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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
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< 22 Sep | 24 Sep >
SEPTEMBER 23 – BIRTHS – Scientists born on September 23rd
  Clifford G. Shull
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1915.  quotes button quotes
American physicist who shared the 1994 Nobel Prize for Physics with Canadian physicist Bertram N. Brockhouse. Shull's part of the award was for his development of neutron-scattering techniques, especially the neutron diffraction process that gave scientists a new tool to investigate the atomic structure of matter.«
  Sir John Boyd Orr
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1880; died 25 Jun 1971 at age 90.
Scottish physician, biologist and politician who was an authority on nutrition and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1949 for his efforts to eliminate world hunger. In 1936, he published a report, Food, Health and Income, a dietary survey by income groups made during 1935. It showed that the cost of a diet fulfilling basic nutritional requirements was beyond the means of half the British population and that 10 percent of the population was undernourished. This and other reports conducted by the Rowett Research Institute formed the basis of the British food-rationing system during WW II. He was director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (1945-48).
  Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary)
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1869; died 11 Nov 1938 at age 69.
American patient who was the quarantined disease carrier, known as Typhoid Mary, the famous typhoid carrier in the New York City area in the early 20th century. Fifty-one original cases of typhoid and three deaths were directly attributed to her (countless more were indirectly attributed), although she herself was immune to the typhoid bacillus (Salmonella typhi). The outbreak of Typhus in Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1904 puzzled the scientists of the time because they thought they had wiped out the deadly disease. Mallon's case showed that a person could be a carrier without showing any outward signs of being sick, and it led to most of the Health Code laws on the books today. She died not from typhoid but from the effects of a paralytic stroke dating back to 25 Dec 1932.
book icon Typhoid Mary, by Judith Walzer Leavitt. - book suggestion.
  Alexandre Yersin
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1863; died 1 Mar 1943 at age 79.
Swiss-French bacteriologist who co-discovered the plague bacillus, Pasteurella pestis (also called Yersinia pestis and Bacillus pestis). With Pierre Roux he discovered the diphtheria toxin (1889). Yersin discovered the plague bacillus simultaneously with Shibasaburo Kitasato (1894) in Hong Kong, where he had been sent by the French government. The Japanese bacteriologist Kitasato had arrived days earlier and had secured priority to the limited facilities. Nevertheless, Yersin gained a sample of pus excised from a plague victim, and was able almost immediately isolate the plague bacillus. Yersin then set out to attenuate the bacillus and develop an anti-plague serum. He successfully treated his first plague patient, a Chinese student, in 1896.
book icon Plague: A Story of Rivalry, Science, and the Scourge That Won't Go Away, by Edward Marriott. - book suggestion.
  Robert Bosch
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1861; died 9 Mar 1942 at age 80.
German engineer and industrialist who was responsible for the invention of the spark plug and magneto for automobiles and whose firm produced a wide range of precision machines and electrical equipment in plants throughout the world.
  Karl Krumbacher
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1856; died 12 Dec 1909 at age 53.
German scholar who developed the modern study of Byzantine culture. His writings and seminars were the basis for the specialized training of Byzantine scholars from all parts of the world. His Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur (1891; "History of Byzantine Literature") went through several revisions. In 1892 he founded the periodical Byzantinische Zeitschrift ("Byzantine Journal"), which became the central international organ for Byzantine studies.
  William Stewart Halsted
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1852; died 7 Sep 1922 at age 69.  quotes button quotes
American surgeon who established the first U.S. surgical school. In 1884, he was first to describe injection of cocaine into the trunk of a sensory nerve to block pain transmission. From 1886, he joined research at a pathological laboratory newly-formed in Baltimore, Md. where he developed strict aseptic surgical techniques with fine silk sutures in small stitches and careful tissue handling that gave safer, more effective results. In 1890, Halsted began use of rubber gloves, the year he was appointed first surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Halsted created there subspecialty divisions such as orthopedics, otolaryngology and urology. His successful training of surgeons was spread as those he taught took up careers at other institutions.«
book icon Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted, by Gerald Imber. - book suggestion.
  Armand-Hippolyte-Louis Fizeau
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1819; died 18 Sep 1896 at age 76.  quotes button quotes
French physicist who was the first to measure the speed of light successfully without using astronomical calculations (1849). Fizeau sent a narrow beam of light between gear teeth on the edge of a rotating wheel. The beam then traveled to a mirror 8 km/5 mi away and returned to the wheel where, if the spin were fast enough, a tooth would block the light. Knowing this time from the rotational speed of the wheel, and the mirror's distance, Fizeau directly measured the speed of light. He also found that light travels faster in air than in water, which confirmed the wave theory of light, and that the motion of a star affects the position of the lines in its spectrum. With Jean Foucault, he proved the wave nature of the Sun's heat rays by showing their interference (1847).
  Johann Franz Encke
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1791; died 26 Aug 1865 at age 73.
German astronomer who in 1819 established the period of the comet now known by as Encke's Comet. At at 3.3 years it has the shortest period of any known.
  Maximilian, Prinz (Prince) zu Wied-Neuwied
baby icon  Born 23 Sep 1782; died 3 Feb 1867 at age 84.
German naturalist, ethnographer and explorer whose observations on a trip to the American West in the 1830s provide valuable information about the Plains Indians at that time.

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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< 22 Sep | 24 Sep >
SEPTEMBER 23 – DEATHS – Scientists died on September 23rd
  James W. Alexander
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1971 at age 83 (born 19 Sep 1888).
James Waddell Alexander was an American mathematician who founded the branch of mathematics originally known as analysis situs, now called topology. In 1912, he joined the faculty of the mathematics department at Princeton. Soon after, Alexander generalised the Jordan curve theorem and, in 1928, he discovered the Alexander polynomial which is much used in knot theory.
  Vladimir Veksler
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1966 at age 59 (born 4 Mar 1907).
Soviet physicist.
  Sigmund Freud
Thumbnail - Sigmund Freud
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1939 at age 83 (born 6 May 1856).  quotes button quotes
Austrian father of psychoanalysis, best known for such works as Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933). In the publication of these, and numerous other works, he revolutionized the field of psychotherapy, so much so that often later workers have failed to recognize forebearers prior to him. Throughout his work he emphasized the role of unconscious and nonrational functioning, going against much of contemporary thought by suggesting that dreams and “mistakes” may also have meaning. Freud battled cancer of the jaw from 1923 until his death in 1939 in London - after 16 operations.
  Richard Zsigmondy
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1929 at age 64 (born 1 Apr 1865).
Richard Adolf Zsigmondy was an Austro-German chemist who was awarded who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1925 for “his demonstration of the heterogenous nature of colloid solutions and for the methods he used, which have since become fundamental in modern colloid chemistry."” Colloids are composed of submicroscopic particles dispersed within another substance. To conduct his research on colloids he invented the ultramicroscope (1903), with which he could view particles with a diameter of one 10-millionth of a millimetre not visible in a conventional microscope. It used an intense beam of light oriented in a position perpendicular to the microscope's optical axis. As particles scattered the incident light, their movements could be seen as flashes against a dark background.«
book icon Colloids and the ultramicroscope, by Richard Zsigmondy. - book suggestion.
  Paul Kammerer
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1926 at age 46 (born 17 Aug 1880).
Austrian biologist, he claimed to have produced experimental evidence that acquired traits could be inherited. Almost all of Kammerer's experiments involved forcing various amphibians to breed in environments that were radically different from their native habitat to demonstrate Lamarkian inheritance. (This is the idea that what one acquires during one's lifetime is passed on to that person's offspring. If you play guitar, your children will have nimble fingers. Each generation builds upon the past and continues to improve.) When later accused of faking exceptional results with the midwife toad, during a time of depression, he shot himself.
  John Wesley Powell
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1902 at age 68 (born 24 Mar 1834).
American geologist and ethnologist who published the first classification of American Indian languages and was the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology (1879-1902). In 1869, despite having lost his right arm in the Civil War, Powell outfitted a small party of men in wooden boats in Wyoming, and descended down into the then unknown Colorado River. Daring that mighty river for a thousand miles of huge, horrifying rapids, unsuspected dangers, and endless hardship, he and his men were the first to challenge the mysterious Grand Canyon.
book icon Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell, by John Wesley Powell and William deBuys (ed.). - book suggestion.
booklist icon Booklist for John Wesley Powell.
  Sir John Eric Erichsen
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1896 at age 78 (born 19 Jul 1818).  quotes button quotes
Danish-British surgeon.
  Friedrich Wφhler
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1882 at age 82 (born 31 Jul 1800).  quotes button quotes
German chemist who co-discovered vanadium. Having studied first medicine, then mineralogy, it was chemistry that became his primary interest. He found a method in 1827 for the production of metallic aluminum in the form of a grey powder by heating aluminum chloride with potassium. In 1828, he succeeded in the isolation of beryllium as a black-grey powder as well as of yttrium and (1856) crystalline silicon. He is most well-known for the synthesis of urea from ammonium cyanate (1828), which created an organic compound from an inorganic one, showing there was no absolute distinction between the two areas of chemical study. In 1862, he produced acetylene from calcium carbide. [Also known as Frederick Woehler.]  read more button more
book icon Wφhler's Outlines Of Organic Chemistry, by Friedrich Wφhler. - book suggestion.
  Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1877 at age 66 (born 11 Mar 1811).  quotes button quotes
French astronomer who predicted by mathematical means the existence of the planet Neptune. He switched from his first subject of chemistry to to teach astronomy at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1837 and worked at the Paris Observatory for most of his life. His main activity was in celestial mechanics. Independently of Adams, Le Verrier calculated the position of Neptune from irregularities in Uranus's orbit. As Camille Flammarion said, he discovered a planet with the tip of his pen, without any instrument other than the strength of his calculations alone. In 1856, the German astronomer Johan G. Galle discovered Neptune after only an hour of searching, within one degree of the position that had been computed by Le Verrier, who had asked him to look for it there. In this way Le Verrier gave the most striking confirmation of the theory of gravitation propounded by Newton. Le Verrier also initiated the meteorological service for France, especially the weather warnings for seaports. Incorrectly, he predicted a planet, Vulcan, or asteroid belt, within the orbit of Mercury to account for an observed discrepancy (1855) in the motion in the perihelion of Mercury.
  Matthew Baillie
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1823 at age 61 (born 27 Oct 1761).
Scottish pathologist whose Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body (1793) was the first publication in English on pathology as a separate subject and the first systematic study of pathology ever made. It established morbid anatomy as an independent science. Baillie gave the first clinical descriptions of gastric ulcer and chronic obstructive pulmonary emphysema and presented one of the clearest descriptions ever written on the pulmonary lesions of tuberculosis. The first American edition was published in Albany in 1795.
  Hermann Boerhaave
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1738 at age 69 (born 31 Dec 1668).  quotes button quotes
Dutch physician, botanist and chemist, who as professor of medicine taught medical students at the sickbed. He has been called the “founder of clinical teaching” since he founded a hospital where he combined practice with clinical instruction, a method continued in modern medical education. He was the first to describe the sweat glands, and that smallpox is transmitted only by contact. Although his discoveries were few, he collated existing medical knowledge. He wrote medical textbooks popular both during and after his lifetime. In 1718, he became professor of chemistry, and published Elementa Chemiae (Elements of Chemistry, 1724), an intellegible work that eluciated the subject. He also made contributions in the field of botany. Sometimes called the “Dutch Hippocrates,” he was the most eminent physician since Galen.«
  Ole (Christensen) Rψmer
gravestone icon  Died 23 Sep 1710 at age 65 (born 25 Sep 1644).
Danish astronomer who demonstrated conclusively that light travels at a finite speed. He measured the speed by precisely measuring the length of time between eclipses of Jupiter by one of its moons. This observation produces different results depending on the position of the earth in its orbit around the sun. He reasoned that meant light took longer to travel the greater distance when earth was travelling in its orbit away from Jupiter.

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< 22 Sep | 24 Sep >
SEPTEMBER 23 – EVENTS – Science events on September 23rd
  Mars probe lost
calendar icon   In 1999, the Mars Climate Observer apparently burned up as it was about to go into orbit around the Red Planet.
  Ceefax teletext
calendar icon   In 1973, the world's first Ceefax teletext service began on BBC Television.
  WD-40 invention
Thumbnail - WD-40 invention
1950s can
calendar icon   In 1953, WD-40 was invented and recorded for the first time in the Rocket Chemical Company's logbook. It was the Water Displacement 40th test, and first successful, formula created by Norm Larsen, for a lubricating penetrating oil intented to displace water for rust prevention. In 1958, it was packaged in cans and sold to the consumer market in San Diego, California, where the company was founded in 1953. It was named WD-40, its original test designation. The name of the company Larsen founded reflects its original purpose to supply materials used in manufacture of nuclear missiles, for which WD-40 was designed to coat structural components and prevent corrosion. After wide success with its versatile, but only product, the company name was changed in 1969 to the WD-40 Company Inc.«
  Truman announces Soviet A-bomb
Thumbnail - Truman announces Soviet A-bomb
calendar icon   In 1949, President Truman shocked America with a terse announcement: “We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the USSR.” The alarm stimulated activity in scientific and political circles, and an arms race was the clear response when on 31 Jan 1950, President Harry S. Truman announced a program to develop the American hydrogen bomb. “I have directed ... work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so called hydrogen or superbomb. Like all other work in the field of atomic weapons, it is ... consistent with the overall objectives of our program for peace and security ... until a satisfactory plan for international control of atomic energy is achieved.”
  Flashbulb patented
Thumbnail - Flashbulb patented
calendar icon   In 1930, Johann Ostermeyer of Athegnenber, Germany, patented his "Improvements in flash lights used for photographic purposes." (UK patent 324,578). The modern photographic safety flash bulb evolved from this design, which used aluminium wire or foil in oxygen. Unfortunately, all too frequently, these versions exploded! The flashbulb was introduced to the American market in 1930 by General Electric. Flash cubes came along in 1966, and the percussively ignitable "Magicube" in 1970.
  Hearing aid
calendar icon   In 1879, Richard S. Rhodes invented the Audiophone, the first hearing aid.
  Neptune discovered
Thumbnail - Neptune discovered
calendar icon   In 1846, the German astronomer Johann G. Galle discovered Neptune after only an hour of searching, within one degree of the position that had been computed by Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier. Independently of the English astronomer John C. Adams, Urabain-Jean Le Verrier had calculated the size and position of a previously unknown planet, which he assumed influenced the irregular orbit of Uranus, and he asked Galle to look for it.
  Galileo microscope gift to Cesi
calendar icon   In 1624, Galileo wrote a letter and sent it with one of his compound microscopes to another leading scientist of the day, his friend Federico Cesi in Rome. At the time, Galileo was living in Bellosguardo, near Florence, Italy  In the letter, Galileo gave some tips on how to use it. Although he did not invent it, he had made improvements to the original design by Zaccharias and Hans Janssen. About his own observations, Galileo wrote in the letter, “I have contemplated a great many animals with infinite admiration…” Cesi worked with Francesco Stelluti and viewed the anatomic structure of bees, described in their text, Apiarium (1625), the first publication on microscopic discoveries.«
book icon The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope, by Catherine Wilson. - book suggestion.

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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