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Important dates in History


September 30: Sir Nevill Francis Mott
(Born September 30, 1905: Died August 8, 1966)
English physicist who shared (with P.W. Anderson and J.H. Van Vleck of the U.S.) the 1977 Nobel Prize for Physics for his independent researches on the magnetic and electrical properties of amorphous semiconductors. Whereas the electric properties of crystals are described by the Band Theory - which compares the conductivity of metals, semiconductors, and insulators - a famous exception is provided by nickel oxide. According to band theory, nickel oxide ought to be a metallic conductor but in reality is an insulator. Mott refined the theory to include electron-electron interaction and explained so-called Mott transitions, by which some metals become insulators as the electron density decreases by separating the atoms from each other in some convenient way.

September 29: Edison patent
In 1891, Thomas A. Edison was issued U.S. patent No. 460122 for a "Process of and Apparatus for Generating Electricity" and No. 460123 for a "Phonogram-Blank Carrier."

September 28: Seymour R. Cray
(Born September 28. 1925: Died October 5, 1996)
American electronics engineer who pioneered the use of transistors in computers and later developed massive supercomputers to run business and government information networks. He was the preeminent designer of the large, high-speed computers known as supercomputers.

September 27: William Hume-Rothery
(Born May 15, 1899: Died September 27, 1968)
British metallurgist, internationally known for his work on the formation of alloys and intermetallic compounds. During WW II, he supervised many government contracts for work on complex aluminium and magnesium alloys. He established that the microstructure of an alloy depends on the different sizes of the component atoms, the valency electron concentration, and electrochemical differences.

September 26: Edward Bausch
(Born September 26, 1854)
Inventor and developer of microscopes and optical instruments. In business, he became chairman Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. His father, John J. Bausch (1830-1926), was born in Germany, emigrated to America in 1849, and started a spectacle making business (the Vulcanite Optical Instrument Co.) with German immigrant Henry Lomb (1828-1908). By 1866, their company was making a simple microscope. The company name was changed to Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. in 1874, the year they produced their first compound microscope. Edward, with brothers William, and Henry all helped in the design and production of a full product line of microscopes. Edward held a number of patents related to the design of microscopes.

September 25: Alfred Lewis Vail
(Born September 25, 1807: Died January 18, 1859)
American telegraph pioneer and an associate and financial backer of Samuel F.B. Morse in the experimentation that made the telegraph a commercial reality. The final form of the Morse code was perfected by Vail who simplified the whole process by introducing the telegraph key. Vail is responsible for the efficiency of the code, using the principle that the most frequently sent letters should have the shortest code.

September 24: Georges Claude
(Born September 24, 1870: Died May 23, 1960)
The French engineer, chemist, and inventor of the neon light, Georges Claude, was born in Paris. He invented the neon light, which was the forerunner of the fluorescent light. Claude was the first to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas, around 1902 and make a neon lamp ("Neon" from Greek "neos," meaning "new gas.") He first publicly displayed the neon lamp on 11 Dec 1910 in Paris. His French company Claude Neon, introduced neon signs to the U.S. with two "Packard" signs for a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles, purchased by Earle C. Anthony for $24,000.

September 23: Flashbulb patented
In 1930, Johann Ostermeyer of Athegnenber, Germany, patented his "Improvements in flash lights used for photographic purposes." (UK patent 324,578). The modern photographic safety flash bulb evolved from this design, which used aluminium wire or foil in oxygen. Unfortunately, all too frequently, these versions exploded! The flashbulb was introduced to the American market in 1930 by General Electric. Flash cubes came along in 1966, and the percussively ignitable "Magicube" in 1970.

September 22: Michael Faraday
(Born September 22, 1791: Died August 25, 1867)
English physicist and chemist whose many experiments contributed greatly to the understanding of electromagnetism. Although one of the greatest experimentalists, he was largely self-educated. Appointed by Sir Humphry Davy as his assistant at the Royal Institution, Faraday initially concentrated on analytical chemistry, and discovered benzene in 1825. His most important work was in electromagnetism, in which field he demonstrated electromagnetic rotation and discovered electromagnetic induction (the key to the development of the electric dynamo and motor). He also discovered the laws of electrolysis. He published pioneering papers that led to the practical use of electricity, and he advocated the use of electric light in lighthouses.

September 21: Heiki Kamerligh Onnes
(Born September 21, 1853: Died February 21, 1926)
Dutch winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1913 for his work on low-temperature physics and his production of liquid helium. He discovered superconductivity, the almost total lack of electrical resistance in certain materials when cooled to a temperature near absolute zero.


September 20: Fortran
In 1954, the first FORTRAN computer program was run. Fortran is the dominating language for technical and scientific applications. John Backus at IBM supervised the development of the programming language that would allow uses to express their problems in commonly understood mathematical formulae - later to be named FORTRAN. By 1958 the language was expanded to Fortran II, which included subroutines, functions and common blocks, and in 1962 IBM introduced the extended Fortran IV.

September 19: Chester F. Carlson
Died 19 Sep 1968 (born 8 Feb 1906) (Born February 8, 1906: Died September 19, 1968)
Chester Floyd Carlson was an American physicist who invented xerography, an electrostatic dry-copying process that found applications ranging from office copying to reproducing out-of-print books. The process involved sensitizing a photoconductive surface to light by giving it an electrostatic charge Carlson developed it between 1934 and 1938, and initially described it as electrophotography It was immediately protected by Carlson with an impenetrable web of patents, though it was not until 1944 that he was able to obtain funding for further development. In 1947 he sold the commercial rights for his invention to the Haloid Company, a small manufacturer of photographic paper (which later became the Xerox Corporation).

September 18: Siegfried Marcus
(Born September 18, 1831)
Inventor who built four of the world's earliest gasoline-powered automobiles. Marcus held about 76 patents in about a dozen countries, including an electric lamp (1877) and an igniter for explosives. He built and marketed internal combustion engines. Marcus first started working on a self-propelled vehicle about 1860, making significant contributions in the course of further development. Photographs of his first car, built about 1864, were taken in 1870. The second car - the landmark - was built about 1875 in his Vienna factory. It was first equipped with a two-cycle engine, and later, a four-cycle engine.


September 17: Mercury vapor lamp
In 1901, the first U.S. patents for a mercury vapor lamp were issued to Peter Cooper Hewitt of New York City, the inventor. These eight patents covered the design of an elongated vacuum tube fitted with a mercury electrode at one end and an iron electrode at the other end. Light was produced when an electric current passed through the mercury vapour, through it. However, it was a garish blue-green colour, lacking any red light. The lamps were subsequently manufactured by the Cooper Hewitt Electric Company in New York City, in Dec 1902.

September 16: Gabriel Fahrenheit
(Born May 14, 1686: Died September 16, 1736)
German physicist. Invented the Fahrenheit scale mercury thermometer. He lived in Holland for most of his life and was involved in the manufacture of meteorological instruments. In 1714, he created the first thermometer to use mercury instead of alcohol. He originally took as the zero of his scale the temperature of an equal ice-salt mixture, 30° for the freezing point of water and 90° for normal body temperature. Later, he adjusted to 32° for the freezing point of water and 212° for the boiling point of water, the interval between the two being divided into 180 parts. He also invented a hygrometer to measure relative humidity and experimented with other liquids discovering that each liquid had a different boiling point that would change with atmospheric pressure.

September 15: William Seward Burroughs
(Born January 28, 1855: Died September 15, 1898)
American inventor of the first recording adding machine and pioneer of its manufacture. It was because Burroughs began his career as a bank clerk that he was inspired to invent such a mechanical device. In 1885, Burroughs submitted his first patent for his "calculating machine." In 1886, Burroughs and several St. Louis businessmen formed the American Arithmometer Co. to market the machine. Burroughs was dissatisfied with the durability of this first model. His 1892 patent not only improved the machine but added a printer. The company later became Burroughs Corporation (1905) and eventually Unisys.

September 14: Charles Du Fay
(Born September 14, 1698: Died July 16, 1739)
Charles François de Cisternay Du Fay was a French chemist who made early experiments in electricity. He proposed electrical fluid existed in two types he designated "vitreous electricity" and "resinous electricity" depending on the objects that produced the charge. He learned that objects charged with vitreous electricity repel each other but attract objects charged with resinous electricity. These were subsequently given the current names of "positive" and "negative" by Benjamin Franklin. Du Fay noted that electricity may be conducted in the gaseous matter adjacent to a red-hot body. (The charge-carrying gaseous matter is now known as plasma).

September 13: Taconite
In 1956, full production of taconite began at a the first U.S. plant established for large-scale commercial production. Taconite is a hard ore containing 25 to 30% iron. The rock was crushed, ground and magnetically separated to yield small pellets containing about 62% iron, with an annual prodction of 3,750,000 tons. Preliminary operations had begun in the fall of 1955. The plant, known as the E.W. Davis Works at Silver Bay, Minn., was built by the Reserve Mining Company (Duluth, Minn.) and jointly owned by the Armco Steel and Republican Steel corporations.

September 12: Richard March Hoe
(Born September 12, 1812: Died June 7, 1886)
American inventor who developed and manufactured the first successful rotary printing press.

September 11: Deadly lightning strike
In 1997, lightning killed 19 persons and injured 6 at Andhra Pradesh, India.

September 10: Waldo Semon
(Born September 10, 1898: Died May 26, 1999)
American chemical engineer who invented plasticized PVC (vinyl). In 1926's, he discovered how to convert polyvinyl chloride from a hard, unworkable substance to a pliable one. It is now used in hundreds of products such as floor tile, garden hose, imitation leather, shower curtains, and coatings. It is produced in larger quantities than any other plastic except polyethylene. Semon also made pioneering contributions in polymer science, including new rubber antioxidants. His technical leadership led to discovery of three major new polymer families: thermoplastic polyurethane, synthetic "natural" rubber, and oil-resistant synthetic rubbers. Semon held 116 U.S. patents.

September 9: John Henry Poynting
(Born September 9, 1852)
British physicist who introduced a theorem (1884-85) that assigns a value to the rate of flow of electromagnetic energy known as the Poynting vector, introduced in his paper On the Transfer of Energy in the Electromagnetic Field (1884). In this he showed that the flow of energy at a point can be expressed by a simple formula in terms of the electric and magnetic forces at that point. He determined the mean density of the Earth (1891) and made a determination of the gravitational constant (1893) using accurate torsion balances. He was also the first to suggest, in 1903, the existence of the effect of radiation from the Sun that causes smaller particles in orbit about the Sun to spiral close and eventually plunge in.

September 8: Hermann Staudinger
(Born March 23, 1881: Died September 8, 1965)
German chemist who won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for demonstrating that polymers are long-chain molecules. His work laid the foundation for the great expansion of the plastics industry later in the 20th century.

September 7: David Pakard
(Born September 7, 1912: Died March 26, 1996)
American electrical engineer and entrepreneur who cofounded the Hewlett-Packard Company, a manufacturer of computers, computer printers, and analytic and measuring equipment.

September 6: Johann Salamo Christoph Schweigger
(Born April 8, 1779: Died September 6, 1857)
German physicist who invented the galvanometer (1820), a device to measure the strength of an electric current. He developed the principle from Oersted's experiment (1819) which showed that current in a wire will deflect a compass needle. Schweigger realized that suggested a basic measuring instrument, since a stronger current would produce a larger deflection, and he increased the effect by winding the wire many times in a coil around the magnetic needle. He named this instrument a "galvanometer" in honour of Luigi Galvani, the professor who gave Volta the idea for the first battery. Seebeck (1770-1831) named the innovative coil, Schweigger's multiplier. It became the basis of moving coil instruments and loudspeakers.

September 5: Gas pump
In 1885, Sylvanus Bowser, inventor of the first U.S. gas pump, made his initial sale to Jake Gumper, owner of a service station in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The pump held one barrel of gasoline, and used marble vales and a wooden plunger. It was built in Bowser's barn, and patented in 1887.

September 4: First electric central station
In 1882, the first electric central station to supply light and power was the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York City. It had one generator which produced power for 800 electric light bulbs. Within 14 months, the service had 508 subscribers and 12,732 bulbs.

September 3: Harold DeForest Arnold
(Born September 3, 1883: Died July 10, 1933)
American physicist whose research led to the development of long-distance telephony and radio communication. He worked at Western Electric on thermionic tubes, which amplified radio and telephone signals, leading to transcontinental telephony (July 1914). Even before the transcontinental line was completed, Arnold was directing work on the development of new higher power tubes to extend telephone service by radio to other continents. The first transcontinental demonstration of radio telephone (Sept. 29, 1915) was transmitted from New York City to Arlington, Virginia, then to San Francisco and Honolulu. Arnold later became the first director of research at Bell Telephone Labs (1925 to his death in 1933).

September 2: (René-)Maurice Fréchet
(Born September 2, 1878: Died June 4, 1973)
René-Maurice Fréchet was a French mathematician known chiefly for his contribution to real analysis. He is credited with being the founder of the theory of abstract spaces, which generalized the traditional mathematical definition of space as a locus for the comparison of figures; in Fréchet's terms, space is defined as a set of points and the set of relations. In his dissertation of 1906, he investigated functionals on a metric space and formulated the abstract notion of compactness. In 1907, he discovered an integral representation theorem for functionals on the space of quadratic Lebesgue integrable functions. He also made important contributions to statistics, probability and calculus.

September 1: Dirk Brouwer
(Born September 1, 1902: Died January 31, 1966)
Dutch-born U.S. astronomer and geophysicist known for his achievements in celestial mechanics, especially for his pioneering application of high-speed digital computers for astronomical computations. While still a student he determined the mass of Titan from its influence on other Saturnian moons. Brouwer developed general methods for finding orbits and computing errors and applied these methods to comets, asteroids, and planets. He computed the orbits of the first artificial satellites and from them obtained increased knowledge of the figure of the earth. His book, Methods of Celestial Mechanics, taught a generation of celestial mechanicians. He also redetermined astronomical constants.

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