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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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< 8 May | 10 May >
MAY 9 – BIRTHS – Scientists born on May 9th
  Manfred Eigen
baby icon  Born 9 May 1927.  quotes button quotes
German physicist and biochemist who shared (with Ronald Norrish and George Porter) the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions, effected by disturbing the equlibrium by means of very short pulses of energy.” In 1954, Eigen introduced the relaxation techniques for the study of extremely fast chemical reactions (those taking less than a millisecond). His general method was to take a solution in equilibrium for a given temperature and pressure. If a short disturbance was applied to the solution the equilibrium would be very briefly destroyed and a new equilibrium quickly reached. Eigen studied exactly what happened in this very short time by means of absorption spectroscopy.
  Boris Ephrussi
baby icon  Born 9 May 1901; died 2 May 1979 at age 77.  quotes button quotes
Russian-French biochemist and geneticist.
  Howard Carter
baby icon  Born 9 May 1873; died 2 Mar 1939 at age 65.  quotes button quotes
British Egyptologist who made one of the richest and most celebrated contributions to Egyptology: the discovery (27 Nov 1922) of the largely intact tomb of King Tutankhamen. In 1891, at age 17, with a talent for drawing and an interest in Egyptian antiquities, he was hired by the Egypt Exploration Fund in London to help with the epigraphic recording of tombs in Middle Egypt. At the beginning of 1900 Howard Carter was appointed Chief Inspector of Antiquities to the Egyptian Government with responsibilities for Upper Egypt. The Earl of Carnarvon, visited Egypt for health reasons in 1905, became interested in Egyptian antiquities and decided to finance some archaeological work. He funded Carter's excavation work beginning in 1909. [EB gives birth year as 9 May 1873. Some sources, including Enc. of World Bio give 9 May 1874. No DSB entry.]
book icon The Tomb of Tut.Ankh.Amen, by Howard Carter. - book suggestion.
  Edward Weston
Thumbnail - Edward Weston
baby icon  Born 9 May 1850; died 20 Aug 1936 at age 86.
British-born American electrical engineer and industrialist who founded the Weston Electrical Instrument Company. He moved to America as a young medical student in 1870. In the next few years, he revolutionized the electro-plating industry by inventing and manufacturing a highly successful electroplating dynamo, which far surpassed the efficiency of storage batteries. He patented the dynamo and a nickel-plating anode in 1875. From then until about 1917, Weston was granted 334 U.S patents. After early experiments with designs of incandescent lamps, he distinguished himself with the invention and manufacture of a series of precision electronical measuring instruments.
  Carl Gustaf Patrik de Laval
baby icon  Born 9 May 1845; died 2 Feb 1913 at age 67.
Swedish scientist, engineer and inventor who pioneered in the development of high-speed turbines. After earning his Ph.D. at age 27, he worked as a technical engineer at a steel mill in his home village. In 1877, he began developing a high-speed centrifugal cream separator, a significant advance in butter-making. He perfected a vacuum milking machine in 1913. About 1882, he began working on steam turbines, and by 1889, he applied for a British patent for an impulse type, with a jet of steam impinging on a set of blades around the periphery of a wheel. His inventive talent was wide, including electric lighting, electrometallurgy, and aerodynamics. During his lifetime, he acquired 92 Swedish patents and founded 37 companies.
  James Pollard Espy
baby icon  Born 9 May 1785; died 24 Jan 1860 at age 74.  quotes button quotes
American meteorologist who was one of the first to collect meteorological observations by telegraph. He gave apparently the first essentially correct explanation of the thermodynamics of cloud formation and growth. Every great atmospheric disturbance begins with a rising mass of heated, thus less dense air. While rising, the air mass dilates and cools. Then, as water vapour precipitates as clouds, latent heat is liberated so the dilation and rising continues until the moisture of the air forming the upward current is practically exhausted. The heavier air flows in beneath, and, finding a diminished pressure above it, rushes upward with constantly increasing violence. Water vapour precipitated during this atmospheric disturbance results in heavy rains. [Image: Formation of a thunderstorm, mature stage]
  Gaspard Monge
baby icon  Born 9 May 1746; died 28 Jul 1818 at age 72.  quotes button quotes
French mathematician who is known for his elaboration of descriptive geometry. Although the son of an itinerant tradesman, by age 22, he was teaching mathematics at the military school in Mézières, and later became professor at the École Polytechnique, which he helped found and organize. He developed the mathematics of projecting solid figures onto a plane (upon which modern engineering drawing is based) following a suggestion of the theory (1738) by Frézier. Monge further applied analysis techniques to the theory of curvature that was later taken up in the revolutionary work of Georg Riemann on geometry and curvature. He also studied aome physical science topics. While a close friend of Napoleon, Monge was appointed minister for the navy (1792-93), but was removed on the restoration of the Bourbons. He died in poverty.« [DSB gives date of birth 9 May 1746. EB gives 10 May 1746.]

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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< 8 May | 10 May >
MAY 9 – DEATHS – Scientists died on May 9th
  Humfry Payne
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1936 at age 34 (born 19 Feb 1902).
Humfry (Gilbert Garth) Payne was an English archaeologist who studied Mediterranean archaeology and is known for his book Necrocorinthia (1931), a significant work on Corinthian pottery. He did work at Knossos, and between 1930 and 1933, he led excavations of the Hera sanctuary and the ancient harbour at Perahσra (meaning "the land beyond") in the Gulf of Korinth, Greece. Later excavations there were headed by Peter Megaw in the 1960s and Richard Tomlinson in the early 1980s clarified earlier finds and opened up new areas of the temples, markets, ritual dining areas and complex water systems. Payne died at the early age of 35, and was buried at Mycenae.«
book icon Necrocorinthia: A study of Corinthian art, by Humfry Payne. - book suggestion.
  A.A. Michelson
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1931 at age 78 (born 19 Dec 1852).  quotes button quotes
Albert Abraham Michelson was a German-American physicist physicist who accurately measured the speed of light and received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Physics “for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations” he carried out with them. He designed the highly accurate Michelson interferometer and used it to establish the speed of light as a fundamental constant. With Edward Morley, he also used it in an attempt to measure the velocity of the earth through the ether (1887). The experiment yielded null results that eventually led Einstein to his theory of relativity. He measured the standard meter bar in Paris to be 1,553,163.5 wavelengths of the red cadmium line (1892-3).«
book icon The Master of Light: A biography of Albert A. Michelson, by Dorothy Michelson Livingston. - book suggestion.
  Paul-Louis-Toussaint Hιroult
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1914 at age 51 (born 10 Apr 1863).
French metallurgist and chemist who invented the electric-arc furnace, widely used in making steel; and, independently of the simultaneous work of Charles M. Hall of the United States, devised the electrolytic process for preparing aluminum. This process made low-priced aluminum available for the first time, securing the widespread use of the metal and its alloys. In 1906, he built a "phaneroptere" flying machine, a precursor of the helicopter. With the American Cooper Hewitt, he designed the hydroslip, a sort of boat on runners, lifted by four propulsive vanes.He also experimented with a rocket missile.  read more button more
  C(harles) W(illiam) Post
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1914 at age 59 (born 26 Oct 1854).
American industrialist who founded Post Cereal Company with the Grape-Nuts cereal he created. In 1890, a nervous breakdown had led Post to the sanitorium of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, where he was fed on Kellogg's grain-intensive vegetarian diet. Early in 1895, Post began the manufacture of Postum, a grain product intended as a coffee substitute, similar to one of Kellogg's concoctions. The manufacture of Grape-Nuts, based on another Kellogg item, began the following year. Post's new company, Postum Ltd., achieved wide-scale distribution of its products through massive spending on advertising appealing to the health concerns of the American public. In 1929, Postum became General Foods Corporation.
  Jacques-Joseph Champollion-Figeac
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1867 at age 88 (born 5 Oct 1778).
French librarian and paleographer remembered for his own writings and for editing several works of his younger brother, Jean-Franηois Champollion, the brilliant Egyptologist who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics.
  Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac
gravestone icon  Died 9 May 1850 at age 71 (born 6 Dec 1778).  quotes button quotes
French chemist best known for his work on gases. In 1805, by exploding together given volumes of hydrogen and oxygen, Gay-Lussac discovered they combined in ratio 2:1 by volume to form water. By 1808, after researches using other gases, he formulated his famous law of combining volumes - that when gases combine their relative volumes bear a simple numerical relation to each other (e.g., 1:1, 2:1) and to their gaseous product (under constant pressure and temperature). He developed techniques of quantitative chemical analysis, confirmed that iodine was an element, discovered cyanogen, improved the process for manufacturing sulphuric acid, prepared potassium and boron (1808). He made two balloon ascents to study the atmosphere.
book icon Gay-Lussac: Scientist and Bourgeois, by Maurice P. Crosland. - book suggestion.

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< 8 May | 10 May >
MAY 9 – EVENTS – Science events on May 9th
  Moon reached by laser light
calendar icon   In 1962, a laser beam was bounced off the moon from earth by MIT scientists. The area of the light beam on the surface was estimated at a diameter of 4 miles.
  Birth control pill
calendar icon   In 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a pill as safe for birth control use. In 1953, Margaret Sanger, a legendary birth control crusader gave Dr. Gregory Pincus $150,000 to continue his prior research and develop a safe and effective oral contraceptive for women. The original version contained at least five times the estrogen that it does today, and ten times the progestin. Reductions addressed early medical problems, mainly with dangerous blood clots. The pill, now the most common form of birth control used by millions of women, is about 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. After 40 years, U.S. women still need a doctor's prescription, but the pill is available over-the-counter in many other countries. [Image: pills in a modern calendar package]
  First UK laundrette
calendar icon   In 1949, Britain's first launderette opened in Queensway, London. *
  Eye bank
calendar icon   In 1944, the first eye bank in the U.S. opened in New York City through the efforts of Dr. Richard T. Paton of Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital and Dr. John McLean of New York Hospital. These hospitals cooperated to establish a joint project at New York Hospital, New York City. Nineteen other hospitals in the metropolitan area also cooperated and contributed eyes to the bank.
calendar icon   In 1936, the Hindenburg Zeppelin arrived at Lakehurst, New Jersey, USA, from Germany marking the beginning of regular transatlantic passenger service. The flight, carrying 51 passengers and 56 crew, took 61-hr 38-min.«
book icon Zeppelin: The Story of a Great Achievement, by Harry Vissering. - book suggestion.
booklist icon Booklist for Ferdinand Zeppelin.
  Rotor ship
calendar icon   In 1926, Baden-Baden, a rotor ship invented by Anton Flettner arrived in New York having left Hamburg on 2 Apr 1926, and completed a transatlantic crossing from Germany. He replaced sails with a unique propulsion - two 9-ft diameter, 50-ft high cylinders, mounted vertically on the deck at the bow and the stern. Driven by 45-hp electric motors, they applying the aerodynamic power of the Magnus Effect (discovered 1852) which builds air pressure behind a rotating cylinder. Although a theoretical success, it was not sufficiently effective for commercial application.
  North Pole flight
calendar icon   In 1926, Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett became the first men to fly over the North Pole.
  Motion pictures
calendar icon   In 1893, the first motion picture exhibition was given by Thomas Alva Edison in Brooklyn, New York to an audience of 400 people at the Dept of Physics, Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N.Y. using Edision's Kinetograph. An optical lantern projector showed moving images of a blacksmith and his two helpers passing a bottle and forging a piece of iron. Each filmstrip had 700 images, each image being shown for 1/92 sec. The event was reported in the Scientific American of 20 May 1893.
Thumbnail - Stethoscope
calendar icon   In 1882, a stethoscope of the now classic design, invented by William F. Ford was issued a U.S. patent (No. 257,487).
  Gatling gun patent
Thumbnail - Gatling gun patent
calendar icon   In 1865, a U.S. patent was issued to Richard Jordan Gatling for the Gatling gun, invented 1861, which was the first to successfully combine reliability, high firing rate and ease of loading into a single device (No. 47,631), which he in the patent description, he called a "battery-gun." The gun was a hand-cranked to rotate a cylinder of ten barrels. Each loaded from a gravity-feed magazine on top and fired on each revolution. He was motivated to invent the weapon after he noticed the majority of dead returning from the American Civil War died of illness, rather than gunshots. He thought if a rapid-firing gun could enable one man to do what previously required many, then armies could be smaller, saving men from exposure to battle and disease.«
book icon Gatling: A Photographic Remembrance, by E. Frank Jr. Stephenson. - book suggestion.
  Theatre gas lighting
calendar icon   In 1825, the first U.S. newspaper account was published of a theatre lighted by gas in New York City, the Chatham Garden and Theatre situated at what is now 80-90 Chatham Street. Previously gas lighting had been seen in theatres, it was only as a novelty, but not illumination. The New York Post and Mirror reported that the whole theatre was lighted by gas "which sheds a clear soft light over the audience and stage." The illumination "elicited the loudest plaudits from those present."

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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton