Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Waterways of James Brindley

The Waterways of James Brindley

On September 30, 1772, English engineer and pioneer canal builder James Brindley probably passed away. One of the most notable engineers of the 18th century, he is best known for the construction of the first English canal of major economic importance. James Brindley was born into a family of farmers and craftsmen in the Peak District and he received little formal education. It is assumed that he was mostly educated by…
The Kyshtim Disaster

The Kyshtim Disaster

On September 29, 1957, near the Russian town of Kyshtim a major radiological contamination accident happened, which is referred to as the Kyshtim disaster. The failure of the cooling system for a tank storing tens of thousands of tons of dissolved nuclear waste resulted in a chemical (non-nuclear) explosion having an energy estimated at about 75 tons of TNT. The Soviet Union did not release news of the accident and…
Pierre Louis Maupertuis and the Shape of the Earth

Pierre Louis Maupertuis and the Shape of the Earth

On September 28, 1698, French mathematician, philosopher and man of letters Pierre Louis Maupertuis was born. Maupertuis made an expedition to Lapland to determine the shape of the Earth. He is also credited with having invented the principle of least action, an integral equation that determines the path followed by a physical system. Pierre Louis Maupertuis was born at Saint-Malo, France. He was educated in mathematics by a private tutor,…
Guillaume Rondelet and the Aquatic Life

Guillaume Rondelet and the Aquatic Life

On September 27, 1507, French anatomist and naturalist Guillaume Rondelet was born, who had a particular interest in botany and zoology. His major work was a lengthy treatise on marine animals, which took two years to write and became a standard reference work for about a century afterwards, but his lasting impact lay in his education of a roster of star pupils who became leading figures in the world of…
The Biosphere 2 Missions

The Biosphere 2 Missions

On September 26, 1991, the first mission of Biosphere 2 began. Biosphere 2 is an Earth systems science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona, built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium. It remains the largest closed system ever created. Biosphere 2 was constructed between 1987 and 1991 by Space Biosphere Ventures and was named Biosphere 2 because it was meant to be the second fully self-sufficient…
Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot and the Automobile

Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot and the Automobile

On September 25, 1725, French inventor Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot was born. He is known to have built the first working self-propelled mechanical vehicle, the world’s first automobile. Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot was born in Void-Vacon, Lorraine in 1725 and was trained as a military engineer. Cugnot experimented with working models of steam-engine-powered vehicles for the French Army starting in 1765. He was one of the first engineers to successfully employ a device for…
Horace Walpole and the Rise of the Gothic Novel

Horace Walpole and the Rise of the Gothic Novel

On September 24, 1717, English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, connoisseur, and collector as well as Whig politician Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford was born. Walpole built Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, south-west London, reviving the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors. Moreover, he was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He…
Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary

On September 23, 1869, Mary Mallon was born, better known as Typhoid Mary was born. She was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She was presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a…
Peter Simon Pallas – A Pioneer in Zoography

Peter Simon Pallas – A Pioneer in Zoography

On September 22, 1741, German zoologist and botanist Peter Simon Pallas was born. Pallas was a pioneer in zoogeography by going beyond merely cataloging specimens with simple descriptions, but included observations of causal relationships between animals and their environment. He looked for hidden regularities in natural phenomena over an extreme range of habitats. Pallas was born in Berlin, the son of Professor of Surgery Simon Pallas at the Collegium medico-chirurgicum…
David Vetter, the Bubble Boy

David Vetter, the Bubble Boy

On September 21, 1971, David Phillip Vetter was born. He was a prominent sufferer of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a hereditary disease which dramatically weakens the immune system. In the media, Vetter was referred to as “David, the bubble boy“, because he lived in a special sterilized plastic cocoon bubble from birth until he died at age 12. Background Before David was born, his parents Carol Ann and David Vetter Jr. had…
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