Topics in the News
Although powered flight was achieved at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, the airplane industry did not take off until the advent of World War I. The years before the war, however, did see impressive achievements in aviation. In January 1910 the first aviation competition in America was held in Los Angeles. Also that year Glenn Curtiss flew from Albany to New York City in 150 minutes to set a new long-distance speed record. In 1911 there were only about four hundred airplanes in the United States, but the airplane was in the news: Curtiss built the first practical plane with pontoons instead of wheels; Galbraith Perry Rogers flew from New York to California in forty-nine days in sixty-eight segments, with an average airspeed of 51.5 MPH (not until 1913 would speeds in excess of 100 MPH be achieved in flight); and Harriet Quimby, an editor at Leslie's Magazine, became the first woman licensed as a pilot. In 1912 Ruth Law flew nonstop from Chicago to New York. The war years, though, brought a great leap forward in aviation. Toward the decade's end a few passenger and mail delivery routes had been established in the United States. By 1919 aircraft technology had advanced enough to allow John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown to make the first nonstop transatlantic flight.
Airplanes in War.
In 1914 there were only about...
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Yardsticks of the Universe.
As the result of her work in the Harvard Observatory on Cepheid variable stars in the Magellanic Cloud, Henrietta Leavitt in 1912 made an important contribution to astronomers' attempts to understand the size of the universe. (Cepheids are the class of variable stars that brighten and dim with constant periods.) Leavitt discovered that the period of time it takes for a Cepheid variable to complete its bright-dim cycle is related to the star's luminosity. In 1914 Harlow Shapley used Leavitt's work in his detailed explanation of the correlation between luminosity and distance in Cepheid variable stars. Such insights led astronomers to develop the means of gauging large interstellar distances that could not be calculated by parallax, the method for measuring planetary and stellar distances by triangulation. Appropriately, Cepheid variables have been called the "yardsticks of the universe." It is now understood that Cepheid class stars, which take their name from Delta Cephei, the first such star discovered in 1784, are yellow supergiants. The variation in the intensity of the light from a Cepheid results from the star's physical pulsation.
The World's Largest Telescope.
Another important contribution to American astronomy was made by George Ellery Hale. A professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago,...
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What is an Atom?
Atomic physics was making rapid strides during the second decade of the twentieth century. By the turn of the twentieth century, there was general acceptance among physicists of the molecular theory of matter. Molecules were believed to be composed of still smaller units of matter, atoms. However, it was also becoming clear that the "unsplittable" atoms were composed of even smaller parts. While the properties of electrons were beginning to be understood, the structure of the atom itself remained a mystery.
Various theories of atomic structure were ventured, but the one given the most credence was the model proposed by Professor Ernest Rutherford of England. From about 1906 Rutherford had been firing alpha particles (positively charged particles consisting of two protons and two neutrons that are emitted by several radioactive substances) at sheets of matter in hopes that the record of how they passed through or were deflected by the sheets would help to suggest a picture of the atom. In 1908 Rutherford fired alpha particles at a sheet of gold only two thousand atoms thick (a thickness of l/50,000th of an inch). He found that most of the alpha particles passed through the gold and were recorded on a photographic plate behind it. This seemed to indicate that the atoms were mostly empty space (we...
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New Year's Day 1910 saw the opening of Henry Ford's Highland Park factory, where innovations in the manufacturing process would help to make the Ford Motor Company's revolutionary Model T, introduced in 1908, the car of the decade. In 1910 458,500 motor vehicles were registered in the United States, and motor vehicle manufacturing was rapidly growing into one of the nation's major industries. Ancillary industries produced innovative technologies in rubber, glass, and petroleum refining. The decade witnessed important improvements in automotive engineering, as the all-steel automobile body was introduced and the front-mounted engine that drove the rear axle by means
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Biological Sciences and Public Health
The First Genetic Map.
The 1910s saw important work in the biological sciences that often had both immediate and long-term consequences. Building on the base provided by the Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel, who in the mid nineteenth century had shown that "hereditary factors" in plants were passed on to their progeny in predictable ways, Thomas Hunt Morgan and his colleagues published the first chromosome map in 1911. The diagram identified the location of five sex-linked genes from the salivary glands of the fruit fly (Drosophila). Morgan found that the genes were arranged like beads on a necklace. In 1919 he published his Physical Basis of Heredity, and by the decade's end almost two thousand genes had been mapped, setting the stage for future advancements.
A Cure for African Sleeping Sickness.
Among the outstanding women scientists of the period was Louise Pearce, a Ph.D. graduate of Johns Hopkins University in 1909. Pearce's discovery of a cure for sleeping sickness was a godsend to the tens of thousands of Africans who annually contracted the disease. Caused by a micropara-site carried by the tsetse fly, patients stricken with the disease experienced inflammation of the brain and persistent lethargy. Pearce discovered that Salvarsan—a drug then used as a cure for syphilis—stopped the disease in laboratory animals....
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Building the Panama Canal
The Choice of Panama.
The Panama Canal was one of the great engineering triumphs of its era. For decades shipping interests had dreamed of shortening the trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which until the canal was completed required an arduous journey around South America's Cape Horn. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the United States contemplated building a canal across Nicaragua but after much debate settled on the Isthmus of Panama as the best site. A railroad constructed by a New York firm had been completed there in 1855, and its existence and profitability were major factors in the choice of Panama. A French firm that had begun digging a canal at the site in 1881 had abandoned its efforts in 1889—in large part because of the horrendous death toll to its workers caused by malaria.
On 22 January 1903 representatives from the United States and Colombia signed the Hay-Herrán Treaty, but the Colombian Senate refused to ratify it. On 3 November 1903 a group of Colombians living near the canal site declared their independence from Colombia. Within three days the Roosevelt administration, eager to complete the canal project, recognized the sovereignty of Panama. A week later Panama's minister to the United States signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty giving the United States the right to operate...
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Developments in Chemistry and Physics
The Genesis of Modern Plastics.
The decade from 1910 to 1919 was notable for many discoveries that would lead to startling technological advancements later in the century. One of the most notable developments was the beginning of the modern age of plastics, which originated with the work of the Belgian-born American chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland. As is the case with many important breakthroughs, Baekeland's discovery was serendipitous. Chemists in 1909 often faced the difficult problem of removing chemical residues from their equipment, and Baekeland thought that he might be able to invent a solvent that could do the job. But first, because he did not have any chemical residue at hand, he set about creating some difficult residue to experiment on by combining phenol with formaldehyde. When he tried to dissolve the substance he created, no solvent worked. It then occurred to Baekeland that the substance he had created might itself have useful applications, and he set about improving the resinous mass to make it harder and tougher. Placing the reagents under suitable temperatures and pressures, he discovered that he could create a liquid that when cooled took on the shape of its container. He named the resultant plastic after himself, and Bakelite, marketed in 1917, was the first thermosetting plastic (a plastic that will not soften under heat once it has set).
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Developments in Radio
Development of Radio.
Founded on the work of such men as James Clerk Maxwell, Heinrich R. Hertz, and Guglielmo Marconi, radio technology advanced rapidly in the first decade of the century. In 1901 Reginald A. Fessenden invented a high-frequency alternator (a device that produces alternating current) to produce a continuous radio wave instead of the spark-generated pulses Marconi had managed in his Morse code transmission. Fessenden also discovered a way to modulate the amplitude of radio waves, and on Christmas Eve 1906 he broadcast the first voice radio transmission. That same year Lee De Forest invented the triode vacuum tube, or audion. Edwin H. Armstrong in 1912 used the audion to create a "regenerative circuit" by which incoming radio signals could be amplified to such a degree that they could be played over audio speakers. (The early history of radio was rampant with lawsuits. Armstrong's invention was soon challenged in court by De Forest, who claimed that he had actually invented the regenerative circuit three years earlier.)
The broadcast radio revolution of the 1920s owed much to Armstrong's improvements on his 1912 discovery. In 1918 he developed the superheterodyne radio receiver, which would allow for the reception of a wide range of radio transmissions. In 1919 Armstrong's receiver went into mass...
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Einstein and Relativity.
Albert Einstein electrified the physics community in the United States with his special theory of relativity in 1905 and his general theory of relativity in 1916. In his special theory of relativity Einstein posited that space and time are not absolute and independent realities. Indeed, the word relativity indicates that motion, space, and time cannot be measured from a fixed point but are relative to the observer measuring them. The speed of light, however, is a constant in all frames of reference. As an object approaches the speed of light, it appears to contract in the direction of motion; its mass increases; and time, as measured by a clock moving with the object, slows. Einstein asserted that mass and energy are interchangeable properties: E=mc2, where energy is said to be equivalent to mass times the square of the speed of light. Since the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, Einstein's theory suggested that a small mass could be transformed into a enormous amount of energy (his theory was shown to be true with the fission reaction of the atomic bomb). His 1905 theory applied only to systems that move at a constant velocity relative to each other.
The General Theory of Relativity.
Einstein's general theory of relativity extended his work of eleven years earlier to account for systems moving...
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A Science of Society?
Science and technology captured the imaginations and improved the lives of millions of Americans in the decade following the turn of the century. Since science could make communication across vast distances instantaneous, revolutionize transportation, and cure diseases, many Americans believed that scientific methods could also improve individuals, societies, and governments. During the 1910s the hope that social scientists could transform society was very much alive. Psychologist John B. Watson's theory of behavioral psychology suggested that man had the ability to learn to control human behavior. Frederick Winslow Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) proposed new routines to increase worker efficiency and industrial productivity. In 1919 the sociologist Thorstein Veblen published The Place of Science in Modern Civilization as well as a series of articles in the Dial that were to become the basis for his The Engineers and the Price System (1921). Veblen suggested that "an effectual revolutionary over-turn in America," a technocracy, could be shaped by the nation's engineers and technicians. Science in this way could help achieve tangible social progress.
During the 1910s the impact of Darwin's theory of evolution (which by then had been accepted by...
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In September 1909 Sigmund Freud traveled from Europe to the United States and delivered a series of five lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Freud's lectures to his American audience stimulated interest in psycho-analysis among many in the lecture hall audience, including G. Stanley Hall, the psychologist who was president of Clark, while others in the United States were exposed to his ideas through their reading of books and articles.
Though Freud's work was only just beginning to be known in the America of the 1910s, his theories did have American popularizers. One such American account of Freudian psychology was made by Professor H. W. Chase of the University of North Carolina. In an article in Popular Science Monthly of April 1911, Chase explained "Freud's Theories of the Unconscious" to his readers: "By unconscious action, we understand action which goes on without our being aware of it, and yet which seems intelligent, adapted to a purpose." Freud, Chase noted, "In the course of a long practice with neurotic patients…arrived gradually at theories of the mechanism of the unconscious." Ideas that are too disturbing or distressing to the conscious mind are repressed into the unconscious mind, but they do not disappear. Repressed ideas and desires influence our thoughts and...
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U.S. geologist Frank Bursley Taylor first put forward the theory of continental drift in a lecture in 1908. (People had never seriously questioned the permanence of the earth's continents until Sir Francis Bacon, in 1620, noted that the coastlines of South America and Africa, if pushed together, appeared to fit into each other like the pieces of a puzzle.) In 1912 the German geologist and meteorologist Alfred L. Wegener daringly proposed that about two hundred million years ago all the earth's land was a single gigantic land mass, which he called pangaea (Greek for "all-earth"). His theory set off a scientific debate that continued for many years. Wegener argued that the Earth's crust floated on a basalt layer and that over millions of years the original single supercontinent had broken up into the seven continents. Wegener was able to demonstrate that mountain chains on separate continents were composed of similar rock, and he cited as evidence the unusual presence of coal deposits in Antarctica as well as the glacial features in the topography of land near the equator. His detailed studies showed that the west coast of North America was moving six feet a year, and that in the course of a century Greenland had moved a mile further away from Europe. It was not until American geologist Harry Hammond Hess developed his theory of spreading sea floors in the 1960s that...
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Robert Goddard and Space Travel.
Robert Goddard's first trailblazing experiments in rocketry, the initial steps toward space exploration, were conducted in the 1910s. While a professor of physics at Clark University in Massachusetts, Goddard designed and tested almost every element of modern rockets. During 1915 and 1916 he experimented with rockets fueled by solid chemical propellants but found this means of propulsion unsatisfactory. Prior to his experiments with solid chemical rockets, Goddard was already contemplating the possibilities afforded by liquid propellants. In July 1914 the U.S. Patent Office issued Goddard two patents for "Rocket Apparatus," which contained the essential features of rockets used for late-twentieth-century space travel: liquid propellants that could sustain much higher thrust than solid propellants and a nozzle and combustion chamber configuration.
A Military Rocket.
In a 25 July 1915 letter Goddard wrote the secretary of the navy requesting that the navy consider developing a rocket torpedo. His inquiry was rebuffed. By January 1917, however, the Smithsonian Institution had granted Goddard $5,000 to continue his research. Shortly after receiving the grant the United States entered World War I, and Goddard put aside his liquid rocketry efforts to work for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the development of a...
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Science on the Farm
Modernizing the Farm.
In 1910 more than a fifth of the nation's population worked on farms, and farming remained the nation's leading business. Farm yields grew in the decade by leaps and bounds, largely because of, as Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson recognized, "the application of scientific methods in all branches of farming." The farmer with hoe and scythe had been transformed in many regions into the farmer with a harvester.
The use of chemical fertilizers had doubled between 1900 and 1910, and during the 1910s the growth of the fertilizer industry continued unabated. One of the greatest achievements in the history of chemistry—judged from the practical perspective of its utility for the population at large—was the invention by German scientists of a process for "fixing" atmospheric nitrogen into chemical fertilizers. Used in the United States and around the world, the new process made high-quality fertilizers both more readily available and lower in cost.
Advances in agricultural methods are of little value if farmers are not made aware of them. Along with farming periodicals and broad ranging advertising by some manufacturers of farming equipment, the Department of Agriculture distributed leaflets and other short tracts on a wide range of farm...
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The Technology of War
The four years and four months of war that consumed Europe from the summer of 1914 until the armistice of 11 November 1918 redirected the focus of much science and technology. The death struggle in Europe slowed the progress of the pure sciences, but technology, at least insofar as it supported the war effort, flourished. Many European and American scientists and engineers served in the war effort. New products were developed for the war, including plastics, rayon, cellulose acetate (for film), and aluminum alloys. The machine gun, invented in the mid nineteenth century and substantially improved and refined by Hiram Maxim during the 1880s, became one of the most deadly weapons of World War I. Col. I. N. Lewis developed a lightweight machine gun that was a significant improvement over those in use, and within a year of entering the war in 1917 the United States was outproducing every other country in the manufacture of machine guns and grenades. Tanks were developed in Britain with the support of Winston Churchill, then first lord of the admiralty. The vehicle's code name during its development was "water tank," a name that was used both to confuse the enemy as to the secret weapon's actual purpose and to appease officials within the government who otherwise might have questioned the propriety of a land-based vehicle being over-seen by the admiralty office. Brought into...
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Langmuir, Irving 1881-1957
CHEMIST AND PHYSICIST, NOBEL LAUREATE
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on 31 January 1881 to an insurance executive and his wife, Irving Langmuir studied chemistry, physics, and mathematics at Columbia University and received a degree from the university's School of Mines in metallurgical engineering in 1903. Langmuir studied under the future Nobel laureate Walther Nernst at the University of Göttingen in Germany, receiving the Ph.D. in 1906 for his dissertation on the study of heated platinum wire and low pressure gases. Upon his return to the United States he taught at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
In 1909 Langmuir took a full-time position as a researcher at the General Electric Company's research laboratory in Schenectady, New York. At G E Langmuir made a major contribution to the development of the modern lightbulb when he proved that adding inert gas to the bulb enhanced the life of the tungsten filament and made the...
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Leavitt, Henrietta Swan 1868-1921
Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, on 4 July 1868, one of seven children of a Congregationalist minister and his wife. She studied at Oberlin College in Ohio from 1885 to 1888. She transferred to the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women (later Radcliffe College of Harvard University) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she finished her A.B. degree in 1892. It was in Cambridge, occasioned by two courses, that Leavitt became intrigued by astronomy. Soon after graduation she suffered an illness that left her profoundly deaf.
Cataloguing Variable Stars.
By 1895 Leavitt had received an appointment as a research assistant at the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge. By 1902 she was a member of the permanent staff of the observatory and soon thereafter became the head of the observatory's photographic photometry department. As a...
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Richards, Theodore William 1868-1928
CHEMIST, NOBEL LAUREATE
Life in Academia.
Theodore William Richards was born on 31 January 1868 in German-town, Pennsylvania. His mother, who educated him at home until he was fourteen, was a writer and poet, and his father was a painter. At fourteen he enrolled at Haverford College, and he graduated first in his class three years later. He took a second undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1886 and completed the Ph.D. at Harvard two years later at the age of twenty. During the 1888-1889 academic year Richards studied in several European laboratories while on a fellowship from Harvard. In 1901 he was made professor of chemistry at Harvard, and he was director of the Wolcott Gibbs Lab there from 1912 until his death.
Precision in Atomic Weight.
Richards's fascination with the precise calculation of atomic weights led to his painstaking measurement of the atomic weight of water. Though the current theory called for the ratio of oxygen...
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Russell, Henry Norris 1877-1957
A Princeton Professor.
Henry Norris Russell was born at Oyster Bay, New York, on 25 October 1877. He was educated at home by his mother, an accomplished mathematician, and his father, a Presbyterian minister, until the age of twelve. At nineteen he graduated from Princeton insigne cum laude, the highest academic honor awarded at the university. Two years later he earned the Ph.D. in astronomy at Princeton for research on the orbits of binary stars. After a period of illness Russell continued his studies at Kings College, Cambridge University (1902-1904), where he did research at the Cavendish Laboratory. Along with Arthur R. Hinks, Russell developed a method for determining stellar parallax from photographic plates. Their technique enabled astronomers to determine more accurately the distances to far-off stars. In September 1904 Russell, again taken ill, returned to Princeton, where in 1905 he was appointed instructor of astronomy. He became professor of astronomy in 1911 and the following year was made director of the university's observatory. He remained at...
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Slipher, Vesto Melvin 1875-1969
Vesto M. Slipher was born into a farming family on 11 November 1875 in Mulberry, Indiana. After high school Slipher taught in a small country school, At twenty-one he enrolled at Indiana University, graduating in 1901 with a B.A. in celestial mechanics and astronomy. During the summer after graduation Slipher began work as an assistant to the renowned astronomer Percival Lowell in Flagstaff, Arizona. Slipher's position soon became permanent, and he continued working in Flagstaff for the rest of his career.
From 1901 to 1915 Slipher was Lowell's assistant. In 1902 Slipher installed a spectrograph at Lowell's observatory, and, under Lowell's guidance, used the device to search for evidence of water and oxygen on Mars and to measure the length of a day on Venus. From 1905 to 1907 he unsuccessfully searched for life on Mars, looking especially for the existence of chlorophyll. In 1909 Indiana University granted Slipher the Ph.D. on the basis of his work at Lowell's observatory. In 1912 Slipher found that Uranus's spectrum indicated that it rotated once every 10.8 hours, and he was also able to determine rotation periods for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn through spectrographic analysis.
Slipher was among...
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Sturtevant, Alfred Henry 1891-1970
Alfred Henry Sturtevant, the youngest of six children, was born on 21 November 1891 in Jacksonville, Illinois. Sturtevant's grandfather was a founder and president of Illinois College, where his father taught. Sturtevant was seven when his family moved to a farm in Alabama. In 1908 Sturtevant entered Columbia University and moved in with his oldest brother, Edgar, who taught Greek and Latin at Barnard College. Encouraged by his brother, Sturtevant submitted a paper on the inheritance patterns of the coloring of horses—an interest inspired by his days on the family farm in Alabama—to the renowned geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan. Deeply impressed with the young undergraduate's enthusiasm for genetics, Morgan encouraged him to publish his findings in the Biological Bulletin in 1910.
Morgan invited Sturtevant to join his genetics research laboratory in the autumn of 1910. Dedicated to the study of fruit flies (Drosophila), the small lab, dubbed the "fly room," was a fount of excitement and discovery during the ensuing decade. Morgan and his students freely exchanged experimental techniques and theories as they studied genetic inheritance patterns in fruit flies. After earning his Ph.D. under Morgan in 1914, Sturtevant stayed on as a researcher in the lab....
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People in the News
John Jacob Abel, often called the father of modern American experimental pharmacology, isolated amino acids from blood in 1914.
In 1915 astronomer W. S. Adams used a spectroscope to show that giant and dwarf stars can be distinguished by differences in their spectra.
In 1915 physicist Manson Benedicks found that a germanium crystal converts alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC).
In 1910 William D. Coolidge developed a method for producing drawn tungsten filaments. His method was a major improvement over the pressed filament in use at the time.
In 1910 Eugene Ely became the first pilot to fly an airplane from the deck of a ship. His achievement stimulated interest in the development of aircraft carriers.
Engineer John Fisher was credited with the development of the modern washing machine in 1916.
In 1917 Henry Ford introduced a lightweight, reliable, and inexpensive farm tractor.
In 1913 the German Hans Geiger and British physicist Ernest Rutherford built a device for detecting alpha particle radiation. The apparatus was subsequently called a Geiger counter.
In 1911 Herman Hollerith merged the Tabulating Machine Company with two other companies to form...
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1914 Theodore W. Richards of the United States is awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for determining the atomic weights of some sixty chemical elements, leading to the identification of isotopes, atoms with the same number of protons but with different numbers of neutrons. Dr. Richards was professor of chemistry at Harvard University.
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Cleveland Abbe, 77, meteorologist who initiated daily weather reports in Cincinnati in September 1869, 28 October 1916.
Charles C. Abbott, 76, naturalist who demonstrated that human beings had lived in the Delaware River Valley during the glacial era, 27 July 1919.
Andrew T. Apple, 59, astronomer, mathematician, and professor at Franklin and Marshall College who wrote academic and popular articles on the sciences, 15 February 1918,
George F. Atkinson, 64, botanist who studied mush-rooms, fungi, and ferns, 14 November 1918.
William W. Bailey, 70, botanist and author of Botanical Collector's Handbook (1881), 20 February 1914.
John Sellers Bancroft, 75, mechanical engineer who made improvements to the monotype machine and held about one hundred patents for various electrical and mechanical inventions, 29 January 1919.
Adolph F. Bandelier, 73, archaeologist of various sites in New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and Central America who wrote The Delight Makers (1890), a novel about Pueblo Indian life, 19 March 1914.
Joseph Barrell, 49, professor of structural geology at Yale University from 1908 until his death, 4 May 1919,
Lindon Bates Jr., 31, engineer and author of...
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G. R. Agassiz, ed., Letters and Recollections of Alexander Agassiz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913);
Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, 2 volumes, translated by A. G. Chaler, (London: Murray / New York: Keedick, 1913);
Edwin H. Armstrong, "A New Method of Receiving Weak Signals for Short Waves," Proceedings of the Radio Club of America (December 1919);
Armstrong, "Theory of Tuned Circuits," Proceedings of the Radio Club of America (May-December 1913);
Franz Boas, The Mind of Primitive Man (New York: Macmillan, 1911);
William Heally Dall, Spencer Fullerton Baird (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1915);
Fabian Franklin, The Life of Daniel Coit Oilman (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1910);
George Ellery Hale, "Preliminary Results of an Attempt to Detect the Magnetic Field of the Sun," Astrophysical Journal, 38 (1913): 27-98;
David Starr Jordan, ed., Leading American Men of Science (New York: Holt, 1910);
Charles R. Mann, A Study of Engineering Education, Bulletin #11 (New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1918);
Robert A. Millikan, The Electron; Its Isolation and Measurement and the Determination of Some of Its...
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Important Events in Science and Technology, 1910–1919
- The availability of electricity in American homes spurs the purchase of electric washing machines.
- American electrical engineer and mathematician Charles Steinmetz publishes Future of Electricity, warning that industry and technology can create air and water pollution. In addition, Steinmetz sees the potential of electricity to revolutionize the home, work, and transportation.
- On May 13, Halley's comet makes its closest approach to Earth. The comet completes its elliptical orbit every seventy-six years, next visiting Earth in 1986.
- In June, Major Frank Woodbury of the U.S. Army introduces tincture of iodine as a disinfectant for wounds.
- In December, the number of telephones in the United States exceeds seven million.
- In February, physicists from around the world meet at the first Solvay Physics Conference—named for the Belgian industrial chemist and philanthropist who founded the Solvay Institutes in Brussels. They discuss the atom's structure and adopt Ernest Rutherford's solar-system model.
- In February, Columbia University embryologist Thomas Hunt Morgan publishes a paper with the first plot of a gene on a chromosome. The gene and chromosome are of Drosophila, the common fruit fly, which...
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