4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

1910 to 1920 Timeline


Russell & Whitehead's "Principia Mathematica" 1910 – 1913

From 1910 to 1913 British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell and English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead published Principia mathematica in three volumes, taking up the task — first attempted in Russell's never completed Principles of Mathematics (1903) — of proving the logical basis of all mathematics by deducing the whole body of mathematical doctrine from a small number of primitive ideas and principles of logical inference. To do so Russell and Whitehead devised a complex but precise system of symbols that enabled them to sidestep the ambiguities of ordinary language, and to give an outstanding exposition of sentential logic.  Russell and Whitehead did not entirely achieve their goal -- certain of their theories and axioms were found to be unsatisfactory-- but their failures inspired further investigation of both their own and rival theories, and possibly contributed more to the development of mathematical logic than their complete success would have done.

Cambridge University Press issued 750 copies of the first volume of this work. Disappointed with the sales of that volume, which could not have found a large audience at the time, the publishers reduced the printings of Volumes II and III to 500 copies. Thus the complete set is more difficult to find than copies of Volume I.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1868.

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George Owen Squier Invents Telephone Carrier Multiplexing 1910

In 1910 American George Owen Squier, a General officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Washington, D. C., invented telephone carrier multilplexing.

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Sex-Linked Inheritance; Demonstration that Genes are Carried on Chromosomes 1910

Around 1908 American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University started working on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, and with his students mutated Drosophila through physical, chemical, and radiational means. In his "Fly Room" he began cross-breeding experiments to find inherited mutations, but with no significant success for two years. Finally in 1909, a series of heritable mutants appeared, some of which displayed Mendelian inheritance patterns, and in 1910 Morgan noticed a white-eyed mutant male among the red-eyed wild types. When white-eyed flies were bred with a red-eyed female their progeny were all red-eyed. A second generation cross produced white-eyed males—a sex-linked recessive trait, the gene for which Morgan named white. In discovering sex-linked inheritance Morgan was the first to link the inheritance of a specific trait definitively with a particular chromosome, demonstrating that genes are carried on chromosomes.

Morgan, "Sex-Limited Inheritance in Drosophila," Science 32 (1910) 120-22.

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 245.2.

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A Mechanical Punched-Card Tabulating System 1911

In 1911 Russian-born James Powers, an engineer hired by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1907 to help the government avoid what were perceived as excessive charges by Herman Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company, managed to avoid patent infringement and created a faster, cheaper electric punched card tabulating machine that was compatible with Hollerith's punched card format. Powers then formed a corporation in Newark, New Jersey to manufacture and sell his device. Originally known as the Powers Tabulating Machine Company, the company changed its name to Powers Accounting Machine Company in order to target a wider market.  

In 1927 Powers' company was merged with the Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex to form Remington Rand.

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Management of Water Pollution 1911

In 1911 industrial and environmental chemist Ellen Henrietta (Swallow) Richards published Conservation by Sanitation: Air and Water Supply; Disposal of Waste [Including a Laboratory Guide for Sanitary Engineers], a work which was particularly concerned with the management of water pollution and its effect on human health.


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"Die Brucke" and its Goals for a World Information Clearing House June 11, 1911 – 1913

In 1911 Karl Wilhelm Bührer and Adolf Saager published Die Organisierung der geistigen Arbeit durch die Brücke (The Organization of Intellectual Work through the Bridge) from Ansbach, Germany. This book described the aims of Die Brücke, Internationales Institut zur Organisierung der geistigen Arbeit (The Bridge, International Institute for the Organization of Intellectual Work), an institution founded in Munich on 11 June 1911 with the financial support of chemist Wilhelm Ostwald who donated his Nobel Prize money for the purpose.  In 1910 Ostwald had discussed problems of information management with Paul Otlet, co-founder of the Institut International de Bibliographie in Brussels. After only two years of existence The Bridge ended in 1913. It published numerous pamphlets, and perhaps the chief legacy of the project was the international standard for paper sizes (A4 etc.)

Concerning The Bridge Thomas Hapke wrote:

" 'Die Brücke is planned as a central station, where any question which may be raised with respect to any field of intellectual work whatever finds either direct answer or else indirect, in the sense that the inquirer is advised as to the place where he can obtain sufficient information' (Ostwald, 1913, p. 6, English original).

"The Bridge was supposed to be the information office for the information offices, a 'bridge' between the 'islands' where all other institutions—associations, societies, libraries, museums, companies, and individuals— 'were working for culture and civilization' (Die Brücke, 1910–1911). The organization of intellectual work was intended to occur 'automatically' through the general introduction of standardized means of communication— the monographic principle, standardized formats, and uniform indexing (Registraturvermerke) for all publications. The following facilities were planned: a collection of addresses, a Brückenarchiv as a 'comprehensive, illustrated world encyclopedia on sheets of standardized formats,' which should contain a world dictionary and a world museum catalog; a rückenmuseum; and a head office and Hochschule (college) for organization. 'Close cooperation' with the Institut Internationale de Bibliographie in Brussels was also planned."

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Genetic Recombination is Proposed September 10, 1911

While studying the chromosome theory of heredity in 1911, American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan occasionally noticed that "linked" traits would separate. Meanwhile, other traits on the same chromosome showed little detectable linkage. To explain his results Morgan proposed a process of crossing over, or recombination. Specifically, he proposed that the two paired chromosomes could "cross over" to exchange information. Morgan also proposed that Mendelian factors (genes) are arranged in a linear series on chromosomes, "similar to pearls on a string." He hypothetized that the interchange of genetic information broke the linkage between genes. The closer two genes were to one another on a chromosome, he theorized, the greater their chance of being inherited together. Conversely, genes located farther away from one another on the same chromosome were more likely to be separated during recombination. Therefore, Morgan correctly proposed that the strength of linkage between two genes depends upon the distance between the genes on the chromosome

Morgan, "Random segregation versus coupling in Mendelian inheritance," Science 34 (1911) 384.

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 245.3.

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Torres y Quevedo Invents the First Decision-Making Automaton 1912 – 1915

In 1912 Spanish civil engineer and mathematician, and Director of the Laboratory of Applied Mechanics at the Ateneo Científico, Literario y Artístico de MadridLeonardo Torres y Quevedo built the first decision-making automaton — a chess-playing machine that pit the machine’s rook and king against the king of a human opponent.  Torres's machine, which he called El Ajedrecista (The Chessplayer) used electromagnets under the board to "play" the endgame rook and king against the lone king.

"Well, not precisely play. But the machine could, in a totally unassisted and automated fashion, deliver mate with King and Rook against King. This was possible regardless of the initial position of the pieces on the board. For the sake of simplicity, the algorithm used to calculate the positions didn't always deliver mate in the minimum amount of moves possible, but it did mate the opponent flawlessly every time. The machine, dubbed El Ajedrecista (Spanish for “the chessplayer”), was built in 1912 and made its public debut during the Paris World Fair of 1914, creating great excitement at the time. It used a mechanical arm to make its moves and electrical sensors to detect its opponent's replies." (http://www.chessbase.com/newsprint.asp?newsid=1799, accessed 10-31-2012).

The implications of Torres's machines were not lost on all observers. On November 6, 1915 Scientific American magazine in their Supplement 2079 pp. 296-298 published an illustrated article entitled "Torres and his Remarkable Automatic Devices. He Would Substitute Machinery for the Human Mind."

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Brunsviga Sells 20,000 Variable-Toothed Gear Calculators in One Year 1912

In 1912 Brunsviga of Braunschweig, Germany boasted that they sold twenty thousand calculators based on the variable-toothed gear technology.

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"Ridgway Colors" 1912

American ornithologist Robert Ridgway self-published in Washington, D.C. Color Standards and Nomenclature. This evolved out of his 1886 book, A Nomenclature of Colors for Naturalists, and Compendium of Useful Knowledge for Ornithologists, which was one of the first color systems for bird identification.

"Ridgway was with the Smithsonian Institution from the age of 24 until his death. In 1912 he printed 5,000 copies of his book Color Standards and Nomenclature, one of the most influential works on color ever published. This was prompted by his problems with color descriptions in bird portraits. So he developed descriptions of 1,150 colors as well as the technology for making and printing them all; his wife cut all the color swatches by hand and pasted them into the books. In providing a textual description he used very colorful language--deep turtle green, clean fluoride green, malachite green, shamrock green, light Danube green, deep dull green. The books are historic artifacts in and of themselves. But it's important to note that the book is still very much in use. Everyone from stamp collectors to naturalists to chemists refers to 'Ridway colors' to identify specific shades"  (Daniel Lewis, "In Living Color. A Conversation with the Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science & Technology" by Traude Gomez-Rhine, Huntington Frontiers IV, #2 [2008] 7)

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The Theory of Continental Drift 1912

In 1912 German scientist, geophysicist, and meteorologist Alfred Wegener published from Gotha, Germany "Die Entstehung der Kontinente" in Mitteilung aus Justus Perthes’ geographischer Anstalt 58 (1912): 185-195; 253-256; 305-309.

Wegener originated the theory of continental drift in this paper on the origin of continents, which he conceived after being struck by the apparent correspondence in the shapes of the coastlines on the west and east sides of the Atlantic, and supported with extensive research on the geological and paleontological correspondences between the two sides. He postulated that 200 million years ago there existed a supercontinent (“Pangaea”), which began to break up during the Mesozoic era due to the cumulative effects of the “Eötvös force,” which drives continents towards the equator, and the tidal attraction of the sun and moon, which drags the earth’s crust westward with respect to its interior. Wegener’s theory attracted little interest until 1919, when he published the second edition of his treatise Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane.

Between 1919 and 1928 continental drift was the focus of much controversy and debate. Later the theory fell into obscurity because Wegener’s drift mechanism was shown to be untenable. With the discovery of new paleomagnetic evidence in the 1950s, and especially with the development of plate tectonics in the 1960s,  Wegener's theory of continental drift eventually became widely accepted. 

Wegener died at the early age of 50 on an arctic expedition at Eismitte in Greenland.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine, no. 2192. 

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Origins of the "Garrison-Morton" Bibliography of the History of Medicine 1912 – 1991

In 1912 American physician, medical historian, and bibliographer Colonel Fielding H. Garrison, as Assistant Librarian of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office in Washington, D. C. (now the National Library of Medicine), compiled a classified listing of classical works in the history of medicine entitled Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine in the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, U.S. Army, Arranged in Chronological Order. This list, containing over 2,000 items, was published in the Second Series of the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, Volume XVII, 89-178.  As Garrison wrote in 1933, the incentive to this enterprise came from Sir William Osler, who advised the then Librarian Brig. Gen. Walter D. McCaw as to the advantage of segregating the more valuable historic items in the Army Medical Library for safe keeping under glass. This was done, and an exhibition of some of the library's greatest treasures was held in 1910. By 1912 Garrison compiled his listing, and then used it "as a convenient scaffolding" for his An Introduction to the History of Medicine issued in 1913—a classic textbook which Garrison saw through four editions, the last in 1929.

In 1929 William H. Welch offered Garrison the post of Librarian and Lecturer on the History of Medicine at the Welch Medical Library at the new Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Garrison moved to Baltimore in 1930. A product of his continuing scholarship was an expansion of his 1912 list as "Revised students' check-list of texts illustrating the history of medicine, with references for collateral reading," Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine I (1933) 333-434. This list contained over 4,000 items. 

In 1943 a young English medical librarian Leslie T. Morton, working in London during the bombing in World War II, expanded upon Garrison's 1933 list, and issued A Medical Bibliography. A Check-List of Texts Illustrating the History of the Medical Sciences. Originally Compiled by the Late Field H. Garrison and now revised, with additions and annotations, by Leslie T. Morton. Morton's book of 412 pages in small type was drastically expanded from Garrison's 101-page journal article. Over the next forty-one years Morton put the work through four expanded editions, the last of which contained 7800 entries.  It became almost universally cited as "Garrison-Morton" or "Garrison and Morton".

In 1991, while working in San Franicisco, I was pleased to issue a revised fifth edition of the work, retitled to give credit to Morton as Morton's Medical Bibliography. An Annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton). For this edition I added 1051 new entries, and revised or rewrote 2313. From the 7800 entries in the fourth edition I expanded the work to 8927 annotated entries. To revise and expand the work I had to read and check virtually every word in Morton's fourth edition, and study the historical literature of most medical specialties up to the year 1980. In November 2013, when I created this database entry, the fifth edition remained a standard work. 

It was through the "Garrison-Morton" project that I learned to manipulate a large data set on a wide range of technical information, though at the time the only technology available was a series of about 15 Microsoft Word files, since MS Word could not handle a single file large enough to contain the complete text. Before the Internet I had to travel extensively to see a lot of the material cited in the bibliography, and I remember lugging a heavy laptop computer containing the wordprocessing files, and duly backing them up on a series of floppy discs after most writing sessions. 

The process of revising and expanding Morton's Medical Bibliography took me the better part of a year. Its publication coincided with the publication of the annotated bibliographical catalogue of my father's library, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine, on which my associate Diana Hook and I had labored for seven years. By the time these works were completed I had developed a love for writing large and complex historical bibliographical studies.

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Incunable of Poetic and Typographic Experimentation of the 20th Century 1912 – 1914

Excerpted in journals between 1912 and 1914, Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's sound poem and concrete poem, Zang Tumb Tumb (usually referred to as Zang Tumb Tuuum), was published as an artist's book by Marinetti's publishing company, Edizioni Futuriste di "Poesia", in Milan in 1914. An account of the Battle of Adrianople, in October 1912 during the First Balkan War, which Marinetti witnessed as a reporter for the French newspaper L'Intransigneant, the poem used what Marinetti called Parole in libertà, (words in freedom)— radically creative typography, different typefaces, some hand-arranged, and of various sizes to show explosions of grenades and shots of the weapons. The text uses onomatopoeias to express the variety of sounds and noises of battle. including emulations of sounds of gunfire and the clatter of telegraphic messages being transmitted and received.

"In 1914, Marinetti put these theories [his theories of language and typography] into practice when he published Zamg Tumb Tuum, a book that has been called 'the incunable of the entire poetic experimentation of our century.'. . .  It in fact opens with the 'Destruction of Syntax' manifesto and ends with the 'Technical Manifesto.' . . .Marinetti translated his impression into a poetic prose which makes full use of both the new kind of writing and the typographical freedom he advocated, mixing letter sizes, bold type and italics, and introducing all kinds of typographical fantasies" (Vincent Giroud, Parole in Liberta. Marinetti's Metal Book. Code(x) +2 Monograph Series No.  [2102] 5).

The poem is read aloud in Italian in the video below:

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Discovery of the Diffraction of X-Rays in Crystals 1912

After Röntgen’s discovery of x-rays in 1895, scientists speculated that the rays were actually composed of very short electromagnetic waves, but this supposition resisted proof, as it was impossible to construct a diffraction grating with intervals small enough to measure the wavelength. In 1912, German physicist Max von Laue, working in Berlin, came up with the idea of sending x-rays through crystals, arguing that the supposed regular structure of their atoms would approximate the intervals of a diffraction grating. Laue’s associate Walter Friedrich, together with student Paul Knipping, began experimenting on April 12, 1912, and found that the irradiation of a copper sulfate crystal with x-rays produced a regular pattern of dark points on a photographic plate placed behind the crystal. Laue’s discovery of the diffraction of x-rays in crystals, which Einstein called one of the most beautiful in physics, earned Laue the 1914 Nobel Prize in physics.

Laue’s discovery was of dual importance: it allowed the subsequent investigation of x-radiation by means of wavelength determination, and it provided the means for the Braggs’ structural analysis of crystals, for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1915. X-ray analysis of crystals, as initially developed by Sir Lawrence Bragg, became the most widely used technique for the investigation of molecular structure, leading to incalculable advances in both inorganic and organic chemistry, as well as molecular biology. After Max Perutz and his student John Kendrew first successfully applied Braggs’ x-ray crystallographic techniques to the study of the structure of proteins, these techniques were employed by hundreds of thousands of researchers around the world.

Laue, Max (1879-1960), Friedrich, Walter (1883-1968) & Knipping, Paul (1883-1935). "Interferenz-Erscheinungen bei Röntgenstrahlen. . . . Eine quantitative Prüfung der Theorie für die Interferenz-Erscheinungen bei Röntgenstrahlen," Sitzungsb. k. Bayer. Akad. Wiss., math.-phys. Klasse (1912) 303-322, 363-373, 5 photographic plates. 

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The First School of Journalism is Founded at Columbia University 1912

In 1892 newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer offered Columbia University's president Seth Low $2 million to set up the world's first school of journalism. However, the university initially turned down the money. Low's successor, Nicholas Murray Butler, was more receptive to the idea, and classes began on September 30, 1912, with a student body of about 100 undergraduate and graduate students from 21 countries.

In 1935 Dean Carl Ackerman led the school's transition to become the first graduate school of journalism in the United States. Classes of 60 students dug up stories in New York City during the day and drafted articles in a single, large newsroom in the journalism school at night. In addition to graduate programs, the Journalism School administers several prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the DuPont-Columbia Award. It also co-sponsors the National Magazine Award and publishes the Columbia Journalism Review, essentially a trade publication for journalists.

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Discovery of the "Bragg Relation" in Crystallography November 1912 – February 1913

Five months after Max von Laue published his discovery of the defraction of x-rays in crystals, English physicist William Lawrence Bragg, at the age of 22, discovered that the regular pattern of dots produced on a photographic plate by an X-ray beam passing through a crystal could be regarded as a reflection of electromagnetic radiation from planes in a crystal that were especially densely studded with atoms. From this work the younger Bragg derived the “Bragg relation” or Bragg's law (nλ = 2d sin O). This relates the wavelength of the X-ray to the angle at which such a reflection could occur.

“The Diffraction of Short Electromagnetic Waves by a Crystal,” read 11 Nov. 1912 and published in Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 17 (14 Feb. 1913) 43-57; W. H. Bragg, “X-rays and Crystals,” Nature 90 (23 Jan. 1913) 572.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine (1991) No. 311.

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"Our Vanishing Wild Life" 1913

In 1913 American zoologist, realtor, conservationist, author, poet and songwriter William Temple Hornaday published in New York at the press of the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) and Scribner's Our Vanishing Wild Life: Its Extermination and Preservation. This was "one of the first books wholly devoted to endangered wild animals" (in the words of historian Stephen Fox). http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amrvhtml/cnchron6.html, accessed 01-19-2009.

Hornaday "revolutionized museum exhibits by displaying wildlife in their natural settings, and is credited with discovering the American crocodile, saving the American bison and the Alaskan fur seal from extinction" (Wikipedia article on William Temple Hornaday, accessed 01-19-2009).

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The First European Work on Theoretical Astronautics 1913 – 1934

In 1913 French aeronautics engineer, pilot, and theoretician of space flight Robert Esnault-Pelterie published "Considérations sur les résultats d’un allégement indéfini des moteurs," Journal de physique théorique et appliqué, cinquième série, 3 (1913) 218-230.  

Esnault-Pelterie’s lecture on “the unlimited lightening of engines,” delivered in 1912 in both St. Petersburg, Russia, and Paris, was the first European work to demonstrate theoretically that space travel was possible.

“The lecture contains all the theoretical bases of self-propulsion, destroying the myth that rockets need atmospheric support and giving the real equation of motion. Anticipated is the use of auxiliary propulsion for guidance and complete maneuverability of rockets. Also contained are calculations of the escape velocity, the phases of a round-trip voyage to the Moon, and the times, velocities, and durations, of trips to the Moon, Mar s, and Venus, as well as thermal problems related notably to the surface facing the sun . . . . (Blosset, 9).

As noted above, the use of rockets for space travel had been discussed by the Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky  in his Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reactive Devices (1903, 1911-12). "Tsiolkovsky had grasped the principle of reaction flight as early as 1883, and his 'Exploration of Space Using Reactive Devices' contained the first mathematical exposition of the reaction principle operating in space. In ‘Issledovanie mirovykh prostranstv reaktivnymi priborami’ . . . Tsiolkovsky set forth his theory of the motion of rockets, established the possibility of space travel by means of rockets, and adduced the fundamental flight formulas" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

Tsiolkovsky’s work was published only in Russian, and remained little known to Western scientists until the 1920s. Whether Esnault-Pelterie (known as REP to friends and colleagues) knew of Tsiolkovsky's work before he wrote his 1912 paper is unclear. However, considering that he had published little up to this time, one wonders how he would have been invited to speak in Russia if he had not been in communication on these topics with people in Russia before this date. This leaves open the possibility that he may have had access to Tsiolkovsky's work in some form prior writing his paper. REP did not refer to Tsiolkovsky’s work in his 1912 paper-- at least not in the abridged form it which it was published-- but at the very minimum he must have been informed of Tsiolkovsky's work during his trip to Russia, as by this time Tsiolkovsky's paper had been published twice in Russian. What sort of reception his speech received seems also to be unknown. In his L’Astronautique  (1930) Esnault-Pelterie mentioned that his 1912 speech was never published in Russia. He also acknowledged Tsiolkovsky's contributions in print for the first time when he mentioned Tsiolkovsky's papers in the historical introduction (pp. 17-38) of his L’Astronautique.

Esnault-Pelterie’s 1912 lecture first appeared in print in the Journal de physique théorique et appliqué, but in abridged form, due to both space considerations and the trepidations of the Journal’s editor, who was shocked by Esnault-Pelterie’s ideas on space travel.

“REP deplored the exaggerated condensation of the lecture, which was the cause for an apparent divergence between Goddard’s and his own opinions concerning the possibility at the time of building vehicles capable of escaping from the earth’s gravitation. In fact, Goddard wanted only to send a projectile loaded with powder to the moon and observe its arrival by telescope. REP considered the conditions necessary for transporting living beings from one celestial body to another and returning them to the earth; his more pessimistic conclusions were based on considerations of the substantial initial mass required for a rather small final mass, in view of the limited means available at the time” (Blosset, “Robert Esnault-Pelterie: Space pioneer,” in Durant and James, First Steps toward Space [1974] 5-31; pp. 23-31 contain an English translation of the unabridged lecture).


Fourteen years after his initial publication on space travel, on June 8, 1927, REP gave a lecture at the Sorbonne before the Société Astronomique de France on rocket exploration of the upper atmosphere and the possibility of interplanetary travel, in which he communicated the results of his continuing theoretical research in astronautics; this lecture was published the following year under the title "L’Exploration par fusées de la très haute atmosphère et la possibilité des voyages interplanétaires." In his lecture Esnault-Pelterie devoted special attention to the problem of escape velocity necessary to overcome the earth’s gravitational pull, estimating this at 10,000 meters / second (22,369 mph); the accepted figure at present is c. 25,000 mph. This paper was published as a supplement to the March 1928 issue of the Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France.

Continuing to research rocketry and space travel, in 1930 REP published his most extensive work on the subject, entitled L'Astronautique. L’Astronautique was the first work to popularize the word astronautics among the scientific community. The book encompassed all that was then known about rocketry and space flight. The work was

"a veritable treatise on space vehicles that served as a basis for all later works on this subject. It is a very profound theoretical study based on the thorough knowledge of celestial mechanics, astrophysics, and ballistics, as well as physical chemistry and physiology. Nothing in it has yet been invalidated.

"This book is a basic text for all interested in astronautics. One needs only to scan the chapter titles to see that it is both a scientific and technical document and an encyclopedia of precious practical knowledge:

-Rocket Motion in Vacuum and Air

-Density and Composition of the Very High Atmosphere //-Expansion of Combination Gases through a Nozzle

-Combustion in a Chamber

-Possible Use of Rockets (high altitude exploration, launching projectiles to the moon, high-speed travel around the earth, and travel through the atmosphere)

-Interplanetary Travel (with sections on the conditions under which trips around the moon will be carried out, the design of the spaceship, guidance, navigation and piloting devices, the conditions for habitation).

"For these last points, [Esnault-Pelterie] states that the spaceship could be filled with pure oxygen, which would reduce the pressure to about a tenth that of the atmosphere . . . [He] also suggests that the spaceship, for its return to earth, be turned and braked first by its own engines (today’s retrorockets) and then by the use of a parachute" (Durant and James, First Steps toward Space, pp. 11-12).

In 1934 REP published L'Astronautique complément “in which he presented the practical conditions and the advantages of interplanetary trips” (Durant and James, p. 12). The work included studies of rocket motion, combustion gas expansion nozzles and combustion thermodynamics, as well as prophetic considerations of nuclear propulsion and the use of radioactive elements in rocketry.

 Von Braun & Ordway, History of Rocketry and Space Travel, 74-75.

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Moseley's Law in X-Ray Spectra 1913 – 1914

In 1913 and 1914 English physicist Henry G. J. Moseley published "The High-Frequency Spectra of the Elements,"  Philosophical Magazine 26 (1913): 1024-34; 27 (1914): 703-13. 1 plate.

Moseley's outstanding contribution to physics was the justification from physical laws of the previous empirical and chemical concept of the atomic number. This stemmed from his development of Moseley's Law concerning the characteristic x-rays that are emitted by atoms published in his paper of 1913. "It is historically important in quantitatively justifying the conception of the nuclear model of the atom, with all, or nearly all, positive charges of the atom located in the nucleus, and associated on an integer basis with atomic number. Until Moseley's work, 'atomic number' was merely an element's place in the periodic table, and was not known to be associated with any measureable physical quantity. Moseley was able to show that the frequencies of certain characteristic X-rays emitted from chemical elements are proportional to the square of a number which was close to the element's atomic number; a finding which supported van den Broek and Bohr's model of the atom in which the atomic number is the same as the number of positive charges in the nucleus of the atom" (Wikipedia article on Moseley's Law, accessed 07-10-2011). 

In 1913 Moseley, a member of Ernest Rutherford’s Manchester Institute, set out to test the doctrine of atomic number by mapping the characteristic K and L spectra of the elements. Using a modification of the x-ray spectroscopy techniques developed by the Braggs, Moseley “obtained the principal lines of the x-ray spectra of most elements by registering their ionization and photographic images. In November of that year he reported his results to Bohr as confirming the new theory of atomic constitutions and being ‘extremely simple.’ . . . He also succeeded in correcting the sequence of transition elements to be Fe-Co-Ni according to increasing ‘atomic number’ Z (rather than to their atomic weight A). That is, the neutral nickel atom possessed a higher nuclear charge and one electron more than the neutral cobalt atom, despite the fact that it had a smaller atomic weight” (Twentieth Century Physics I, pp. 158-59).

When World War I broke out Moseley left his research work at the University of Oxford to volunteer for the Royal Engineers of the British Army. He was assigned to the fighting force that invaded the region of Gallipoli, Turkey, in April 1915, as a telecommunications officer. During the Battle of Gallipoli on August 10, 1915 Moseley was shot and killed at the age of 27. Some prominent authorities have speculated that Moseley would have been deserving of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1916 — which went unawarded — if he had not died in the service of the British Army.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 407.

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Filed under: Science

Discovery of Nondisjunction 1913

In 1913 Calvin Bridges, a genetics student of Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University, discovered nondisjunction (non-disjunction)— the failure of chromosome pairs to separate properly during meiosis stage 1 or stage 2.

Bridges, "Non-Disjunction of the Sex Chromosomes of Drosophila," Journal of Experimental Zoology 15 (1913) 587-606.

Bridges expanded his research into "a masterful Ph.D. thesis"  entitled on "Non-disjunction as Proof of the Chromosome Theory of Heredity," Genetics 1, no. 2 (March 1916) 107-163.

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Using Cross-Over Data to Construct the First Genetic Map 1913

Soon after American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University presented his hypothesis that the strength of linkage between two genes depends upon the distance between the genes on the chromosome, his student Alfred Henry Sturtevant, then a 19-year-old undergraduate, working in Morgan's Fly Room, realized that if frequency of crossing over was related to distance, one could map out the genes on a chromosome. If the farther apart two genes were on a chromosome, the more likely it was that these genes would separate during recombination, Sturtevant recognized that the "proportion of crossovers could be used as an index of the distance between any two factors" (Sturtevant, 1913). Collecting a stack of laboratory data, Sturtevant went home and spent most of the night drawing the first chromosomal linkage map for the genes located on the X chromosome of fruit flies. He showed that the gene for any specific trait was in a fixed location (locus), and in his 1913 paper Sturtevant included the first genetic map with all its genes in the correct position, and also laid out the logic for genetic mapping. His maps proved that genes are arranged in a linear sequence along chromosomes and paved the way for genetic maps of other species besides Drosophila.

Sturtevant, "The Linear Arrangement of Six Sex-Linked Factors in Drosophila, as shown by their mode of Association," Journal of Experimental Zoology 14 (1913) 43-59. 

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 245.4. 

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The U. S. Post Office Begins Parcel Post Service January 1, 1913

"The service began on January 1, 1913. And begin it did. At the stroke of midnight Postmaster Edward M. Morgan in New York City and Postmaster General Hitchcock dropped packages addressed to each other into the mail, racing to be the first to use the service. They were not alone in looking to create a “first” out of the new service. These cups were the first objects officially mailed under the new service. But the first package to be delivered was 11 pounds of apples sent to New Jersey governor (and President-Elect) Woodrow Wilson. The Woodrow Wilson Club of Princeton deposited the apples at a local post office at precisely 12:01 a.m. By prearrangement, the carrier assigned to normally deliver the governor’s mail, David Gransom, received the parcel “before the cancelling ink was dry” and set off “driving furiously down the muddy street for the president elect’s home.” He delivered the apples to the waiting Wilson at 12:04 a.m. Wilson met Gransom at the door, signed for the package, and presented the carrier with the pencil" (http://www.npm.si.edu/parcelpost100/p3.html, accessed 11-07-2013).

"Parcel post service began on January 1, 1913 and was an instant success. During the first five days of service, 1,594 post offices reported handling over 4 million parcel post packages. The effect on the national economy was electric. Marketing through parcel post gave rise to great mail-order businesses. In addition, parcel post created an immediate demand for special packaging suitable for mailing the wide array of commodities considered deliverable under the system" (http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/parcelpost/intro.htm, accessed 11-07-2013).

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The Armory Show Introduces "Modern Art" to the United States February 17 – March 15, 1913

The International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, took place in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory from February 17 to March 15, 1913. It displayed about 1,250 paintings, sculptures, and decorative works by over 300 avant-garde European and American artists, including Impressionists, Fauvists, and Cubists. Known as the Armory Show, this exhibition is credited with introducing "modern art" to the United States.

"News reports and reviews were filled with accusations of quackery, insanity, immorality, and anarchy, as well as parodies, caricatures, doggerels and mock exhibitions. About the modern works, President Theodore Roosevelt declared, 'That's not art!' The civil authorities did not, however, close down, or otherwise interfere with, the show.

"Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place goes to Marcel Duchamp's Cubist/Futurist style Nude Descending a Staircase, painted the year before, in which he expressed motion with successive superimposed images, as in motion pictures. An art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled 'an explosion in a shingle factory,' and cartoonists satirized the piece" (Wikipedia article on Armory Show, accessed 03-13-2009).

In February 2015 a virtual recreation of the Armory Show prepared by the American Studies Program at the University of Virginia was available at this link.

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Marinetti's Manifesto of his Typographical Revolution May 11, 1913

In his manifesto of May 11, 1913, the title of which was translated into English as Destruction of Syntax—Radio Imagination—Words-in-Freedom, first published as an independent leaflet in Italian, futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote in a section entitled "Typographical Revolution":

"I have initiated a typographical revolution directed against the bestial, nauseating sort of book that contains passéist poetry or verse à la D'Annunzio—handmade paper that imitates models of the seventeenth century, festooned with helmets, Minervas, Apollos, decorative capitals in red ink with loops and squiggles, vegetables, mythological ribbons from missals, epigraphs, and Roman numerals. The book must be the Futurist expression of Futurist thought. Not only that. My revolution is directed against the so-called typographical harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and reflux, the leaps and bursts of style that run through the page itself. For that reason we will use, in the very same page, three or four different colors of ink, and as many as twenty different tpographical fonts if necessary. For examples: italics for a series of swift or similar sensations, boldface for violent onomatopoeias, etc. The typographical revolution and the multicolored variety in the letters will mean that I can double the expressive force of words.

I oppose the decorative and precious asesthetic of Mallarmé and his search for the exotic word, the unique and irreplaceable, elegant, suggestive, exquisite adjective. I have no wish to suggest an idea of sensation by means of passéist graces and affectations: I want to seize them brutally and fling them in the reader's face.

I also oppose Mallarmé's static idea. The typographic revolution that I've proposed will enable me to imprint words (words already free, dynamic, torpedoing forward) every velocity of the stars, clouds, airplanes, trains, waves, explosives, drops of seafoam, molecules, and atoms.

And so I shall realize the fourth principle contained in my "First Manefesto of Futurism" (20 February 1909): 'We affirm that the beauty of the world has been enriched by a new form of beauty: the beauty of speed' " (Rainy, Poggi & Wittman eds., Futurism: An Anthology [2009] 149-50).

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The Structure and Dynamics of the Atom July – November 1913

In July and November 1913 Danish physicist Niels Bohr published "On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules," Philosophical Magazine. S. 6, Vol. 26 (1913) 1-25, 476-502, 857-875. Bohr's three part paper began modern theories of the atom incorporating quantum mechanics. In the paper he postulated the existence of stationary states of an atomic system whose behavior may be described in terms of classical mechanics, while the transition of the system from one stationary state to another represents a non-classical process accompanied by emission or absorption of one quantum of homogeneous radiation whose frequency is connected with its energy by Planck’s equation. Bohr introduced the theory of electrons traveling in orbits around the atom's nucleus, the chemical properties of each element being largely determined by the number of electrons in the outer orbits of its atoms. Bohr also introduced the idea that an electron could drop from a higher-energy orbit to a lower one, in the process emitting a photon (light quantum) of discrete energy. Bohr received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1922 for his study of the structure of atoms and of the radiation which emanates from them, as enunciated in this three-part paper.

“Atoms had been postulated in ancient times. As the year 1913 began, almost unanimous consensus had been reached, after much struggle, that atoms are real. Even before that year it had become evident that atoms have substructure, but one one yet knew by what rules their parts moved. During that year, Bohr, fully conscious that these motions could not possibly be described terms of classical physics, but that it nevertheless was essential to describe a link between classical and quantum physics, gave the first firm and lasting direction toward an understanding of atomic structure and atomic dynamics. In that sense he may be considered the father of the atom” (Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times [1991] 152).

Mehra & Rechenberg, Historical Development of Quantum Theory 1, 189-92. Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times (1991) 149-55.

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Filed under: Science

Discovery of X-Ray Crystallography July 1913

Continuing their research on x-ray crystallography, the father and son team of physicists at Cambridge, William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg, constructed the first X-ray spectrometer using crystals as gratings, using a known wavelength to determine the distances between atomic planes—and thus the structure—of crystalline substances. By the end of 1913 the Braggs reduced the problem of crystal structure analysis to a standard procedure.

W. H. and W. L. Bragg, “The Reflection of X-rays by Crystals,Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 88A (1 July 1913): 428-30 and 889A (22 Sept. 1913): 246-48.

The Braggs shared the 1915 Nobel Prize for Physics "For their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-ray." They are the only father and son team to share a Nobel Prize. Lawrence Bragg is the youngest Nobel Laureate, having received the award at the age of 25. Nearly forty years later he was the director of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, when the epochal discovery of the structure of DNA was reported by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.

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Thomas J. Watson President of CTR 1914

Thomas J. Watson became president of Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, and focused the company on electric card-tabulating equipment for businesses.

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Edward Kleinschmidt Invents the Teletype 1914

German American inventor Edward Kleinschmidt invented the teletype, which replaced Morse code clickers in delivering news to newspapers. The teletype was first used by United Press.

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The Audit Bureau of Circulation, the First Circulation Auditing Organization, is Founded 1914

To combat false and misleading claims for circulation, advertisers, advertising agencies, and newspapers founded the Audit Bureau of Circulations. This was the world's first circulation auditing organization.

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Edwin Armstrong Invents the Regenerative Circuit 1914

In his junior year of college studying electrical engineering at Columbia University American Edwin Armstrong invented and patented the regenerative circuit from his parents' home in Yonkers, New York.

"Lee De Forest filed a patent in 1916 that became the cause of a contentious lawsuit with the prolific inventor Armstrong, whose patent for the regenerative circuit had been issued in 1914. The lawsuit lasted twelve years, winding its way through the appeals process and ending up at the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in favor of De Forest, although the experts agree that the incorrect judgment had been issued.

"At the time the regenerative receiver was introduced, vacuum tubes were expensive and consumed lots of power, with the added expense and encumbrance of heavy batteries or AC transformer and rectifier. So this design, getting most gain out of one tube, filled the needs of the growing radio community and immediately thrived. Although the superheterodyne receiver is the most common receiver in use today, the regenerative radio made the most out of very few parts" (Wikipedia article on regenerative circuit, accessed 11-10-2009).

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William Brinton Issues "Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts", the First American Book on Information Graphics 1914

In 1914 Willard C. Brinton published Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts in New York at The Engineering Magazine Company. This was the first book on information graphics published in the United States.

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Summarizing the State of the Computer / Calculator Industry Prior to World War I July 24 – July 27, 1914

The Napier Tercentenary Celebration  marking the three hundredth anniversary of the publication of Napier's Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio (1614), was held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh from July 24 to July 27, 1914 — just five days before the start of World War I. Participants in the exhibition included individuals and companies from Scotland, England, France, and Germany. The meeting was intended to include a colloquium on the mathematics of computation, but that was canceled because war was considered imminent.

A celebration of Napier's pivotal role in the history of calculation, the exhibition featured displays of many different types of calculating machines, as well as exhibits of other aids to calculation such as mathematical tables, the abacus and slide rules, planimeters and other integrating devices, and ruled papers and nomograms. These were described in the Napier Tercentenary Celebration. Handbook to the Exhibition, which contained separate sections, with chapters by various contributors, devoted to each type of calculating device. Among the notable chapters is Percy E. Ludgate's "Automatic Calculating Machines" (pp. 124-27): apart from Ludgate's "On a proposed analytical machine" (Scientific Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society 12 [1909]: 77-91), this chapter contains the only discussion of his improvements to Babbage's Analytical Engine (none of which was ever realized). Also of note is W. G. Smith's "Notes on the Special Development of Calculating Ability" (pp. 60-68), discussing human "lightning calculators" and mathematically gifted "idiot savants," such as were employed by Gauss. Prior to the advent of electronic digital computers, these human computers were often faster than their mechanical counterparts.

The most widely used tools for calculation at the time of the Napier tercentenary were mathematical tables, which are thoroughly surveyed, explained, and described in the Handbook (bibliographical descriptions of the rare mathematical tables exhibited were published the following year in the Napier Tercentenary Memorial Volume. The Handbook also contains a large illustrated section on calculating machines, which were divided into four types: (1) stepped-gear machines based on the Leibniz wheel, such as those of Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar; (2) machines with variable-toothed gears, such as the Brunsviga; (3) key-set machines like those made by Burroughs; and (4) key-driven machines such as those made by Felt and Tarrant.

The Handbook was published in two forms: a softcover version presented to those who registered for the exhibition; and a hardcover version issued for sale under the title Modern Instruments and Methods of Calculation. Relatively few copies of the softcover version seem to have been distributed at the exhibition, partly because the exhibition took place in Edinburgh, but mainly because war broke out just after it began. Most copies were bound in cloth and sold in London.

"The events of the First World War caused no less upheaval in the world of computing than in the rest of society. A great many technical changes, such as the ever-increasing use of punched-card accounting machines, were to cause computing to assume a different character in the time between the two World Wars. Thus the Handbook should be viewed as a report on the state of the art just before these changes were to begin taking place" (Williams 1982, [x]).  

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2001) no. 322.

(This entry was last revised on April 28, 2014.)

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World War I Begins August 1 – August 3, 1914

On August 1, 1914 Germany declared war on Russia, and on August 3 declared war on France, beginning World War I.

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Destruction of the University Library at Leuven August 25, 1914

On August 25, 1914, as they plundered the city of Leuven, the invading German Army destroyed the library of the Catholic University of Leuven, the oldest and most prominent university in Belgium, founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V.

Along with the historic libary building about 300,000 books, and an untold number of manuscripts were lost, including irreplaceable medieval and renaissance treasures. The destruction of this library was part of brutal retaliations by the Germans for the extensive activity of "francs-tireurs" against the occupying forces.

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Lowenheim's Contribution to the Lowenheim-Skolem Theorem 1915

In 1915 German mathematician Leopold Löwenheim of Berlin published Über Möglichkeiten im Relativkalkül, containing the first appearance of what is now known as the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem, the first theorem of modern logic, anticipating Kurt Gödel’s completeness theorem of 1930. Löwenheim's paper was first published in Mathematischen Annalen 76 (1915) 447-470. A summary and English translation are in van Heijenoort, From Frege to Gödel (1967) 228-51.

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Mendelian Laws are Demonstrated by Observable Events Occurring in Cells 1915

In 1915 American zoologist and geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, and his students and co-workers in the Fly Room at Columbia University: Alfred H. Sturtevant, Hermann J. Muller and Calvin B. Bridges published The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity. Summarizing the research the team had done since 1910, this widely read textbook presented evidence that genes are arranged linearly on chromosomes, and that Mendelian laws are demonstrated by observable events occurring in cells.

"By 1915 Morgan and his co-workers were able to present the locations on a genetic map for 30 distinct genes of the four Drosophila chromosomes" (Brock pp. 14-15)

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Discovery of Bacteriophages: Viruses that Infect Bacteria 1915

In 1915 English bacteriologist Frederick William Twort of the University of London discovered discovered bacteriophages, a type of virus that attacks bacteria (the term bacteriophage was coined by Félix d’Herelle, who in 1917 independently confirmed Twort’s discovery).

The discovery of bacteriophage began an immensely fruitful line of research that produced, among other things, Avery’s demonstration that DNA is the basic material responsible for genetic transformation (1944) and Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase’s “Waring Blender” experiment showing that DNA is the carrier of genetic information in virus reproduction (1952). Much of this work was done by members of the “phage group,” founded in 1940 by Max Delbrück, Salvador Luria and Hershey. The establishment of the group’s annual summer “phage course” at Cold Spring Harbor in 1945 attracted a great number of researchers to the field, one of whom was the young James Watson, who studied with Delbrück at Cal Tech and obtained his Ph.D. in 1950 at Indiana University under Luria. Watson began his scientific career by investigating bacterial viruses, attempting to study the fate of DNA of infecting virus particles.

“The greater number of workers assimilated into the Phage Group through the Cold Spring Harbor course, as well as the easier access to new tools such as radioactive tracers and ultracentrifuges, engendered more rapid progress during the next seven years. In 1952 the fifty or so stalwarts, gathered at the Abbaye de Royaumont near Paris for the first International Phage Symposium, knew by then that the phage DNA is the sole carrier of the hereditary continuity of the virus and that the details uncovered hitherto concerning the physiology and genetics of phage reproduction were to be understood in terms of the structure and function of DNA. In the very next year, the discovery of the Watson-Crick structure of DNA and the proposed mechanism of its replication provided the fundament for that understanding” (Stent, “Introduction: Waiting for the paradox,” in Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, ed. J. Cairns, G. Stent and J. Watson [1992], 3-8, quoting from p. 6).

Twort, "An investigation on the nature of ultra-microscopic viruses," The Lancet 2 (1915) 1241-43.

Brock, The Emergence of Bacterial Genetics, 113-14. Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation, 45-46. 

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The First Transcontinental Telephone Call January 25, 1915

On January 25, 1915 the AT&T long-distance telegraph network, the development of which began in 1885, finally reached from New York to San Francisco, allowing Alexander Graham Bell in New York and Thomas Watson in San Francisco to participate in the first transcontinental telephone call.

"Four locations participated in the first call. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and co-founder of AT&T, led a group of dignitaries in New York. His one-time assistant Thomas Watson, led a group in San Francisco. AT&T President Theodore Vail [cousin of telegraphy inventor Alfred Vail] spoke from Jekyll Island, Ga. And U.S. President Woodrow Wilson spoke from the White House.  

At one point during the call, someone asked Professor Bell if he would repeat the first words he ever said over the telephone. He obliged, picking up the phone and repeating 'Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.' To which Watson, in San Francisco, replied, 'It would take me a week now.' "(http://www.corp.att.com/history/nethistory/transcontinental.html, accessed 01-24-2010).

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The First National Opinion Poll? 1916

In 1916 the Literary Digest, an influential general-interest weekly magazine published by Funk & Wagnalls, conducted a national survey of voter preference, mailing out millions of postcards and counting the returns, partly as a circulation-raising exercise. Using these results the Digest correctly predicted the election of Woodrow Wilson as president of the United States. This may be the first national opinion poll.

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Plant Succession 1916

In 1916 American plant ecologist Frederic E. Clements published from the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation. This was a seminal work of ecological science, establishing a dynamic model of species succession toward an eventual "climax" equilibrium under the influence of climate and other factors in a given habitat.

"From his observations of the vegetation of Nebraska and the western United States, Clements developed one of the most influential theories of vegetation development. Vegetation cover does not represent a permanent condition but gradually changes over time. Clements suggested that the development of vegetation can be understood as a sequence of stages resembling the development of an individual organism. After a complete or partial disturbance, vegetation grows back (under ideal conditions) towards a mature "climax state," which describes the vegetation best suited to the local conditions. Though any actual instance of vegetation might follow the ideal sequence towards climax, it can be interpreted in relation to that sequence, as a deviation from it due to non-ideal conditions" (Wikipedia article on Frederick Clements, accessed 01-19-2009).

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General Relativity 1916

In 1916 Albert Einstein published Der Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie in the periodical, Annalen der Physik issued from Leipzig. This was the first exposition of general relativity.

From the bibliographical standpoint, the publication of this work is rather unusual for a journal article. There are three different issues—the journal publication, the true offprint from the journal (extremely rare), and a commercially published offprint or separate edition. This separate edition went through several reprintings which are easily confused with the first printing. See Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 695 & 696. 

A summary of the different aspects of the theory linked to more details on different aspects follows:

"General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the state-of-the art description of gravity in modern physics. It unifies special relativity and Newton's law of universal gravitation, and describes gravity as a property of the geometry of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the four-momentum (mass-energy and linear momentum) of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations.

"The predictions of general relativity differ significantly from those of classical physics, especially concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Examples of such differences include gravitational time dilation, the gravitational redshift of light, and the gravitational time delay. General relativity's predictions have been confirmed in all observations and experiments to date. Although general relativity is not the only relativistic theory of gravity, it is the simplest theory that is consistent with experimental data. However, unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental being how general relativity can be reconciled with the laws of quantum physics to produce a complete and self-consistent theory of quantum gravity.

"Einstein's theory has important astrophysical applications. It points towards the existence of black holes—regions of space in which space and time are distorted in such a way that nothing, not even light, can escape—as an end-state for massive stars. There is evidence that such stellar black holes as well as more massive varieties of black hole are responsible for the intense radiation emitted by certain types of astronomical objects such as active galactic nuclei or microquasars. The bending of light by gravity can lead to the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, where multiple images of the same distant astronomical object are visible in the sky. General relativity also predicts the existence of gravitational waves, which have since been measured indirectly; a direct measurement is the aim of projects such as LIGO. In addition, general relativity is the basis of current cosmological models of an expanding universe" (Wikipedia article on General Relativity, accessed 12-22-2008).

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Filed under: Science

Napoleon's Penis, and Other Napoleon Memorabilia 1916 – 1924

In 1916 the distinguished London antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros bought the penis of Napoleon Bonaparte from the descendants of Abbé Ange Paul Vignali, who had given the last rites to Napoleon on St. Helena. Vignali brought the penis along with a collection of more conventional mementos of Napoleon to Corsica, and died in a vendetta in 1828. He passed on the mementos to his sister, who at her death passed them on to her son, Charles-Marie Gianettini. After holding the Vignali collection of Napoleon memorabilia for eight years, Maggs sold it to the legendary American antiquarian bookseller Dr. A.S.W Rosenbach of Philadelphia for £400 (then $2000) in 1924. 

Though the authenticity of the other Napoleon memorabilia in the Vignali collection was never in doubt, authenticity of the penis, which resembled something "like a maltreated strip of buckskin shoe-lace or shriveled eel," "rested mainly on a memoir by the valet, Ali (Saint-Denis), published in 1852 in the celebrated Revue des [Deux] Mondes. Ali claimed that he and Vignali had removed certain unnamed portions of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy" (Charles Hamilton, Auction Madness [1980] 54-55).

With his characteristic flair Dr. Rosenbach received considerable publicity for this purchase.  According to the May 12, 1924 issue of Time Magazine:

"The collection numbers about 40 pieces, half of which consist of documents. The most interesting are: death mask from the matrix moulded by Dr. Antomarchi, Napoleon's doctor; a letter from Antomarchi to Vignali; the last cup ever used by the ex-French Emperor, a silver goblet inscribed with the Imperial arms; a silver knife, fork and spoon also engraved with the Imperial arms; a shirt, handkerchiefs, pair of white breeches, white pique waistcoats; Church vestments from the Longwood Chapel, some marked with the Imperial cypher; last, the most gruesome relic, a mummified tendon taken from the ex-Emperor's body during the postmortem" (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,718332,00.html, accessed 08-02-2009).

Dr. Rosenbach had the penis "enshrined" in an elaborate blue morocco and velvet box. In 1927 he exhibited it, along with the other Vignali relics, in the Museum of French Art in New York.

Though I had heard of this most unusual purchase in Dr. Rosenbach's career I was not aware that The Rosenbach Company had issued a catalogue  describing the collection until a copy of Description of the Vignali Collection of the Relics of Napoleon (1924) was offered early in 2010. This I acquired, and we mounted a scan of the 20 page catalogue in the Traditions section of our website.

In that catalogue the description of item number 9 reads as follows:

"A mummifled tendon taken from Napoleon's body during the post  mortem. (The authenticity of this remarkable relic has lately [in 1852!] been confirmed by the publication in the Revue des Deux Mondes of a posthumous memoir by St. Denis, in which he expressly states that he and Vignali took away small pieces of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy.)"

As historic as the Vignali collection was, it was not readily salable. According to the standard biography, Rosenbach by Edwin Wolf II and John F. Fleming (1960), a work which was inspirational in my early career, the Vignali collection remained in the inventory of The Rosenbach Company for 23 years until it was finally purchased by collector Donald Hyde in 1947.

But wait, the story continues:

According to Charles Hamilton, when Donald Hyde died in 1966 his widow, Mary, also a serious collector, turned the Vignali collection over to Dr. Rosenbach's successor, John Fleming. Fleming in turn sold it to dealer Bruce Gimelson for $35,000. Finding the collection difficult to resell, as had Maggs and Rosenbach, Gimelson consigned it to Christie's in London for sale en bloc at a reserve price equal to his cost, but with no success. When the collection failed to sell London tabloids ran the naughty headline, "Not Tonight, Josephine!"

Eight years later Gimelson consigned the collection in Paris at Drouot Rive Gauche. This time the collection was dispersed, and the penis was purchased by John K. Lattimer, professor emeritus and former chairman of urology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, for the equivalent of $3000. The object fit in well with other historical objects in Lattimer's collection:

"Dr. John Lattimer possessed Abraham Lincoln's bloodstained collar and a treasure trove of items from his own idiosyncratic relationships to some of the most important historical events of the 20th century. He was an attending urologist to Nazi prisoners at the Nuremberg trials and had acquired Herman Goering's suicide vial. He worked on the autopsy of John F. Kennedy and possessed upholstery from the president's limousine in Dallas" ("The Twisted Story of Napoleon's Privates" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92126411, accessed 05-23-2010).

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The Standard Work on Hot-Metal Casting and Composition 1916

In 1916 engineer Lucien Alphonse Legros, son of the painter Alphonse Legros, and writer John Cameron Grant published Typographical Printing-Surfaces. The Technology and Mechanism of their Production (London, 1916).  This 732 page work, with 609 figures in the text and 109 plates, became the standard and most authoritative work on hot-metal casting and composition technology. It also contained a complete listing of British patents pertaining to printing through 1912, and American patents through 1913.

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Destruction of the Doves Press Type and its Digital Revival in 2013 1916 – 2013

On December 21, 2013 The Economist published an article, with unattributed authorship, entitled "The fight over the Doves. A legendary typefaces gets a second life." This article provided valuable insight into the personality and motivation of Thomas James (T. J.) Cobden-Sanderson of the Doves Press and bindery, relationship with his partner Emery Walker, his peculiar efforts to destroy the famous Doves Press type font, and its digital revival by Robert Green in the 21st century. Near the end of the article there was another meaningful detail concerning the impact of personal computing on type design: In the 1970s it was estimated that there were about 7,000 typefaces; in 2013, with the availability of cheap software for designing scalable digital fonts, there might have been around 200,000.  Portions of the article are quoted below:

"ON DARK evenings in late 1916, a frail 76-year-old man could often be seen shuffling furtively between The Dove, a pub in west London, and the green and gold turrets of Hammersmith Bridge. Passers-by paid no attention, for there was nothing about Thomas Cobden-Sanderson’s nightly walks to suggest that he was undertaking a peculiar and criminal act of destruction.

Between August 1916 and January 1917 Cobden-Sanderson, a printer and bookbinder, dropped more than a tonne of metal printing type from the west side of the bridge. He made around 170 trips in all from his bindery beside the pub, a distance of about half a mile, and always after dusk. At the start he hurled whole pages of type into the river; later he threw it like bird seed from his pockets. Then he found a small wooden box with a sliding lid, for which he made a handle out of tape—perfect for sprinkling the pieces into the water, and not too suspicious to bystanders.

In part it was personal animosity that inspired this unusual crime. Cobden-Sanderson wanted to keep the type from Emery Walker, his former friend and business partner, with whom he was feuding. In part it was passion for his craft. It pained him to imagine the type one day used in books other than those he had so carefully printed and imbued with near-religious significance. But it was also a loathing of the technological change that had transformed the world during his lifetime. He abhorred mechanical industry, and only by consigning the type to the Thames, he wrote in his diary, could he guarantee it would never be used in “a press pulled otherwise than by the hand and arm of man”.

Hung out to dry

A hundred years later and a few miles across the city, lines of Doves type flash onto the touchscreen of an iPhone. Robert Green scrolls through the text with his finger. “It’s eccentric,” he says. “The more you look at it the stranger you realise it is.” Mr Green has stared at it longer than most. For three years he has been crafting a digital reproduction of the famous face—the first fully usable Doves font since the original metal pieces were swallowed by the Thames. In search of perfect curves and precise serifs, he reckons he has redrawn it at least 120 times. “I’m not really sure why I started. In the end it took over my life.”

Intrepid fans have occasionally tried to recover pieces of the type from the river, but no one has ever found any, so Mr Green had to beg and borrow Doves books as a reference. That sounds simple—yet the uneven printing that letterpress-lovers cherish made tracing the type impossible. Once ink hits paper, no single letter is reproduced identically. Guessing the shape of the metal that made the marks takes time and patience. Guess wrong, and the error is imperceptible at first; but lined up in text the letter looks awkward, the typeface distracting.

That painstaking process is similar to the technique Cobden-Sanderson and Walker used to create the Doves type, itself a confection of two earlier designs. Doves owes most to the type of Nicholas Jenson, a Venetian printer from the 15th century whose clear and elegant texts shunned the gothic blackletter favoured by print’s early pioneers. A few letters were added, and others redrawn. The arrow-straight descender of its lower case ‘y’ divides critics; purists lament the thick crossbar of the upper case ‘H’. Most people neither notice nor care. “No more graceful Roman letter has ever been cut and cast,” opined A.W. Pollard, a contemporary critic, in the Times. Simon Garfield, a modern writer, celebrates its rickety form, which looks “as if someone had broken into the press after hours and banged into the compositor’s plates....”

"Cobden-Sanderson was 59 and Walker 48 when the pair began their partnership in 1900. Their story is told vividly in Marianne Tidcombe’s book, “The Doves Press”. Cobden-Sanderson had given up law in his 40s to open his bindery. Walker owned a photo-engraving business directly opposite, across a narrow ginnel. Walker’s business was large and expanding; Cobden-Sanderson’s partly funded by his wife, Anne. The couple were well connected. She was an outspoken suffragette and the daughter of Richard Cobden, a liberal reformer who had helped launch The Economist. In 1908 Cobden-Sanderson attended the wedding of Winston Churchill, as a guest of the bride.

Both Cobden-Sanderson and Walker were part of the group of artists and craftsmen that gathered around William Morris, a designer whose London residence stood near their workshops. In 1887 it was Cobden-Sanderson who suggested a new committee be named the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, and in so doing christened the movement. The following year a lecture on fine printing by Walker—attended by Oscar Wilde—inspired Morris to found the Kelmscott Press. It aimed to produce illustrated books as ornate as those sold by the pioneers of print, and began a fashion for private presses lasting throughout the 20th century.

Walker’s contacts and knowledge of printing were fundamental to Kelmscott’s success. When Morris died in 1896, Cobden-Sanderson (pictured, on the right) suggested Walker and he should set up a press of their own. Walker agreed. Anne Cobden-Sanderson would provide the capital (£1,600) and cover any losses. Cobden-Sanderson would draw a small wage, but the two men would share equally in the profits. Should the partnership dissolve, Walker could take away a fount of the type they intended to design, for his own use...."

"Books from Morris’s Kelmscott Press were heavily illustrated, densely printed, proudly medieval. Those from the Doves Press are plain, simple, modern—decorated only by coloured initials drawn by Edward Johnston (who designed a typeface for London Underground which it still uses). “Paradise Lost”, issued in 1902, made the firm’s reputation. Yet the five-volume “English Bible”, which busied the press from 1902 to 1905, is its masterpiece....

Despite this success, the partners fell out. The press was only one of Walker’s many interests. Kept occupied by his own business and a full diary of committee work, he made only brief appearances to check on the press. Cobden-Sanderson raged that he was left alone to supervise the work. Yet it is not at all clear that the obsessive, perfectionist bookbinder would have welcomed Walker’s active involvement. When Walker did offer opinions, Cobden-Sanderson railed against his taste. After his death a former apprentice wrote that his egotism was “almost pathological”, and that “he lacked the power of co-operation almost entirely”.

In 1906 Cobden-Sanderson asked to sever their arrangement. Because he hoped to continue the press alone, he offered Walker a cash payment in lieu of the type. Walker refused, beginning a long dispute that saw Cobden-Sanderson ban him from entering the press. “Nothing on earth will now induce me to part with the type,” he wrote to a friend. “I am what, he does not appear to realise, a Visionary and a Fanatic, and against a Visionary and a Fanatic he will beat himself in vain.” Sydney Cockerell, a friend and curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, suggested a compromise. Cobden-Sanderson would continue the press, retaining sole use of the type until his death, when it would pass to Walker. Both men accepted the solution, and in July 1909 their partnership came to an end.

Yet Cobden-Sanderson was already plotting to break the agreement. Unknown to Walker, at the height of their dispute he had asked the Scottish foundry that guarded their font to send him all the remaining pieces of Doves type, as well as the punches and matrices that would be needed to cast more. For several years it sat in his bindery, while he pondered whether or not to go through with his plan. Forced to cut expenses in order to keep the Doves Press alive, he moved in with it, setting up a lonely bedroom in the bindery attic (his wife went to live with her sister). Erratic diary entries suggest a return of the depressions that had haunted his youth. In 1913 he jettisoned the matrices from Hammersmith Bridge, rendering new type impossible. When he eventually retired three years later, the rest of the font went too.

Digital craftsmen

Cobden-Sanderson might well be angry that his act of criminal destruction has been reversed by the technological progress he abhorred. Yet there are aspects of today’s typographic industries that would please the old bookbinder. The Arts and Crafts luminaries dreamed of a social revolution that would rejuvenate cottage industries; thanks to digital technology, that is now happening. The type business is splintering into many thousands of tiny studios. Cheap software is encouraging designers of all stripes to try their hands at typography. Connoisseurs in the 1970s thought there were about 7,000 usable typefaces; some peg today’s tally at nearer 200,000. John Collins of MyFonts, an online retailer, says bestsellers on his site reap around $20,000 per month, enough to tempt talented novices to quit their day jobs.

Cobden-Sanderson might also approve of growing public awareness of typographic design. Word processors have made heroes and villains of a few famous types, and spurred people to search for rare ones to jazz up posters and wedding invitations (which, though hardly the great works for which it was designed, are the most likely market for the new Doves type, on sale for £40). Brand-conscious firms increasingly commission their own fonts. Articles in The Economist are set in Ecotype, an exclusive typeface; the governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Britain have recently designed their own.

Cobden-Sanderson had told no one of his intention to dispose of the type, for fear his plans might be thwarted, but once he had done the deed he wanted the world to know. In 1917 he wrote to subscribers to announce that the Doves Press would close. Accompanying this final catalogue was an enigmatic coda, revealing that the type had been “bequeathed” to the Thames. The Times soon published a glittering review of the press’s work, regretting only that its books were “almost too immaculately perfect”. But the newspaper also became the platform for a flurry of angry letters—not least from Walker’s solicitors, alerting the wider public to the dispute. Cockerell, who had forged the agreement Cobden-Sanderson so single-mindedly ignored, wrote to him in dismay: “I believe that you will come to see that your sacrifice to the River Thames was neither a worthy nor an honourable one.”

Cobden-Sanderson died, unrepentant, in 1922. Walker sued his widow both for the cost of producing the type (£500) and for a portion of the money it might still have earned. He argued that the type’s beauty had helped make the press’s books successful; she countered that the books had granted fame to the type. No judge ever ruled on that conundrum, for the case was settled out of court. Anne probably paid about £700 for her husband’s iniquity, more than half her initial investment in the press. She died shortly afterwards, in 1926, and her ashes were placed alongside his in a wall at the bottom of the bindery garden, which backs onto the Thames. Floods have since washed both of them away." (http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21591793-legendary-typeface-gets-second-life-fight-over-doves, accessed 12-31-2013).

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The Proclamation of the Irish Republic April 23, 1916

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a broadside roughly 30 x 20 inches in size, was printed in an edition of around 1000 copies on Sunday, April 23, 1916 in advance of the Easter Rising in Ireland, which began on April 24, 1916. The reading of the proclamation by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office on Sackville Street (now called O'Connell Street), Dublin's main thoroughfare, marked the beginning of the Rising.

In the Proclamation the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, styling itself the "Provisional Government of the Irish Republic,"proclaimed Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom. 

The proclamation was printed secretly on an old and poorly maintained Wharfedale Stop Cylinder Press in the printing office that had been set up by James Connolly in the basement in the original Liberty Hall in Beresford Place, Dublin. Because of its secret printing problems arose which affected the layout and design. The typesetters, Willie O'Brien, Michael Molloy and Christopher Brady, lacked a sufficient supply of type, and as a result there are various examples of wrong font in the text. The headline of the proclamation, "IRISH REPUBLIC", was also set in a very worn sans serif type, with the right foot of the first capital R defective. 

Roughly 30 copies of the original printing have survived, of which eight are preserved in Dublin institutions, and three in the United States.

Various copies have appeared in the sale rooms since 1998:

5 December 1998. Mealy’s, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. £26,000.

1 January 2001. Whyte’s, Dublin. £52,000.

11 December 2003. Sotheby’s, London (L03409). Lot 5. £69,600.

8 July 2004. Sotheby’s, London (L04407). Lot 9. £123,200.

16 December 2004. Sotheby’s, London (L04413), Lot 35. £168,000.

12 June 2005. Whyte’s, Dublin. €125,000.

12 April 2006. James Adam & Sons, Dublin. Lot 404. €200,000.

17 April 2007. James Adam & Sons, Dublin. Lot 409, €240,000.

15 April 2008. Adam’s and Mealy’s, Dublin. Lot 587. €360,000.

11 December 2008. Sotheby’s, New York (N08501). Lot 179. Estimate $180,000 to $275,000. No sale.

28 April 2009. Adam’s and Mealy’s, Dublin. Lot 630. €220,000.

The best account that I have found of the complex, yet well documented, printing of the Proclamation, and of the numerous reprints which may easily be confused with the originals, is in the Typefoundry blog entry of January 6, 2010 of James Mosley of the Typography and Graphic Communication Department at the University of Reading (accessed 07-26-2011).

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The Russian Revolution October 1916 – October 25, 1917

In October 1916 the October Revolution began. It was known as the October Revolution (Октя́брьская револю́ция, Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya), officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution (Вели́кая Октя́брьская социалисти́ческая револю́ция, Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya), and commonly referred to as Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution.

This seizure of state power was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917, which took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) traditionally dated to 25 October 1917 (by the Julian or Old Style calendar, which corresponds to 7 November 1917 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar). 

After gaining a majority in the government, the Bolshevik party voted for Vladimir Lenin to seize power, and Bolshevik groups seized control of local governments across Russia.

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Filed under: Social / Political

The Basis for Computed Tomography 1917

In 1917 Austrian mathematician Johann Radon, professor at Technische Universität Wien, introduced the Radon transform. He also demonstrated that the image of a three-dimensional object can be constructed from an infinite number of two-dimensional images of the object.

About sixty-five years later Radon's work was applied in the invention of computed tomography.

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Invention of SONAR 1917

In 1917, working under the British Board of Invention and Research, Canadian physicists Robert William Boyle and Albert B. Wood, produced a prototype active sound detection system. 

"This work, for the Anti-Submarine Division, was undertaken in utmost secrecy, and used quartz piezoelectric crystals to produce the world's first practical underwater active sound detection apparatus. To maintain secrecy no mention of sound experimentation or quartz was made - the word used to describe the early work ('supersonics') was changed to 'ASD'ics, and the quartz material 'ASD'ivite. From this came the British acronym ASDIC. In 1939, in response to a question from the Oxford English Dictionary, the Admiralty made up the story that the letters stood for 'Allied Submarine Detection Investigation Committee', and this is still widely believed, though no committee bearing this name has ever been found in the Admiralty archives."

During World War II Americans developed a similar underwater active sound detection system which they called SONAR; this term eventually replaced the British ASDIC.

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Foundation of Barnes & Noble 1917

In 1917 Wlliam Barnes and G. Clifford Noble opened the first Barnes and Noble book store in Manhattan.

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Coining the Term Bacteriophage 1917

In 1917 French-Canadian microbiologist Félix d’Herelle, working in Paris, discovered a microbe-eating virus that he called “bacteriophage.” d'Herelle made his discovery independently of the work of Frederick Twort, which was published two years earlier, in 1915.

Bacteriophage was the origin of the modern usage “phage.” Incorrectly d’Herelle believed that bacteriophage played a role in immunity and were a potential therapeutic agent. These misconceptions stimulated research on phage.

d’Herelle, “Sur un microbe invisible antagoniste des bacilles dysentériques,” Comptes rendus 165 (1917) 373-75.

In 1921 d'Herelle published an influential book, Le bactériophage. Son rôle dans l'immunité. This was translated into English the following year as The Bacteriophage. Its Rôle in Immunity.

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 2572.

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The Pulitzer Prize is Established by the Will of Joseph Pulitzer 1917

On June 4, 1917 the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded by Columbia University School of Journalism, funded by $250,000 left in the will of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who also gave money to launch the Columbia School of Journalism. Pulitzer specified "four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships." 

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Foundation of Biometrical Genetics 1918

In 1918 English statistician, evolutionary biologist, geneticist and eugenicist Ronald A. Fisher, then of Bradfield College, published "The Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance," Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 52 (1918) 399-433. This paper reconciled Mendelian genetics with the biometric observations of Karl Pearson and Francis Galton. It laid the foundation for what came to be known as biometrical genetics, introducing the analysis of variance— a considerable advance over the earlier correlation methods, and included the first use of "variance" in statistics. The paper showed that the inheritance of traits measurable by real values (i.e., continuous or dimensional traits) is consistent with Mendelian principles. It formed the basis of the genetics of complex trait inheritance, and mitigated debates between biometricians and Mendelians on the compatibility of particulate inheritance with natural selection

"Fisher had originally submitted his paper (then entitled "The correlation to be expected between relatives on the supposition of Mendelian inheritance") to the Royal Society, to be published in the [Philosophical] Transactions of the Royal Society of London. The two referees, the biologist R. C. Punnett and the statistician Karl Pearson, believed that the paper contained areas they were unable to judge, due to lack of expertise, and expressed some reservations. Though the paper was not rejected, Fisher carried a feud with Pearson from 1917 on, and instead sent the paper via J. Arthur Thomson to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which published it in its Transactions" (Wikipedia article on The Correlation between Relatives...., accessed 12-21-2013).

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 248. 

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Eccles & Jordan Invent the Flip-Flop Circuit, the Basis for Electronic Memory June 21, 1918

On June 21, 1918 British physicists and professors of engineering at London's City and Guilds Technical College William Henry Eccles and Frank Wilfred Jordan filed a patent for "Improvements in Ionic Relays." The patent specification 148,582 was published in 1920. It was initially called the Eccles–Jordan trigger circuit and consisted of two active elements (vacuum tubes).  

Early flip-flops were known variously as trigger circuits or multivibrators. Prior to the invention of electronic computing Eccles and Jordan viewed their invention as a "method of relaying or magnifying in electrical ciruits for use in telegraphy and telephony." However, a flip-flop circuit has two stable states and, as Claude Shannon pointed out in his Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948), a flip-flop can be used to store one bit of information. Flip-flop circuits operate using Boolean algebra (AND, OR, NOT). Thus, with the invention of electronic computing using vacuum tubes as switches, flip-flops became the basic storage element in sequential logic used in digital circuitry, and the basis for electronic memory.

In September 1919 Eccles and Jordan described the flip-flop in a brief one-page paper, "A trigger relay utilizing three-electrode thermionic vacuum tubes," The Electrician, vol. 83, (September 19, 1919) p. 298. However, the patent, filed the previous year, and consisting of 5 pages, remains the first description of this invention.

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Coordinating National Standards Development October 19, 1918

On October 19, 1918 the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC) was formed by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIMME) and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM).

Its purpose was to establish a national body to coordinate standards development and to serve as a clearinghouse for the work of standards developing agencies. The U.S. Departments of War, Navy and Commerce were invited to join this organization. AESC became the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1969.

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The End of World War I November 11, 1918

On November 11, 1918 at a secret destination aboard Marshal Ferdinand Foch's private train parked in a railway siding in the forest of Compiègne, approximately 60 km north of Paris, Germany signed the Armistice, ending World War I.

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Early Versions of the Enigma 1919

In 1919 early versions of the Enigma cipher machine were built in Europe.

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800,000 Burroughs Calculators Have Been Sold 1919

800,000 Burroughs calculating machines were sold worldwide by 1919.

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6,292 Different Incunabula in North American Libraries 1919

The number of titles of fifteenth century books (incunabula) present in North American libraries in 1919: 6,292. Number of copies: 13,200. (Goff, Incunabula in American Libraries, 3rd census [1964] xv.).

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The Earliest Practical Treatise on the Development of Rocketry for Space Flight 1919 – March 16, 1936

In 1916 American physicist and inventor Robert H. Goddard published A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. "Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections" 71, no. 2.  

This was earliest practical treatise on the development of rocketry for space flight. Like the Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (Tsiolkovskii; Russian: Константи́н Эдуа́рдович Циолко́вский);and the Romanian-German Hermann Oberth, Goddard worked out the theory of rocket propulsion independently. Having explored the mathematical practicality of rocketry since 1906 and the experimental workability of reaction engines in laboratory vacuum tests since 1912, Goddard began to accumulate ideas for probing beyond the Earth’s stratosphere. His first two patents in 1914, for a liquid-fuel gun rocket and a multistage step rocket, led to modest recognition and financial support from the Smithsonian Institution.

The publication in 1919 by the Smithsonian of A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes gave Goddard distorted publicity because he had suggested that rocket power or jet propulsion could be used to attain escape velocity and that this theory could be proved by crashing a flash-powder missile on the moon. Sensitive to criticism of his moon-rocket idea, he worked quietly and steadily toward the perfection of his rocket technology and techniques.

"Goddard began experimenting with liquid oxygen and liquid-fueled rockets in September 1921, and tested the first liquid-fueled engine in November 1923. It had a cylindrical combustion chamber, using impinging jets to mix and atomize liquid oxygen and gasoline.

"He launched the first liquid-fueled (gasoline and liquid oxygen) rocket on March 16, 1926, in Auburn, Massachusetts. His journal entry of the event was notable for its laconic understatement: 'The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie's farm.' The rocket, which was dubbed "Nell", rose just 41 feet during a 2.5-second flight that ended 184 feet away in a cabbage field, but it was an important demonstration that liquid propellants were possible." (Wikipedia article on Robert H. Goddard, accessed 05-15-2010)

Among Goddard’s successful innovations were "fuel-injection systems, regenerative cooling of combustion chambers, gyroscopic stabilization and control, instrumented payloads and recovery systems, guidance vanes in the exhaust plume, gimbaled and clustered engines, and aluminum fuel and oxidizer pumps" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

On March 19, 1936 the Smithsonian published Goddard's Liquid Propellant Rocket Development.  The remainder of his work was documented in patents.

"Goddard avoided sharing details of his work with other scientists, and preferred to work alone with his technicians. Frank Malina, who was then studying rocketry at the California Institute of Technology, visited Goddard [in Roswell, New Mexico] in August of 1936. Goddard refused to discuss any of his research, other than that which had already been published in Liquid-Propellant Rocket Development. Theodore von Kármán, Malina's mentor at the time, was unhappy with Goddard's attitude and later wrote, 'Naturally we at Caltech wanted as much information as we could get from Goddard for our mutual benefit. But Goddard believed in secrecy. . . . The trouble with secrecy is that one can easily go in the wrong direction and never know it.' Goddard's concerns about secrecy led to criticism for failure to cooperate with other scientists and engineers.  

"By 1939, von Kármán's Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech [GALCIT] had received Army Air Corps funding to develop rockets to assist in aircraft take-off. Goddard learned of this in 1940, and openly expressed his displeasure. Malina could not understand why the Army did not arrange for an exchange of information between Goddard and Caltech, since both were under government contract at the same time. Goddard did not think he could be of that much help to Caltech because they were designing rockets with solid fuel and Goddard was using liquid fuels" (Wikipedia article on Goddard).

Goddard’s booklet of 1919 was preceded by the theoretical writings of Tsiolkovsky published in Russian 1903-14 and the theoretical paper by Robert Esnault-Pelterie published in French in 1913. 

Goddard & Pendray, The Papers of Robert H. Goddard, I, 233-38.

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First Use of the Word Gene 1919

In 1919 American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University published The Physical Basis of Heredity. In this book he first used the word gene. Previously he had used the term "Mendelian unit"or "factor". 

"On the basis of genetic analysis, Morgan could present a number of characteristics of genes.

1. A gene could have more than one effect. For instance, insects that had the white-eye gene not only had white eyes, but also grew slower and had a lower viability.

2. The effects of the gene could be modified by external conditions, but these modifications were not transmitted to future generations. The gene itself was stable; only the character that the gene controlled varied.

3. Characters that were indistinguishable phenotypically could be the product of different genes.

4. At the same time, each character was the product of many genes. For instance, 50 different genes were known to afect eye color, 15 affected body color, and 10 affected length of wing.

5, Heredity was therefore not some property of the 'organism as a whole', but rather of the genes.

6. Genes of the pair did not ump out of one chromosome into another, but changed when the chromosome thread broke as a piece in front of or else behind them. Thus, crossing-over affected linked genes as groups and was a product of the behavior of the chromosome as an entity.

"Morgan's studies were based, to a great extent, on the availabity of a large number of mutants, bu the nature of the mutation process itself remained a mystery...." (Brock p. 15).

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The First Experimental Proof of General Relativity November 6, 1919

Among the experimental results predicted by Albert Einstein’s 1916 theory of general relativity was the bending of light by massive bodies due to the curvature of spacetime (space-time) in their vicinity. To test this prediction, Astronomer Royal Frank Watson Dyson and astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington organized two expeditions—one to Principe Island off West Africa, and the other to Sobral in Brazil—for the purpose of observing the solar eclipse on May 29, 1919; the sun served as the “massive body,” and an eclipse was necessary in order to observe the light coming from other stars.

“The results were in agreement with Einstein’s prediction, the Sobral result being 1.98 ± 0.12 arcsec and the Principe result 1.61 ± 0.3 arcsec [about twice the amounts predicted by Newtonian theory]. Because of the technical difficulty of these observations, the precise value of the deflection remained a controversial issue, which was not laid to rest until the development of radio interferometric techniques in the 1970s” (Twentieth Century Physics III, 1722-23).

On November 6, 1919  Dyson reported to a joint meeting of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society concerning A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919. The paper, reproducing photographs of the eclipse made by Eddington, was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1920.

In response to the paper, the president of the Royal Society, Sir J.J.Thomson, said,

“This is the most important result obtained in connection with the theory of gravitation since Newton’s day, and it is fitting that it should be announced at a meeting of the society so closely connected with him. . . . The result [is] one of the highest achievements of human thought” (quoted by Pais, Subtle is the Lord, 305). 

On November 7 confirmation of Einstein’s discovery was headlined in The Times of London, and on November 9 in The New York Times. This article was copied or adapted by newspapers all over the world, and it had the effect of turning Einstein, whose fame had previously been limited to the theoretical physics community, into a world-famous celebrity.  For the rest of his life Einstein remained the world’s most famous scientist, and relativity remained the puzzling, but fascinating subject that most people did not believe they could understand.

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