Week ending 28 February 2010

February 25, 1899: The first fatal collision of a petrol powered vehicle occurs in Grove Hill Harrow, England. The car, a Daimler Wagonette, was being demonstrated by a Mr Sewell to a Major Richer, department head of the Army & Navy Stores. Mr Sewell was killed on the spot. Major Richer, died four days later and became the first British passenger to die in a car accident.
February 26, 1935: RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging) is demonstrated to Air Ministry officials at Daventry, England, by Robert Watson-Watt, a Scottish physicist. While working on methods of using radio-wave detection to locate thunderstorms in order to provide warnings to airmen, Watson-Watt realised that it could be used to track enemy aircraft for air defense. The test showed that a RAF Heyford bomber flying in the main beam of a BBC short-wave radio transmitter gave back reflected signals to the ground on three occasions that the aircraft passed overhead. By 1939 the military had installed a chain of radar stations along the east and south coasts of England to warn of  a German invasion.

Week ending 21 February 2010

February 14, 1747: A paper by British astronomer James Bradley outlining his discovery of a wobbling motion in Earth’s axial rotation, is read at the Royal Society. Bradley coined the name nutation (from Latin nutare – to nod) to define the newly discovered phenomenon which he first observed during his studies at Molyneux's observatory. He attributed it to the moon's gravitational influence, but withheld any announcement until he had observed a full cycle of the motion of the moon's nodes, which took more than 18 years.
week210210February 16, 1923: Archaeologist Howard Carter opens the sealed doorway to the sepulchral chamber of King Tutankhamen's tomb in Thebes, Egypt.
February 17, 1913: English chemist and physicist Frederick Soddy  introduces the term "isotope" from the Greek, meaning "at the same place", to refer to different atoms of the same element in the periodic table. The term was coined by Margaret Todd, a Scottish physician and distant relative of Soddy during a conversation with him.

Week ending 14 February 2010

February 14, 2003: Dolly, the world's most famous cloned sheep, is euthenased. She had been suffering from a progressive lung disease caused by Jaagsiekte Sheep Retrovirus. Dolly was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh on 5 July, 1996. On 23 February, 1997, scientists announced that they had accomplished the first mammal cloning from an adult cell by replacing the nucleus of an egg cell with the nucleus from a parent cell – in Dolly's case an udder cell (and the reason she was named after Dolly Parton). The resulting embryo was implanted into the womb of a third, surrogate sheep. The egg cell reprogrammed the donated DNA contained within its new nucleus. Dolly's early death (Finn Dorset sheep are expected to live for 11 to 12 years) raised controversy about the wisdom of cloning.
February 12, 1941: Reserve Constable Albert Alexander becomes the first person to be injected with penicillin. Constable Alexander had scratched his face on a rose bush and the wound had become so badly infected that one of eyes had to be removed. Drs Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley injected Alexander intravenously and he began recovering. He died a month later when treatment had to be discontinued because there was not enough penicillin available.

Week ending 7 February 2010

February 1, 1811: The Bell Rock Lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson is lit for the first time. Legend has it that the reef on which it is built is called Bell Rock because the Abbot of Arbroath once installed a bell on it to warn ships of its presence. The bell was, according to a poem by 17th century poet Robert Southey, cut loose by a pirate called Sir Ralph the Rover. The masonry work on which the lighthouse rests was constructed to such a high standard that it has not been replaced or adapted in almost 200 years.
February 2, 1893: The first ever movie close-up is filmed at Thomas Edison's studio in West Orange, New Jersey. The film shows a studio employee, Fred Ott, sneezing.
February 4 , 1915: Dr Joseph Goldberger begins researching the causes for pellagra, which in 1915 killed more than 10 000 people in the United States alone. Goldberger conducted experiments on a dozen volunteer inmates of a Mississippi state prison at Jackson after establishing, by injecting himself and his wife with the blood of victims, that the disease was not contagious. He found that adjusting the diets of sufferers eliminated their symptoms. 
February 4, 2004: Mark Zuckerberg launches "The facebook".

Week ending 31 January 2010

January 28, 1896: The first speeding fine is handed out to British motorist Walter Arnold of East Peckham in Kent, when he was caught doing 8 mph in a 2 mph built up zone. He was fined a shilling.
January 29, 1958: The Boston Herald prints a letter from Olga Owens Huckins claiming that the pesticide DDT is dangerous. Huckins was a friend of Rachel Carson, to whom she wrote a letter prompting Carson to write Silent Spring, an early call for modern environmentalism. Carson's research and data led her to conclude that pesticides built up in crops, transferred to birds and other animals and was responsible for poisoning fauna. Silent Spring asks important questions about balancing industrial and agricultural needs, progress, the protection of the environment and the quality of life. 
January 29, 1978: Sweden becomes the first country to regulate the use of aerosols in order to halt the destruction of the ozone layer.
January 29, 1998: Steven Goldstone, CEO and chairman of tobacco giant  RJR Nabisco, acknowledges the health risk of tobacco products under oath before Congress. Four years before Goldstone's confession, seven tobacco industry executives stood before the House Commerce Committee and swore that nicotine is not addictive.

Week ending 17 January 2010

January 11, 1922: 14-year-old Leonard Thompson becomes the first person to receive an injection of insulin as a treatment for diabetes. At the time he weighed only 29 kilograms and was expected to slip into a coma and die, the usual outcome for patients diagnosed with diabetes. Thompson recovered and lived another 13 years before succumbing to pneumonia.
January 13, 1978: NASA selects its first U.S. women astronauts.
January 13, 1404: The Act of Multipliers, which declared it a felony for English alchemists to use their knowledge to create gold and silver, is passed in parliament during the reign of Henry IV. It was feared that some alchemist might succeed in synthesising precious metals and bring ruin upon the state by furnishing boundless wealth on a tyrant who would make use of it to enslave the country. 
January 14, 1914: Henry Ford announces the newest advance in assembly line production of modern cars. The new continuous motion method reduced the assembly time of a car from over 12 hours to 93 minutes.
January 16, 1909: British explorer Ernest Shackleton discovers the magnetic south pole.

Week ending 10 January 2010

January 9, 1793: French aviation and ballooning pioneer, Jean Pierre Blanchard makes the first successful balloon flight in the United States. The hydrogen-filled balloon took off from Philadelphia, soared to 1,700 metres and eventually landed 24 kilometres away, in Woodbury, New Jersey. His only passenger was a small black dog. The ascent was witnessed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Paul Revere, John Adams and other dignitaries. His account, Journal of my forty-fifth ascension, being the first performed in America, on the ninth of January, 1793 is available online on the Internet Archive website, http://www.archive.org.
January 9, 1816: A safety lamp invented by Sir Humphry Davy is tested  for the first time in a coal mine at Hebburn Colliery in north-east England. At the time there were often underground explosions caused by methane leaking out of the coal seams being ignited by the flame of a miner's lamp. Davy determined that placing fine wire gauze around the flame would prevent this from happening. He calculated that the diameter of the holes in the gauze should not exceed 1/22 inch and that the thickness of the wire should be between one fortieth and one sixtieth of an inch. Since the flame changed colour in the presence of methane it also served as an early warning system.

Week ending 3 January 2010

December 31, 1938: The "drunkometer," the first breath test for car drivers, invented by Dr Rolla N. Harger of Indiana University School of Medicine, is officially introduced in Indianapolis. It was the first successful machine for testing human blood alcohol content by breath analysis. By 1948, Harger had begun one-week courses on breath alcohol testing sponsored by the National Safety Council's Committee on Tests for Intoxication. Robert F. Borkenstein, an instructor on the  courses, invented the Breathalyzer, a more practical, highly portable instrument for testing breath alcohol, in 1954.
December 31, 1993: The last research samples of the smallpox virus, one of the world's most dreaded plagues until 1977 when it was declared eradicated is scheduled to be destroyed. However, some scientists wanted to continue research on the virus and stopped the destruction plan. The remaining frozen samples are in Moscow, Russia, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, U.S., ready to make vaccine should it ever again be necessary. The virus is extremely stable: researchers claim that it has not changed in thousands of years.

Week ending 20 December 2009

December 15, 2000: The Chernobyl nuclear plant is officially shut down more than 14 years after one of its reactors exploded, resulting in the world's worst civil nuclear disaster.
December 17, 1919: Seismographer and meteorologist Albert Porta predicts that a conjunction of six planets on this date would spell the end of the world. The alignment of planets would cause a magnetic current which would pierce the sun and engulf the earth in flames. As the date approached suicides and hysteria were reported throughout the world.
week-201209December 17, 1903: The Wright brothers make the first powered flight in the Kitty Hawk, at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina. For the first time, a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed and had finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started.

Week ending 13 December 2009

week-131209December 10, 1954: To determine if a pilot could eject from an airplane at supersonic speed and live, John Paul Stapp, a flight surgeon, boarded Sonic Wind, a rocket sled at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The sled's rocket motors generated 18,000 kg of thrust and he reached a speed of 1000 km/h in five seconds. At the end of the ride Stapp was stopped in 1.25 seconds which subjected him to 40 G's: the equivalent of hitting a brick wall in a car travelling at 190 km/h.
December 12, 1901: Guglielmo Marconi sends the first transatlantic radio signal from Poldhu in Cornwall. It was received by Percy Wright Page in St John's, Newfoundland.
December 12, 1980: Leonardo da Vinci's 36-sheet manuscript Codex Leicester is auctioned at Christie's. It was bought by Armand Hammer for $4.5 million. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a complete manuscript.

Week ending 6 December 2009

week1-061209December 1, 1913: Henry Ford introduces the continuous moving assembly line at his Detroit, Michigan factory. The line was capable of delivering a car every two minutes and 38 seconds.
December 1, 1990: British and French workers digging the Channel Tunnel between their countries meet in the service tunnel after knocking out a passage large enough to walk through and shake hands, 22.3 km from the UK and 15.6 km from France. The tunnelling began three years earlier, on the same day in 1987.
December 3, 1910: Neon lighting, developed  by French physicist Georges Claude, makes its public debut at the Paris Motor Show.
December 6, 1906: The first aerial photographs of Stonehenge are displayed at the London premises of the Society of Antiquaries. They were taken from a hydrogen balloon by 2nd Lieutenant Philip Sharpe of the Royal Engineers' Balloon Section.

Week ending 29 November 2009

week1-291109November 25, 1920: Gaston, youngest brother of Louis Chevrolet, co-founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company, is killed in a collision on the Beverly Hills Speedway near the close of the 250-mile race for the title of "Speed King of the Year." Chevrolet was 28 years-old.
November 28, 1868: Thomas Edison applies for his first patent – an "electrographic vote recorder" which would enable legislators to register a vote either for or against an issue by turning a switch to the right or to the left.
November 29, 1814: The Times of London becomes the first newspaper to be printed by steam power. Its hand presses were replaced by new machines invented by Germans Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer. For the first time it became possible to produce newspapers on a scale that could meet public demand.

Week ending 22 November 2009

week-221109November 16, 1938: LSD is synthesised by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland.
November 17, 1849: The first bowler hat is sold by Lock & Co. of St. James's, London, to William Coke of Holkham, Norfolk for twelve shillings.
November 17, 1869: The Suez Canal opens, linking the Mediterranean and Red seas.
November 17, 1925: Dr. W. Blair Bell gives a lecture in London, advocating the treatment of cancer with colloidal lead injections.
November 21, 1846: Oliver Wendell Holmes coins the word "anaesthesia" in a letter to William Thomas Green Morton, the surgeon who gave the first public demonstration of the pain-killing effects of ether.
November 22, 1906: The S.O.S radio distress signal is  adopted at the International Radio Telegraphic Convention in Berlin.

Week ending 15 November 2009

week-151109November 12, 1847: Sir James Young Simpson, head of midwifery at Edinburgh Hospital first uses chloroform ("perchloride of formyle") for anaesthesia during childbirth. His advocacy of its use at a time when it was considered immoral for women to resort to painkillers during childbirth, prompted Queen Victoria to use the drug when she gave birth to Prince Leopold in 1853.
November 14, 1666: English physician, Samuel Pepys records a blood transfusion of one dog to another: " …there was a pretty experiment of the blood of one dog let out, till he had died, into the body of another on one side, while all his own run out on the other side. The first died upon the place, and the other very well and likely to do well. This did give occasion to many pretty wishes, as of the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop and such like; but, as Dr. Croon says, may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man's health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing from a better body."

Week ending 8 November 2009

week081109November 2, 1988: Cornell University graduate student Robert Tappan Morris unleashes the first web-propagated computer worm. The Morris worm was intended, according to its creator, to measure the extent of the internet, but  it infected machines much faster than he thought possible.When Morris realised what was happening he sent out an anonymous message telling programmers how to kill the worm and prevent re-infection, but because the network was clogged, the message did not get through until it was too late. Morris was tried, fined and given probation. Today he is associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
November 4, 1922: The entrance to King Tutankhamen's tomb is discovered in the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt, by a labourer working for English archaeologist Howard Carter.
November 5, 1662: Robert Hooke is appointed Curator of Experiments to the Royal Society, a position which required  him to demonstrate three or four new experiments at every meeting of the society.

Week ending 1 November 2009

October 30, 1925: Londoners witness the first television transmission. Inventor, John Logie Baird built his first television from a tea chest, cardboard scanning discs, an empty biscuit box, old electric motors, darning needles, motorcycle lamp lenses, piano wire, glue, string, and sealing wax.
October 31, 1888: Pneumatic bicycle tyres are patented by Scottish inventor, John Boyd Dunlop.
November 1, 1873: Joseph F. Glidden begins manufacturing barbed wire. Glidden's invention, which provided a solution to the problem of keeping livestock out of crops in the vast plains of the American West, is said to have transformed the landscape by opening it up to large scale farming. It also brought an end to the cowboy era.
November 1, 1848: The first medical school in  the world to cater exclusively to trainee women doctors opens in Boston. The Boston Female Medical School was founded by Samuel Gregory,  who disapproved of male doctors attending childbirth. By 1873, 98 women doctors had graduated from the college, including Rebecca Lee, MD, the first African-American female physician.

Week ending 25 October 2009

October 21, 1824: In Yorkshire, stone mason Joseph Aspdin patents Portland cement, made by burning finely pulverised lime and clay in a kiln.
week251009October 22, 1797: André-Jacques Garnerin makes the first parachute jump from a hot air balloon from a height of 900 metres, over  the Parc Monceau, Paris. Garnerin rode in a gondola fixed to the lines of a parachute seven metres in diameter supported by a wooden pole with its 32 white canvas gores folded like a closed umbrella. Since there was no vent in the top of the parachute, he descended with violent oscillations and suffered the first case of air sickness.
October 23, 1814: English surgeon, Joseph Carpue, performs the first modern plastic surgery at Duke of York's Hospital, Chelsea, England. Carpue operated on a British military officer who had lost his nose to the toxic effects of mercury treatments, and another whose nose was mutilated by a sword.

Week ending 18 October 2009

October 12, 1976: U.S. swine flu vaccinations are  stopped in nine states after three elderly people in the Pittsburgh area suffered heart attacks and died within hours of getting the shot. 
October 12, 1823: Charles Macintosh of Scotland begins selling raincoats.
week181009October 15, 1885: Jean Baptiste Jupille, a 15-year-old shepherd from Villers-Farley in France kills a rabid dog by stunning it with his wooden clog and then drowning it in a nearby brook. Jupille fended off the dog to protect his fellow shepherds who were all younger than him,  but was badly bitten in the process. At the request of the town's mayor, Jupille became the second person to be treated for rabies by Louis Pasteur. He survived.
October 18, 1870: US soldier and inventor, Benjamin Chew Tilghman, patents the process of sandblasting. Legend has it that Tilghman had observed the effects of wind-blown sand on glass while fighting in the desert.

Week ending 11 October 2009

week111009October 8, 1958: Dr Åke Senning implants the first internal heart pacemaker. Although this prototype worked for only three hours, Arne Larsson, the Swedish man who received it, was still enjoying a full, normal life at age 83, 40 years and 26 pacemakers later. 
October 10, 1865: John Wesley Hyatt receives a US patent for a billiard ball. Hyatt was the winner of a $10,000 prize offered by Phelan and Collender of New York City, for the best substitute for an ivory ball. The search for an alternative was not motivated by environmental concerns, but rather by economic ones: ivory was expensive and difficult to obtain. Hyatt made his billiard balls from a mixture of nitrocellulose, camphor and alcohol heated under pressure, moulded and left to harden. He had invented celluloid, a discovery which opened the way for the development of the modern plastics industry.

Week ending 4 October 2009

September 30, 1907: A letter written by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu complaining about motor car speed traps is published in The Times of London: "By all means let police-traps be placed where there is any reason to think danger may exist, but at present, the police neglect their other duties and look upon trapping as a regular sport".
week040909October 1, 1957: The drug Thalidomide is marketed for the first time in West Germany as a drug to combat morning sickness in pregnant women. It is later sold in at least 46 countries. Worldwide, over 10,000 babies were born with deformities such as phocomelia (shortening of the limbs) and cleft palate caused by the drug crossing the placental barrier, something scientists at the time believed was unlikely. In 1961 German pediatrician Widukind Lenz proved that there was a link between birth defects and Thalidomide and it was withdrawn. Today there is renewed interest in Thalidomide as a treatment for certain cancers, macular degeneration, tuberculosis and conditions caused by AIDS.