Week ending 27 September 2009

September 22, 1792: The French National Convention proclaims France a republic and it is officially Day One of the first day of autumn of Year One of the First Republic of France. While the French Revolutionary Calendar only replaced the Gregorian Calendar and came into law in 1793 (until 1805) it was effected retroactively to include the previous year.
September 25, 1878: Dr. Charles Drysdale, senior physician to the Metropolitan Free Hospital, writes an article in The Times newspaper in Britain warning against the ill effects of tobacco use. In it he pointed to "the enormous consumption of tobacco in all European states" and estimated that £15,000,000 was spent annually in Great Britain on tobacco. He concluded: "The use of tobacco is one of the most evident of all the retrograde influences of our time." Years earlier, in 1864, Drysdale had published the results of reasearch into excessive tobacco use in a medical journal, documenting cases of jaundice and "most distressing palpitation of the heart" in a young man who smoked ½ oz daily.

Week ending 20 September 2009

September 15, 1916: The British introduce the tank as a weapon against the Germans at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette during the Somme offensive, hoping to break the deadlock of the trenches. The Mark I tank could negotiate barbed wire and was impervious to rifle and machine gun fire, but vulnerable to artillery. It was mechanically unrelaible though; at its debut only 32 of the 49 tanks deployed reached the start line. At Flers, a British tank battalion advanced 3.2 km and drove up the main street of the village, prompting a press report which announced: "A tank is walking up the High Street of Flers with the British Army cheering behind."    
September 16, 1908: General Motors is founded by former carriage-maker William Crapo "Billy" Durant. Durant incorporated with a capital of $2,000. Within 12 days the company had generated stocks worth $12,000,000.
September 19, 1783: Ötzi the Iceman, a Copper Age, or Chalcolithic, European man and the most ancient of human remains ever found, is discovered in the Schnalstal glacier in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch, on the border between Austria and Italy. The body and his belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, northern Italy.

Week ending 13 September 2009

September 8, 1854: Dr. John Snow removes the handle of the Broad Street water pump in London, effectively halting the cholera epidemic. He had mapped the outbreaks and suspected that the pump was the source of the disease vector.

September 10, 1984: Englishman Alec Jeffreys discovers DNA fingerprinting in Leicester, England. X-ray films of his tests first revealed the possibility of using DNA as a base for biological identification since every person has a unique DNA profile. Jeffreys made the discovery as an accidental outcome of research he was conducting to trace genetic markers through families for the purpose of understanding inheritance patterns of illness. The technique has since helped in forensics, crime investigation and identifying family members. The first use of DNA profiling in criminology in the Enderby double murder proved the innocence of a man who had confessed to the murders.

September 13, 1833: the first imported shipment of ice arrives in Calcutta, India, from Boston, Massachusetts in the specially insulated hold of the Clipper Tuscany, which had sailed on 6 - 7 May 1833 with 180 tons of ice.

Week ending 6 September 2009

week1-060909September 3, 2000: NASA shows that  the hole in the Ozone Layer has grown to 17 million square kilometres, the biggest it had ever been. Antarctic ozone depletion starts in July, when sunlight triggers chemical reactions in cold air trapped over the South Pole during the Antarctic winter. It intensifies during August and September before tailing off as temperatures rise in late November and early December.
September 3, 1976: Viking II lands on Mars and takes the first pictures of the planet's surface.
September 3, 1752: The third day of September is removed from the calendar for eleven years when England and the American Colonies dropped the Julian Calendar, which had become 10 days out of synchrony with the solar cycle and adopted the Gregorian Calendar. People rioted in the streets believing that the government had stolen 11 days of their lives.
September 7, 1936: The last of the Tasmanian Tigers (Thylacine) dies at the Hobart Zoo. The animal had been systematically exterminated by European settlers as an undesirable predator of farm animals.

Week ending 30 August 2009

week300809August 24, A.D. 79: Mount Vesuvius erupts, burying the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The eruption, which came without warning, lasted more than a week, sending columns of ash and gas into the stratosphere.
August 24, 1932: American aviatrix Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly non-stop across the United States, travelling from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in just over 19 hours.
August 24, 1968: France detonates a Hydrogen bomb over Fangataufa Atoll in the South Pacific ocean and becomes the world's fifth thermonuclear power. The resulting contamination kept the atoll off limits to humans for six years.
August 25, 1991: 21-year-old Finnish university student, Linus Torvalds reveals a new operating system which later becomes known as Linux. It is released in 1994 and distributed over the internet for free.
August 28, 1837: Pharmacists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins of Worcester, England, begin manufacturing Worcester Sauce.

Week ending 23 August 2009

week230809August 18, 1868: French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen discovers helium during a total solar eclipse. Janssen built a “spectrohelioscope,” a device specifically designed to examine the spectrum of the sun and came to the conclusion that the "yellow effulgence" in the sun's spectrum was a hitherto unknown element.
August 19, 1839: Louis Daguerre goes public with the secret for making daguerrotypes.    Daguerre received a pension in exchange for revealing the process and agreed to "nobly give to the whole world this discovery which could contribute so much to the progress of art and science."
August 19, 1887: Celebrated Russian chemist, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev makes a solo ascent in a hot-air balloon to observe a solar eclipse. Mendeleev had never flown in a balloon until this day, and ascended to an altitude of 3500 metres in the skies over Klin in order to clear the cloud cover.
August 21, 1986: Nyos, a crater lake in northwest Cameroon emits a massive cloud of CO2, suffocating 1,700 people in nearby villages.

Week ending 16 August

week160809August 11, 1903: Satori Kato, a Japanese chemist living in Chicago receives the first U.S. patent for instant coffee. Previous attempts at making water soluble coffee were unsuccessful because the product turned rancid. Kato, who was also the inventor of soluble tea, developed a method of separating the volatile oils and fats and fibre from the coffee. The resulting substance was then mixed with the oils and dried.
August 11, 1909: The liner S.S. Arapahoe becomes the first ship to use the S.O.S. radio distress call.
August 11, 1999: The last total eclipse of the millenium occurs. Because it could be viewed in many populated areas, it was perhaps the most-watched eclipse of all time, seen by an estimated 350 million people.
August 12, 1865: After studying Louis Pasteur's theories on germs, surgeon Joseph Lister begins using carbolic acid as a form of disinfectant. Surgical death rates are reduced from forty-five to fifteen percent.
August 12, 1883: The last remaining quagga mare dies at the Amsterdam Zoo.

Week ending 9 August

August 3, 1903: Thomas Edison's concern about X-Ray injury makes front page news in the New York World newspaper. Under the headline, "Edison Fears Hidden Perils of the X-rays" the history of injuries of his laboratory employee Clarence Dally, who had an arm amputated because of cancer caused by exposure to X-rays are described. Edison's also claimed that viewing with his own X-ray fluoroscope had harmed his own eyesight two years earlier. The focus of his left eye was disturbed by his experiments,  which made him abandon X-ray research. Edison, the "Wizard of Menlo Park," was also quoted as saying, "I am afraid of radium and polonium too, and I don't want to monkey with them."
August 6, 1753: Professor Georg Richmann of St. Petersburg, Moscow, is killed while "while trying to quantify the response of an insulated rod to a nearby storm." Richmann had attached a wire to the top of his house and led it down to an iron bar suspended above a bowl of water partly filled with iron filings. While he was attending a meeting of the Academy of Sciences he heard thunder and raced home with his engraver to capture the event. While the experiment was underway, ball lightning struck and travelled along the apparatus, colliding with his head as he was taking a reading. His shoes were blown apart and the force of the explosion tore the door off its hinges. His engraver survived.

Week ending 2 August

July 30, 1898: William Kellogg invents Cornflakes. He and his brother Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, superintendent at Battle Creek sanitarium unintentionally invented the process while experimenting with ways to provide patients at the sanitarium with a nutritious diet. Patients liked it so much they wanted more to take home, so youngest brother Will Keith Kellogg started the Battle Creek Toaster Corn Flake Company in response to the demand. C. W Post, a former patient at the sanitarium started manufacturing a rival brand, called Post Toasties, in 1908.
August 1, 1774: British Presbyterian minister and chemist, Joseph Priestley identifies a gas which he calls "dephlogisticated air" later known as oxygen. When Priestley heated mercury in air he noted that it became coated with "red rust of mercury," and gave off "air" when converted back to mercury. He observed that a mouse in a sealed vessel with this air could breathe it much longer than ordinary air. Priestley considered it to be "air from which the phlogiston (a fire-like element contained within combustible bodies) had been removed."
August 1, 1793: The first definition is made for the metre. It is defined as 1/10 000 000 of the northern quadrant of the Paris meridian (5 132 430 toises of Paris, from the north pole to the equator). The definition was made legal by the French National Assembly on 7 Apr 1795.

Week ending 26 July 2009

July 20, 1976: America's "Viking I Lander" spacecraft, launched 20 Aug 1975, lands on Mars.
July 25, 1854: Walter Hunt of New York City is awarded a patent for a paper shirt collar. Very thin white paper was pasted on both sides of a base of thin white cotton muslin and after being cut or stamped out of this material could be pressed between heated forms to the shape of the neck. To guard against the effects of perspiration, the collar was varnished with a colourless bleached varnish so that it could be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth.
July 23, 1698: English inventor Thomas Savery receives a patent for "A new invention for raiseing of water and occasioning motion to all sorts of mill work by the impellent force of fire, which will be of great use and advantage for drayning mines, serveing townes with water, and for the working of all sorts of mills where they have not the benefitt of water nor constant windes" – in essence, a steam engine.
July 25, 1814: George Stephenson demonstrates the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive and names it Blücher after the Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.

Week ending 19 July

July 16, 1969: The Crew of Apollo XI, Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins, blasts off from Cape Kennedy on the first manned mission to the surface of the moon.
July 17, 709 BC: The earliest record of a confirmed total solar eclipse is written in the Ch'un-ch'iu, Book I: "Duke Huan, 3rd year, 7th month, day jen-ch'en, the first day (of the month). The Sun was eclipsed and it was total." The recorded date, when reduced to the Julian calendar, agrees exactly with that of a computed solar eclipse. Reference to the same eclipse appears in the Han-shu ('History of the Former Han Dynasty') (Chinese, 1st century AD): "...the eclipse threaded centrally through the Sun; above and below it was yellow."
July 17, 1959: British archaeologist and anthropologist Mary Leakey discovers a 1.75 million-year-old skull belonging to Australopithecus boisei in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
July 18, 1994: 62-year-old Italian Rosanna Della Corte gives birth to a healthy son. The world's oldest mother, Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara of Spain, who gave birth to twins in 2006 at the age of 66, died last Saturday at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

Week 12/07/09

week-120709July 9, 1958: The tallest wave ever recorded, triggered by a massive landslide caused by an earthquake as powerful as the one that hit San Francisco in 1906, explodes down Lituya Bay in the Gulf of Alaska. The megatsunami that was generated by the seismic event was more than 500 metres high.

July 11, 1908: Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramaphone, tests a design for a helicopter rig and finds that it is able to lift double its weight. In 1907, after the Wright brothers had successfully developed a rigid-wing aircraft, Berliner, recognising the versatility of the rotary engine, began designing a helicopter with tandem intermeshing rotors. July 11, 1975: Chinese archaeologists announce the uncovering of a three-acre burial mound concealing the Terracotta Army, 6000 clay statues of warriors and their regalia dating from 221 to 206 BC. The lifesize clay soldiers and horses were buried in pits in battle formation facing east to guard the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

Week ending 05/09

week050709July 1, 1796: Dr Edward Jenner of Berkeley, England completes the first experiment with smallpox vaccination. In May of that year, Jenner innoculated eight-year-old James Phipps with cowpox, which he appeared to create immunity to the much more severe Variola Major or smallpox virus. When injected with the smallpox material, Phipps was unharmed. July 3, 1987: British millionaire Richard Branson and Swedish adventurer Per Lindstrand make the first ever hot-air balloon crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

July 4, 1687: English explorer, William Dampier describes a tropical cyclone when his ship survives what he calls a "tuffoon"  (from Chineses tai fung, a cyclonic wind) off the coast of China. In New Voyage Round the World, he wrote that this violent whirlwind storm had a calm central eye, and that its winds moved from opposite directions as the storm passed. July 5, 1996: Dolly, a cloned sheep, is born at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, Scotland. Scientists created Dolly by replacing the nucleus of an egg cell with an udder cell from a Finn Dorset Sheep.

Week ending 28 June 2009

week280609June 28, 1846: Adolphe Sax is awarded a patent for the saxophone. His invention was inspired by a desire to improve upon the tone of the bass clarinet. In 1841, he showed his creation to composer Hector Berlioz, who was impressed by the uniqueness and versatility of the instrument and described it as "an instrument whose tone color is between that of the brass and the woodwinds. But it even reminds one, though more remotely, of the sound of the strings. I think its main advantage is the greatly varied beauty in its different possibilities of expression. At one time deeply quiet, at another full of emotion; dreamy, melancholic, sometimes with the hush of an echo. I do not know of any instrument having this specific tone-quality, bordering on the limits of the audible."
June 28, 1992: A 35-year-old man at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center becomes the world's first recipient of a baboon liver. The patient, who was dying from Hepatitis B, survived for 71 days after the surgery before succumbing to a brain haemorrhage.

Week ending 28 September

week_280908September 25, 1878: English physician Charles R. Drysdale condemns the use of tobacco in a letter published in The Times of London. Drysdale, who had been crusading against smoking since the 1860's called the habit "the most evident of all the retrograde influences of our time". In his book Tobacco and the Diseases It Produces he reported its ill effects on the lungs, circulation system and skin and even warned against exposure to second-hand smoke: "Women who wait in public bar-rooms and smoking-saloons, though not themselves smoking, cannot avoid the poisoning caused by inhaling smoke continually." Despite his cautions, the number of smokers continued to rise during the early twentieth century encouraged by Hollywood. One movie studio paid more than $3m in today's money in one year to stars to promote cigarette smoking. 86 years later, a special committee under US Surgeon General Luther Terry produced a report on smoking so damning that it had to be released on a Saturday to minimise its effect on the stock market.

Week ending 21 September

week210908September 17, 1683: In a letter to the Royal Society of
London, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, a tradesman from Delft,
makes the first ever recorded observation of bacteria: "I then
most always saw, with great wonder, that in the said matter
there were many very little living animalcules, very prettily
a-moving. The biggest sort ... had a very strong and swift
motion, and shot through the water (or spittle) like a pike does
through the water. The second sort ... oft-times spun round like
a top ... and these were far more in number." Van Leeuwenhoek
discovered the microscopic invertebrates in the plaque between
his teeth – "a little white matter, which is as thick as if 'twere
batter" – and in the teeth of two old men who had never
cleaned their teeth in their lives, whose mouths were home to
"an unbelievably great company of living animalcules".

Week ending 14 September

week_140908September 11, 1822: The Catholic Church, finally concedes that the Earth revolves around the sun. 189 years after Galileo Galilei was condemned for heresy by the the Roman Inquisition, the College of Cardinals released a statement saying that the "publication of works treating of the motion of the Earth and the stability of the sun, in accordance with the opinion of modern astronomers, is permitted." It took another 13 years for Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems to be removed from the Vatican's list of banned books and a further 170 years for a pope (John Paul) to admit, in 1992, that the Earth isn't stationary in the heavens. In 2000, John Paul apologised for the way the Catholic Church had treated Galileo, who spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest.

Week ending 24 August

week_240808Aug. 18, 1947: Hewlett Packard, the IT giant that was born in a garage in Palo Alto, California, incorporates. The garage, listed as a California Historic Landmark, is regarded as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.  

Aug. 21, 1993: The Mars Observer, a scientific probe sent to study the geology and climate of the red planet loses contact with NASA less than a year after its launch. Contact with the craft is never re-established and the reasons for its disappearance remain a mystery to this day. For other things the US government has mislaid see uphaa.com's " 8 Nuclear Weapons the U.S. has Lost"

Week ending 17 August

week_170808Aug. 14, 1888: no more free lamps: Before Annapolis graduate Oliver B. Shallenberger patented his electric meter, Thomas Edison had devised a very complex chemical solution for selling electricity, which involved zinc plates and an electrolytic jar filled with zinc-sulfate. Workers had to weigh the electrodes in the jar every month to see how much zinc had been transferred through amp consumption. Shallenberger discovered the much more accurate electro-mechanical system by accident when he noted that a spring that fell out of an arc lamp that he was working on rotated under the influence of the lamp's electric fields. He realised that he could use the effect to turn wheels in a meter to measure electrical charge.

Week ending 10 August

week_100808August 6, 1890: Kemmler 'Rides the Lightning'
William Kemmler, a vegetable seller from Buffalo New York confessed to killing his commonlaw wife Tillie Ziegler with a hatchet and accepted the usual penalty of death by hanging. But the state of New York decided instead to use Kemmler as a guinea pig for its new killing device. Its creator Harold Brown, an employee of Thomas Edison, claimed it would be more humane than hanging. At the time, Edison and Tesla were embroiled in the
War of the Currents – Edison wanted DC and Tesla AC, to be used as the standard. Edison persuaded Brown to wire the device with alternating current, hoping to push public opinion his way when they associated it with death. Kemmler endured the first 1000 volt  charge for 17 seconds but lived. The fatal 2000 volts that killed him burst his blood vessels and set his skin on fire.