Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tom Kilburn and the First Stored-Program Computer

Tom Kilburn and the First Stored-Program Computer

On August 11, 1921, English engineer Tom Kilburn was born. Kilburn became known for having written the computer program used to test the first stored-program computer, the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, SSEM, also known as “The Baby” in 1948. “… the most exciting time was June 1948 when the first machine worked. Without question. Nothing could ever compare with that.” Tom Kilburn, Autumn 1992 Tom Kilburn was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire,…
Felix Hoffmann and Aspirin

Felix Hoffmann and Aspirin

On August 10, 1897, German chemist Felix Hoffmann  synthesized acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) in a stable form usable for medical applications. In 1899 it was marketed for the first time under the trade name Aspirin. Acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient of aspirin, was first discovered from the bark of the willow tree in 1763 by Edward Stone of Wadham College, University of Oxford. Felix Hoffmann was born on January 21, 1868 and…
William Morton and the Ether Anesthesia

William Morton and the Ether Anesthesia

On August 9, 1819, American dentist William Thomas Green Morton was born. He was the first to publicly demonstrate the use of inhaled ether as a surgical anesthetic in 1846. Morton is credited with gaining the medical world’s acceptance of surgical anesthesia. But, can you imagine a surgery without any anesthetic? Standing the pain of an operation, feeling every cut? Better not. Nevertheless, anesthetics already have a long tradition.  The…
Sir Roger Penrose and the Singularity

Sir Roger Penrose and the Singularity

On August 8, 1931, English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science. Sir Roger Penrose was born. Penrose is known for his work in mathematical physics, in particular for his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. In 1969, with Stephen Hawking, Penrose proved that all matter within a black hole collapses to a singularity, a geometric point in space where mass is compressed to infinite density and zero volume. Youth…
Louis Leakey and the Human Evolutionary Development in Africa

Louis Leakey and the Human Evolutionary Development in Africa

On August 7, 1903, Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archaeologist Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was born. Leakey‘s work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa, particularly through his discoveries in the Olduvai Gorge. We’ve already had posts about his wife Mary Leakey, as well as two other famous women, whose life is connected with Louis Leakey: Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. Having been a prime mover in establishing a tradition…
Allan Hills 84001 and Life on Mars

Allan Hills 84001 and Life on Mars

Allan Hills 84001 (commonly abbreviated ALH84001) is a meteorite that was found in Allan Hills, Antarctica on December 27, 1984 by a team of U.S. meteorite hunters. What makes it so special that it is responsible for worldwide headlines on August 6, 1996, when NASA scientists announced that it might contain evidence for microscopic fossils of Martian bacteria based on carbonate globules observed. A Meteorite from a “Wet” Mars ALH84001 is a meteorite thought…
Neil Armstrong – the First Man of the Moon

Neil Armstrong – the First Man of the Moon

On August 5, 1930, American astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong was born, the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. Armstrong was mission commander of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, in July 1969. Armstrong’s Youth and Education Neil Armstrong was born in Auglaize County, near Wapakoneta, Ohio to Stephen Koenig Armstrong, an an auditor for the Ohio state…
John Venn and the Venn Diagram

John Venn and the Venn Diagram

On August 4, 1834, English logician and philosopher John Venn was born. He is best known for his contribution of the eponymous Venn diagram, used in the fields of set theory, probability, logic, statistics, and computer science. John Venn grew up in a quite religious family and it was expected that he followed his family’s tradition into priesthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and was awarded a mathematics scholarship…
Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and the Mount Blanc

Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and the Mount Blanc

On August 3, 1787, Swiss physicist and Alpine traveller Horace-Bénédict de Saussure made the third ascent of the Mount Blanc and determined via scientific measurement Mont Blanc to be the highest mountain in Europe. Horace Bénédicte de Saussure was born on February 17, 1740 near Geneva and studied nature science at Geneva starting from 1754. At the age of only 22, Saussure was appointed professor at the University of Geneva. During his years as…
The Tower Subway – the World’s First Tube Railway

The Tower Subway – the World’s First Tube Railway

On August 2, 1870, the Tower Subway, the first tube railway in the world, was opened under the River Thames in London, England. Engineer James Henry Greathead used a tunnelling shield he modified from Barlow’s design to bore the 6-ft diameter tunnel near the Tower of London. It opened with steam operated lifts and a 12-seat carriage shuttled from end to end by wire rope powered by a steam engine. In the…
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