Monthly Archives: May 2016

Andrei Sakharov and the Soviet Thermonuclear Bomb

Andrei Sakharov and the Soviet Thermonuclear Bomb

On May 21, 1921, Russian nuclear physicist, Soviet dissident, an activist for disarmament, peace and human rights Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was born.Sakharov became renowned as the designer of the Soviet Union‘s thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov later became an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union, for which he faced state persecution; these efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. Sakharov was born in Moscow to…
Hideo Shima and the Bullet Train

Hideo Shima and the Bullet Train

On May 20, 1901, Japanese engineer Hideo Shima was born. Shima was the driving force behind the building of the first bullet train, the Shinkansen, linking Tokyo and Osaka in Oct 1964. Shima also led Japan‘s space development programme until 1977 at Japan’s National Space Development Agency. Shima was born in Osaka as the son of a prominent railway engineer and educated at the Tokyo Imperial University in 1925, where…
Catherine Furbish and the Native Flora of Maine

Catherine Furbish and the Native Flora of Maine

On May 19, 1834, American botanist Catherine Furbish was born. Furbish collected, classified and illustrated the native flora of Maine. She devoted over 60 years of her life, traveling thousands of miles throughout her home state and creating very accurate drawings and watercolour paintings of the plants she found. Catherine Furbish grew up in Brunswick, Maine. It is believed that her father took Catherine and her five brothers in the woods frequently. There…
Thomas Midgley Jr. and the Development of Leaded Fuel

Thomas Midgley Jr. and the Development of Leaded Fuel

On May 18, 1889, American mechanical engineer and chemist Thomas Midgley Jr. was born. Midgley was a key figure in a team of chemists, led by Charles F. Kettering, that developed the tetraethyllead (TEL) additive to gasoline as well as some of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Over the course of his career, Midgley was granted over a hundred patents. Thomas Midgley Jr. grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from…
James Clerk Maxwell and the very first Colour Photograph

James Clerk Maxwell and the very first Colour Photograph

On May 17, 1861, Scottish physicist Sir James Clerk Maxwell presented the very first colour photograph at the Royal Institution. The photograph showed a tartan ribbon and was made by Thomas Sutton according to the three-colour method proposed by Maxwell already in 1855. We have already valued James Clerk Maxwell’s most prominent achievements in this blog such as formulating a set of equations that united previously unrelated observations, experiments, and…
Roy Kerr and Rotating Black Holes

Roy Kerr and Rotating Black Holes

On May 16, 1934, New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr was born. Kerr is best known for discovering the Kerr geometry, an exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity. His solution models the gravitational field outside an uncharged rotating massive object, including a rotating black hole. Roy Kerr was educated at the private school St Andrew’s College. His talent for mathematics was first recognized during his highschool years.…
The Paris Salon des Refusés

The Paris Salon des Refusés

On May 15, 1863, the Salon des Refusés in Paris was opened, an exhibition of works rejected by the jury of the official Paris Salon. In 1863 the Salon jury refused two thirds of the paintings presented, including the works of Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissaro and Johan Jongkind, marking the birth of the avant-garde. Upon the protest of the artists, emperor Napoleon III decided to let the public…
Thomas Wedgwood – possibly the First Photographer

Thomas Wedgwood – possibly the First Photographer

On May 14, 1771, early experimenter in the field of photography Thomas Wedgwood was born. He is the first person known to have thought of creating impermanent pictures by capturing camera images on material coated with a light-sensitive chemical. His practical experiments yielded only shadow image photograms that were not light-fast, but his conceptual breakthrough and partial success have led some historians to call him “the first photographer”. Thomas Wedgwood…
John Tebbutt and the Great Comet of 1861

John Tebbutt and the Great Comet of 1861

On May 13, 1861, Australian astronomer John Tebbutt discovered C/1861 J1, the Great Comet of 1861. C/1861 J1 is a long-period comet that was visible to the naked eye for approximately 3 months. It was categorized as a Great Comet, one of the eight greatest comets of the 19th century. John Tebbutt was first educated at the Church of England parish school and later at a private school. After his retirement, his father…
Gerbert of Aurillac and the Popularization of Science

Gerbert of Aurillac and the Popularization of Science

On May 12, 1003, Gerbert of Aurillac aka Pope Sylvester II passed away. A prolific scholar and teacher, he endorsed and promoted study of Arab and Greco-Roman arithmetic, mathematics, and astronomy, reintroducing to Europe the abacus and armillary sphere, which had been lost to Latin Europe since the end of the Greco-Roman era. He is said to be the first to introduce in Europe the decimal numeral system using Arabic…
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