
Albert Barnes was an American chemist who invented the antiseptic Argyrol in 1902. This is a silver-protein compound used in aqueous solution as a topical antiseptic. Believing in the social theories of philosophers such as John Dewey, Barnes felt he could better the lives of his fellow citizens.
He applied his own ideas in his own factories. He scheduled his workers on 8-hour shifts 6 hours on the production line, followed by 2 hours of lectures on esthetics and art.
He became a noted art collector, whose collection is now in the Barnes Foundation galleries in Merion, outside Philadelphia. Barnes' theories of art appreciation continue to be taught at the Barnes Foundation today. Barnes died in a car crash in 1951.
December 27, 1822- Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French chemist who became a founder of microbiology. He began as a chemist working on the optical properties of tartaric acid and its stereochemistry (1849).
He moved into microbiology when he discovered the role of bacteria in fermentation - that it was micro-organisms in yeast causing the formation of alcohol from sugar - and proved that the growth of microorganisms was not spontaneously generated from non-living matter. This led to understanding of the germ theory of infection, and his method of killing harmful bacteria in liquids by holding them for a time at a given temperature, which is now known as pasteurization. He created and tested vaccines for diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, plague, rabies, anthrax and tuberculosis.
December 26, 1982- Computer named ‘Man of the Year’
In 1982, The Man of the Year in Time magazine was a non-human for the first time. A computer received the honor as 1982's "greatest influence for good or evil."
The article recognized that, "By itself, the personal computer is a machine with formidable capabilities for tabulating, modeling or recording. Those capabilities can be multiplied almost indefinitely by plugging it into a network of other computers. This is generally done by attaching a desk-top model to a telephone line (two-way cables and earth satellites are coming increasingly into use). One can then dial an electronic data base, which not only provides all manner of information but also collects and transmits messages: electronic mail."
December 20, 1951- Nuclear electricity
The first electricity ever generated by atomic power began flowing from the EBR-1 turbine generator when Walter Zinn and his Argonne National Laboratory staff of scientists brought EBR-1 to criticality with a core about the size of a football. Today, EBR-1 is a Registered National Historic Landmark. Other reactors are at the site.
December 17, 1908- Willard Libby
Willard Libby was an American chemist whose technique of carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating provided an extremely valuable tool for archaeologists, anthropologists and earth scientists. For this development he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1960.
Libby is a specialist in radiochemistry, particularly hot atom chemistry, tracer techniques and isotope tracer work. He became well-known at Chicago Univ. also for his work with natural tritium, and its use in hydrology and geophysics. On 18 May 1952, he determined that the age of Stonehenge was 1848 BC, based on analysis of radioisotopes in charcoal.
December 13, 1893- Tuberculosis laboratory
In 1893, the first tuberculosis diagnostic community laboratory in the U.S. was authorized in New York City and opened by the New York City Dept. of Health under the direction of Hermann Biggs. The laboratory administered sputum examinations, reporting and registrations (compulsory by institutions and voluntary by physicians), official supervision of isolation, terminal disinfection, provision of hospital facilities and public education.
The first research laboratory in the U.S. was established the following year, in 1894, by Edward Trudeau in a room in his home at Saranac Lake, N.Y.
December 11, 1939- John Macklin
John Macklin is an American analytical chemist who refined the technique of Raman spectroscopy to test very small sample sizes. Raman spectroscopy, named after its Indian inventor, uses a laser beam passed through a sample of material to determine the identity of the atoms in its molecules and how they combine.
In the 1980's, Macklin collaborated with NASA scientists to analyze meteorites and cosmic dust particles looking for complex carbon-based molecules to elucidate the evolution of Earth's carbon-based life. He showed that tiny crystals in clay could absorb carbon molecules and facilitate the action of the sun's energy to combine into them into larger ones. Macklin has also extended Raman spectroscopy to the study environmental pollution.
December 6, 1863- Charles Hall
Charles Hall was an American chemist who invented the inexpensive electrolytic method of extracting aluminum from its ore, enabling the wide commercial use of this metal. While a young chemist, he experimented in a woodshed, intent upon finding a method for separating aluminum from its ore. At first, he was unsuccessful, but then realized that he needed a nonaqueous solvent for the aluminum oxide during electrolysis.
On 23 Feb 1886, Hall found that molten cryolite (the mineral sodium aluminum fluoride) was a suitable solvent and using carbon electrodes with home-made batteries, he produced his first small globules of aluminum. By 1914, Hall's process had brought the cost of aluminum, once a precious metal used for fine jewelry, down to 18 cents a pound.
December 3, 1842- Ellen Richards
American chemist Ellen Richards (née Ellen Swallow) was the founder of the home economics movement in the U.S. She was the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduated with a B.S. in 1873, and stayed on as a chemistry assistant. She set to work analyzing Boston's water supply.
In Nov. 1876, she created the Woman's Laboratory at MIT where women could learn the rudiments of science. In 1884, MIT made Richards its first woman faculty member. She helped develop a new curriculum in air, water and sewage chemistry. However, she also saw the home and child-rearing as complex and important work, saying the women who did it should be educated. She spent thirty years developing the concept of domestic science.
November 29, 1947- Robert Swanson
Robert Swanson was American chemist who, at age 29, cofounded Genentech, Inc. (1976), a research-based company that pioneered the biotechnology industry. His cofounder, distinguished biochemist, Herbert Boyer, had developed one of the key techniques that opened up the possibility of the transfer of genes from one organism to another. Boyer was a pioneer using restriction enzymes to snip segments of DNA out of cells.
In 1977, Genentech began mass- producing their first human protein by splicing a gene into bacteria. In 1978, Genentech created the first drug produced by genetic engineering, human-type insulin. It was also the first biotechnology company to sell its own drug, human growth hormone. Swanson died after a long battle against brain cancer.
November 27, 1963- Hydrogen-fueled space vehicle
In 1963, the first flight of a space vehicle powered by a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel combination was made by a Centaur II. It was one of a family of liquid fueled upper stage vehicles designed to deliver a satellite to its operational orbit. The Centaur was originally designed to provide payload capacity for high altitude satellites, and lunar and planetary space probes.
This Centaur was the upper stage on an Atlas rocket, AC-2, launched from the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Centaur's payload was a satellite, which it successfully put into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. An earlier Centaur was on a failed suborbital launch attempt in mid-1962; the Atlas vehicle exploded due to insulation problems.
November 23, 1887- Henry Moseley
Henry Gwyn-Jeffreys Mosely was an English physicist who experimentally demonstrated that the major properties of an element are determined by the atomic number, not by the atomic weight, and firmly established the relationship between atomic number and the charge of the atomic nucleus. He began his research under Ernest Rutherford while serving as lecturer at the Univ. of Manchester. Using X-ray photographic techniques, he determined a mathematical relation between the radiation wavelength and the atomic numbers of the emitting elements. Moseley obtained several quantitative relationships from which he predicted the existence of three missing elements (numbers 43, 61, and 75) in the periodic table, all of which were subsequently identified. Moseley was killed in action during WW I.
November 22, 1932- Computer pump
In 1932, the first U.S. patent for a computer pump was issued to the inventors, Robert J. Jauch, Ivan R. Farnham and Ross H. Arnold for their "Liquid Dispensing Apparatus" (No. 1,888,533). Their motorized pump both metered and displayed the exact gallons of gasoline or other liquid dispensed, and also accurately computed and showed the price in dollars and cents while delivery was made. The internal totalizer could be easily reset for any new price per gallon. It solved the problems of inaccurate delivery of volume from a visible type dispenser, and its necessary ready-reckoning card with quantity and cost tables, which needed a new card when prices changed. The Wayne Co., Fort Wayne, Indiana, marketed it from 1 Nov 1931.
November 16, 1943- James Mitchell
James Mitchell is a Black American chemist who is best known for advancing the accuracy of trace element analyses. With his collaborators at Bell Labs, he pioneered the development of x-ray fluorescence methods for part per billion (ppb) trace element determinations, innovated high accuracy activation analysis methods for ultra trace analysis. He also designed the first laser intra-cavity spectrophotometer for high accuracy practical determinations of sub-ppb levels of trace impurities. He invented the cryogenic sublimation technique for ultra purification of liquid analytical reagents and chemicals for fabricating optical waveguides.
He is currently exploring ways to apply his ultra-precise measuring procedures to detect trace amounts of contaminants in our air and water.
November 12, 1948- Mobile betatron
In 1948, the first mobile betatron began operation at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory, White Oak, Maryland. The betatron accelerated electrons using 10 million volts to produce a sharp beam of high-energy X-rays capable of penetrating 16 inches of steel. It was built by General Electric Company of Schenectady, N.Y.
November 7, 1867- Marie Curie
Marie Sklodowska Curie was a Polish-French chemist and physicist whose celebrated experiments on uranium minerals led to discovery of two new elements. First she separated polonium, and then radium a few months later. The quantity of radon in radioactive equilibrium with a gram of radium was named a curie (subsequently redefined as the emission of 3.7 x 1010 alpha particles per sec.)
With Henri Becquerel and her husband, Pierre Curie, she was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics. Later, she also was sole winner of a second Nobel Prize in 1911, this time in Chemistry. Her family won five Nobel awards in two generations. She died of radiation poisoning from her pioneering work before the need for protection was known.
November 5, 1993- Ancient beer
In 1992, the discovery chemical evidence of 5000-year-old beer found at Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran was reported in the journal Nature. Beer was the preferred fermented beverage of the ancient Sumerians. Chemical evidence was found from an organic residue inside a pottery vessel that had apparently been used for beer fermentation or storage.
Some grooves were found inside the double-handled jar which contained a pale yellowish residue that gave a positive test for oxalate ion. Calcium oxalate, only slightly water-soluble is a principal component of sediment that settles from barley beer. In 1991, evidence for the earliest grape wine of had been found in the same area, and to be of similar age, about 3500 - 3100 BC.
October 30, 1900- Ragnar Granit
Finnish-born Swedish physiologist who was a co-recipient (with George Wald and Haldan Hartline) of the 1967 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his analysis of the internal electrical changes that take place when the eye is exposed to light. He worked on individual nerve cells of the retina and was the first to show that single nerve fibers could distinguish between different wavelengths of light.
His bioelectric studies of vision were possible using the electric measurement method of Professor Edgar D. Adrian of Oxford University, who had made the first measurement of the electric impulse in a single nerve fiber. Granit also conducted studies also on the function of muscle spindle, motoneuron, spinal cord and brain.
October 29, 1923- Carl Djerassi
Austrian-American chemist and inventor who invented the first oral contraceptive, and is noted for establishing physical methods for determining organic molecular structure and his contributions to synthetic organic chemistry, his effectiveness in translating scientific knowledge into technological practice, and his efforts to promote international scientific cooperation.
His research is in such diverse fields as chemistry of steroids; structure of alkaloids, antibiotics and terpenoids; synthesis of drugs, particularly antihistamines, oral contraceptives, and anti-inflammatory agents; optical rotatory dispersion studies, organic mass spectrometry, and magnetic circular diehroism of organic compounds. He has lectured extensively on birth control issues, and holds U.S. patent No. 2,744,122 for an oral contraceptive—the birth control pill.
October 25, 1910- William Higinbotham
William Higinbotham was an American physicist who invented the first video game, Tennis for Two, as entertainment for the 1958 visitor day at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked (1947-84) then as head of the Instrumentation Division.
It used a small analogue computer with ten direct-connected operational amplifiers and output a side view of the curved flight of the tennis ball on an oscilloscope only five inches in diameter. Each player had a control knob and a button. Late in WW II he became electronics group leader at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the nuclear bomb was developed. After the war, he became active with other nuclear scientists in establishing the Federation of American Scientists to promote nuclear non-proliferation.
October 22, 1981- FDA Aspartame table-top approval
In 1981, aspartame artificial sweetener was approved for tabletop use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its permitted uses included in candy, tablets, breakfast cereals, instant coffee and tea, gelatins, puddings, fillings, dairy-product toppings and as a flavor enhancer for chewing gum, among others. It was first approved on 26 Jul 1974, but objections caused a stay on 5 Dec 1975, and years of scrutiny followed. Years earlier, in Dec 1965, while working on an ulcer drug, James M. Schlatter had made the discovery that a mixture of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalamine, had a sweet taste. By weight it was about 200 times sweeter than sugar, with very few calories. G.D. Seale marketed it as NutraSweet, a low-calorie artificial sweetener without the bitter aftertaste of saccharin.
October 19, 1909- Marguerite Perey
Marguerite Catherine Perey was a French chemist who identified francium, element 87, the last naturally occurring element to be discovered (7 Jan 1939). She joined the Institut du Radium in 1929 as a technician to be the personal assistant of Marie Curie. Perey focused on actinium for many years because it was considered a possible source of francium by alpha decay. However, the necessary purification of actinium and concentration required dozens of difficult and painstaking procedures. After submitting a thesis concerning her work on element 87, in 1946 she received a doctorate degree in physics. From 1949, she held the chair of a new nuclear chemistry department at the University of Strasbourg. In 1962, she became the first woman member of the French Academy of Sciences. She retired as her health declined from cancer caused by radiation.
October 18, 1799- Christian Schönbein
German-Swiss chemist who discovered and named ozone (1840) and was the first to describe guncotton (nitrocellulose). He noted ozone appeared during thunderstorms and named the gas ozone for its peculiar smell (ozo is Greek for smell). Later experiments showed that sending an electric current through pure, dry oxygen (O2) creates ozone (O3). His discovery of the powerful explosive called cellulose nitrate, or gun cotton, was the result of a laboratory accident. One day in 1845 he spilled sulfuric and nitric acids and soaked it with a cotton apron. After the apron dried, it burst into flame - he had created nitrated cellulose. He found that cellulose nitrate could be molded and had some elastic properties. It eventually was used for smokeless gun powder.
October 11, 1887- Adding machine
In 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 economic benefit. 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. Door improved his design, producing his earliest commercial wooden-box Comptometer from 1887 thru 1903, leading to the first steel case Model A (1904), that would be standard for the remainder for all "shoebox" models. Electric motor drive was introduced in the 1920's.
October 8, 1906- Harry Gilbert Day
Harry Gilbert Day was an American nutritional biochemist who helped develop (with Joe Muhler and William Nebergall) the fluoride additive used in toothpaste to combat tooth decay. Proctor and Gamble (P&G) funded his research at Indiana Univ. In 1955, the Food and Drug administration approved stannous fluoride for use in toothpaste.
P&G introduced Crest toothpaste in January of 1956 with this ingredient, which they called fluoristan. The patent was held by Indiana Univ., and P&G paid royalties for its use. In his career, Day's research evaluated the health aspects of food ingredients, principles of food safety, and nutrition including the nutritional requirements of phosphorus, zinc, fluoride, boron and iron.
October 2, 1852- Sir William Ramsay
Sir William Ramsay was a Scottish chemist who discovered who discovered the inert gases — neon, krypton and xenon — and co-discovered argon, radon, calcium and barium. He became a Nobel laureate 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.”
October 1, 1880- Edison opens his first lamp factory
In 1880, the first electric incandescent lamp factory in the U.S. was opened in Menlo Park, N.J: The Edison Lamp Works. More than 130,000 bulbs had been manufactured by the time the plant was moved to Harrison, N.J. in 1882.
September 25, 1974- Spray cans and ozone
In 1974, scientists first reported that Freon gases released from aerosol spray cans were destroying the ozone layer.
September 24, 1905- Severo Ochoa
Spanish-American biochemist and molecular biologist who shared the 1959 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Arthur Kornberg for the discovery of the mechanisms that controls biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.
Ochoa discovered an enzyme in bacteria that enabled him to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA), a substance of central importance to the synthesis of proteins by the cell. Ochoa's enzyme produces ribonucleic acids from ribonucleotides having twice the ratio of phosphoric acid residues as that contained in ribonucleic acid. The RNA is formed by splitting out half of the phosphoric acid residues, and linking the nucleotides together to form large molecules.
September 20, 1952- DNA
In 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase published a report confirming DNA holds hereditary data. Their experiment used the T2 bacteriophage, which, like other viruses, is just a crystal of DNA and protein. It can reproduce when inside a bacterium such as E. coli.
When the new T2 viruses are ready to leave the host E. coli cell, and go infect others, they burst the E. coli cell open, killing it, hence the name "bacteriophage". Hershey and Chase were seeking an answer to the question, "Is it the viral DNA or viral protein coat (capsid) that is the viral genetic code material which gets injected into the E. coli?" Their results indicated that the viral DNA, not the protein, is its genetic code material.
September 18, 1907- Edwin McMillan
Edwin McMillan was an American nuclear physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1951, with Glenn Seaborg, for his discovery of element 93. Just as the planet Neptune is beyond Uranus, this new element was named neptunium, the first element beyond uranium, thus called a transuranium element.
By irradiating uranium with rapid neutrons or with heavy-hydrogen nuclei, other neptunium isotopes were soon produced in Berkeley where he studied and was employed. By 1940, McMillan with his colleagues working with Seaborg found that the radioactive decay of neptunium disintegrates yields element 94, called plutonium, after the planet Pluto beyond Neptune. During WWII he was engaged in national defense nuclear research.
September 13, 1853- Hans Christian Joachim Gram
Danish pharmacologist and pathologist, who invented the Gram stain, the best known and most widely used bacteriological staining method that is almost always the first test performed for the identification of bacteria.
September 11, 1940- First demonstration of remote computing
In 1940, the first demonstration of remote computing took place when a teletype terminal at the American Mathematical Association Meeting in Dartmouth, New Hampshire was used to communicate over phone lines with an attendant at the keyboard for input to George Stibitz's Complex Number Calculator in New York. The machine had been operational since 1 Aug 1940. In 1940, George Stibitz's Complex Number Calculator was functional. He was a research mathematician at Bell Laboratories, who worked on its construction from Apr 1939, assisted by Samuel Williams. Later known as Bell Labs Model I Relay Computer, it used telephone relays and coded decimal numbers as groups of four binary digits (bits) each. It has been called the first electromechanical computer for routine use.
September 5, 1850- Eugen Goldstein
German physicist who discovered and named canal rays (1886) which emerge through holes in the anodes of low-pressure electrical discharge tubes (later shown to be positively charged particles). Earlier, he coined the term “cathode ray” (1876) emitted from a cathode. He was the first to see that they could cast a shadow, and were emitted at right angles to the surface. He also investigated the wavelengths of light emitted by metals and oxides when canal rays impinge on them. When the Berlin Urania, opened in 1889 it had five scientific departments and a “science theatre,” it was Goldstein who had recommended the “hall of physics in which the visitor could experiment on his own.” Students of his who continued his work included Wilhelm Wien and Johannes Stark.
September 3, 1905- Carl Anderson
American physicist who shared (with Victor Francis Hess of Austria) the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1936 for his discovery of the positron, or positive electron, the first known particle of antimatter. He examined the photographs of cosmic rays taken as they passed through a Wilson cloud chamber in a strong magnetic field. Besides the curved paths of negative electrons, he found also paths deviating in the opposite direction, corresponding to positively charged particles- yet having the same mass as an electron! Previously, Dirac had predicted such particles by theoretical solution to electromagnetic field equations. Anderson subsequently found the physical existence of positron.
All information comes from Today in Science History