Topics in the News
In astronomy the greatest advance of the 1930s involved the discovery of the planet Pluto, the ninth and last in the solar system. The planet's existence was confirmed, almost by chance, on 18 February 1930 at the Lowell Observatory by Clyde William Tombaugh. Eight years later Seth Barnes Nicholson discovered the tenth and eleventh satellites of Jupiter. Solar research also advanced as astronomers learned, thanks to the advent of long-distance radio, the effects of solar activity on the earth's ionosphere. Such influence often caused static and blackout in communications. In 1932 an international network of solar observatories was created to ensure that the sun's activities could be observed around the clock. That same year the field of planetary physics also progressed when Walter Sydney Adams and Theodore Dunham Jr., both at the Mount Wilson Observatory, identified a thick layer of carbon dioxide as causing the absorption bands in the atmosphere of Venus.
New Answers and Questions about the Universe.
In galactic astronomy Karl Jansky, a researcher at Bell Labs, discovered in 1931 a radio disturbance that became stronger every time he pointed a rotating antenna toward the center of the galaxy; unknowingly, he had noticed the radio emissions of the galaxy, a fact with important future consequences. Another fundamental...
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Atoms and More: Physics
The Physical World.
Physics arguably got one of its great boosts in the 1930s thanks to work in the United States and Europe. However, the flow of scientists fleeing European dictatorships for the United States also contributed substantially to progress in America. Cosmic rays constituted a subject of interest in astrophysics, as Carl David Anderson in 1932 confirmed the existence of the antielectron, or positron, whose existence the British physicist P. A. M. Dirac had predicted. Pursuing research together with Seth Neddermayer, Anderson discovered the existence of another particle in 1937, which he first called a meson; its mass was greater than that of the electron but smaller than that of the proton. This discovery caused several problems in the establishment of experimental conditions in a particle accelerator; since the direction of these particles' energy could not be predicted, detectors might not react with the expected accuracy. Eventually the presumed meson failed to react as predicted by other scientists, and its name was changed to muon because of its differing characteristics.
New Aspects of the Atom.
The Berkeley Laboratory in California, under the leadership of Ernest O. Lawrence, attracted many scientists interested in working with the first cyclotron, a particle accelerator invented by Lawrence and built by Niels...
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New Elements and Substances.
In chemistry in the 1930s most of the holes on Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev's periodic table of chemical elements were filled. Emilio Segre, working from the foundation of demonstrations carried out by Robert Oppenheimer, tracked down the element with atomic number 43, technetium, which turned out to be the simplest element with no isotope. Only the elements for atomic numbers 61, 85, and 87 were missing, with 87 being discovered by French chemist Marguerite Perey in 1939 and named francium for her native country. Work on discovering stable isotopes to various elements also continued. In 1931 Harold Urey was able to isolate an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron, which was named deuterium. In 1935 physicist Arthur Jeffrey Dempster showed that uranium has one isotope occurring in one out of 140 atoms, uranium 235. This substance would become essential to the manufacture of the first atomic bomb.
Several vitamins and substances were either discovered to exist or were successfully synthesized during the 1930s. Vitamins had been known since the 1900s, but despite their use in nutrition and medicine their molecular structure remained unknown. This changed in 1930 when the Swiss chemist Paul Karrer synthesized vitamin A, which resembles half a molecule of carotene. Two years later American...
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The Decline of the Eugenics Movement
The Origins of Modern Eugenics.
The modern idea of eugenics originated in England in 1883 with Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin who helped found a British society to study eugenics. A sister organization to the British group, the American Eugenics Society, was formed in the United States in 1935. The implicit belief of eugenicists was that races were genetically superior or inferior and that to mix races meant putting "pure racial stocks" at risk. Scientific evidence gathered through the genetic study of plant observation suggests that the contrary result is the case.
Eugenics in the United States.
In the early 1930s the concept of selected sterilization, mostly of those in mental institutions, was commonly accepted in twenty-seven states, although several eventually withdrew the legislation authorizing the practice. The idea behind the practice was that to succeed in building a strong nation, social engineering had to extend into controlling the human reproductive cycle. In 1934 Scientific American did not hesitate to proclaim that "one-fifth of the population of the United States today is surplus," while noting that the eugenics movement had not yet proved its case for full population control. Such caveats did little to temper the partisans of full-scale eugenics.
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Developments in Biology
Genetics Comes to the Fore.
In the 1930s the study of genetics was the focus of both heavy activity and frustration. By then it had become clear that to investigate how genes mutated would require methods beyond those used in most experiments. Genetics as a field was subjected to two main schools of thought. One was German biologist August Weismann's study of germ plasm, which focused on the transmission of dominant and recessive traits. The other was Hugo de Vries's work on mutation, which sought to explain how genetic traits are altered. The studies conducted up to the 1930s led to an important question: how do fixed genes nonetheless produce species mutation? Furthermore, microscopy was not advanced enough to provide more information, since even large genes could not be observed. In Germany and Russia botanists and geneticists took steps to ensure the purity of the genes analyzed so as to ensure maximum certainty of the results obtained, as in the case of studies of the fruit fly. These steps, which included strict selection of specimens analyzed, were essential in adding new information to what was known about genes, but not until the 1950s did a clearer understanding of the role of genes in biology appear. Meanwhile, the slow progress of genetics prompted the development of a movement bent on merging genetics and embryology, arguably the strongest fields of American biology. In the...
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Looking at Earth.
The earth sciences in the 1930s pitted competing theories of continental drift against one another. German scientist Alfred Wegener's theory, proposed in 1912, was supported by geological and paieonto-logical comparisons between South Africa and South America; similarities found on both continents suggested that they might have been joined before being forced apart. Other scientists, such as Hans Cloos, continued to oppose the idea of a continental drift caused by shifting tectonic plates, while others thought the theory helped explain the structures of certain mountain chains as well as other features.
Studies of the Weather.
Meteorology in the 1930s was dominated by ideas originating in Norway regarding isobaric observations as more effective, precise, and practical than previous options for the study of weather. The challenge was to adapt them for use in other regions of the globe with varying climatic pressures. The radiosonde-—a radio transmitter, usually carried on a weather balloon, used to collect information on weather conditions—was widely in use by the end of the decade and allowed the drawing of isobaric surfaces, regions where similar barometric pressures exist, both in absolute terms and relative to a selected altitude. Such diagrams had existed as early as 1910, but it was not until 1934 that they...
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Engineering in Bridge Building
The 1930s witnessed the construction and completion of some of the most famous bridges in the United States. Some incorporated novel experimental approaches, as in the case of the Rogue River Bridge in Gold Beach, Oregon. This structure, comprising seven 230-foot two-rib arch spans, employed pre-compression techniques developed in France earlier in the century and was completed in 1931. Other projects not only proved to be engineering challenges but captured public attention. Ideas about extending a new bridge from Manhattan directly into New Jersey over the Hudson River had been proposed since the 1890s but were bogged down in bureaucratic and political issues, ranging from concerns about hindering river traffic to engineering disagreements. Such disagreements still occur despite the successful completion and use of the George Washington Bridge. Thirty-five hundred feet long with a wire-cable suspension system, it was begun in 1927 and completed four years later under the supervision of Othmar H. Ammann, a Swiss-born engineer.
The California Challenge.
In San Francisco plans for extending a massive bridge to Oakland had been proposed since the 1850s. Repeatedly these ideas were deemed utopian in view of the huge dimensions of the proposed project. Nevertheless, demands for construction became increasingly pressing. By...
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From Rails to Roads: the Plight of Roads and Railroads
The Value of Railroads.
When the first American railroad experiments took place near Baltimore in the 1830s, horrified stagecoach drivers clamored for protection, fearing their livelihood was coming to an end in the face of the iron horse. Less than a century later it was the railroads' turn to scream for help. The Depression's impact on transportation was felt most notably in the rail-road system, in which the number of carloads dropped from an average 4.5 million in 1929 to approximately 3 million in 1932. Due to a 1922 decree of the Interstate Commerce Commission, railroad operators were not allowed to exceed a profit of 5.75 percent on their investments, yet even in the best years of the late 1920s they hardly reached that limit. Railroads complained of over-regulation; local, state, and federal taxation rules; and financial ratings lower than those of other transportation industries. Freight-car loading declined in the face of increasing truck competition, especially since trucking companies were not subjected to review by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Lack of taxation of roads and waterways was not the only problem for the nation's rail companies: shipments of oil, which had ensured a substantial income for years, slowly disappeared as pipelines were installed. Even the airplane, although it remained a means of transportation open only to a few well-to-do people, attracted some...
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The Hoover Dam
The Value of a Dam.
On 17 September 1930 U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur formally launched construction of the Boulder Dam at a site in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, some hundred miles upstream from Needles, California, and 440 miles from the entrance of the Colorado River into the Gulf of California. The dam's location affected the water supply of six states: Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Hence each of the concerned states wanted to obtain electricity from the dam project.
Following a federal government decision in 1922, the Colorado River Compact was created. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover? also a respected engineer, not only ushered the projected dam through Congress but drafted solutions for an equitable distribution of the electricity produced by the dam. The projected cost of the construction was $165 million, which the federal government agreed to finance as a fifty-year loan. Once completed, the dam and the power plant were to provide between 1.6 and 1.8 million horsepower of electricity. The initial construction, begun in March 1931, consisted of driving four diversion tunnels and two spillways and lining them all with concrete. Construction of the intake towers began on 1 March 1932. The first concrete for the dam face itself, prepared at a special...
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The Rise of the Airplane
Messengers of Modernity.
Among the most noticeable improvements in technology during the 1930s, aeronautics exhibited many successes. Apparently simple innovations introduced in the previous decade suddenly yielded remarkable results, and aviation as a whole increased in importance in the public eye thanks in part to publicity flights. In 1932, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York, chose to fly to Chicago to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, introducing a new sense of modernity that suggested progress might solve the economic decay of the nation. Beyond politics, aviation matters also attracted public attention, as speed and distance records were regularly broken, making for front-page news. In 1931, for example, Wiley Post flew around the world in barely nine days, only to renew the exploit two years later, this time in eight days. The record would be cut in half in 1938 by a young millionaire, Howard Hughes, whose business acumen was equaled only by his passion for aviation and who would play an important role in the development of several airlines in the following decades. The 1930s also saw the rise of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who completed the first female solo transatlantic crossing in 1932 and went on to establish multiple distance and speed records until her mysterious disappearance during a Pacific Ocean flight in 1937. Charles Lindbergh, who...
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Ships in the Clouds: the Golden Age of Airships
America's relationship to rigid airships was a troubled one. Aside from Germany and Great Britain, nowhere else was the promotion of dirigible transport such a large-scale affair. Beginning in the 1920s Goodyear built blimps for the U.S. Navy. However, the apparent sturdiness of bigger machines with an internal metal structure to sustain them had become legendary as a result of German airship operations during World War I. Eventually, following the purchase of a German-built machine, the Los Angeles, a contract with the Zeppelin Company in Germany cleared the way for the transfer of technological experience that would allow the construction of large rigid airships in the United States. Slow negotiations eventually led to a navy contract for two 6.5-million-cubic-foot airships, numbered ZRS-4 and ZRS-5, valued at $8 million each, signed in October 1928. The dock for the construction of the airships was completed a year later, and the first dirigible girders were laid in March 1930.
Akron and Macon.
The main frames of the new dirigibles were large enough to permit crew members to climb into them, as the navy had insisted that all areas be accessible in flight. The ships were constructed with wire-braced frames and three keels to prevent any risk of a structure breakup in flight, as had happened in 1925 to the...
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Synthetic Rubber or Nylon?
The Nature of Rubber.
In the past rubber had to be imported from tropical lands where rubber trees grew. The material's strategic value was emphasized in World War I during the blockade of Germany, when shortages complicated the construction of military and civilian vehicles. After the war Du Pont began work on synthesizing artificial rubber. Using chloroprene, a product derived from acetylene, as a primary ingredient, the firm's chemists, in particular F. B. Downing, W. H. Carothers, and Ira Williams, eventually reached a satisfactory rubber substitute by incorporating substances derived from lime-stone, coal, salt, and water. The new product, christened "duprene" and introduced officially in late 1931, was intended to supplement natural rubber at first but already displayed one significant advantage in its properties, that of resisting the degrading effects of oxygen, kerosene, and gasoline. It also did not require the addition of sulfur to be vulcanized; heat alone was sufficient, Meanwhile, two other rubber technologists at Du Pont, Oliver M. Hayden and Ernest R. Bridgewater, working on a sample of duprene, concluded that what most differentiated this artificial rubber from previously produced kinds was that it had the same molecular structure as natural rubber. Du Pont also found that chloroprene could be used to make artificial latex, a waterproofer that could be applied to porous...
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The Struggle to Transmit.
The origins of television date back to 1884 with a patent given to Paul Nipkow of Germany for an image-sensitive disk. By 1931, following experimentation in radio laboratories, television was tried out in several "public" experiments. One group involved in attempting to develop the medium was the Jenkins Television Corporation in New York City, which installed a five-thousand-watt television transmitter in the same building as its studios. Collaborating with Jenkins, the General Broadcasting System used station WGBS on Long Island to schedule the synchronized sound equipment needed for the television studios. At the receiver end two units were required, one normal broadcast receiver and one short-wave television screen. Although the two units were separate, the idea was that since both signals were beamed at the same time, they should be received at the same time, albeit on different frequencies, and thus synchronize automatically. The reconstitution of the image left much to be desired and depended as much on the scanning of the image at the source as it did on atmospheric conditions separating the places of emission and reception. At the receiving end the problem depended on the projection of light onto the screen. Devices ranged from neon-powered "crater lamps" modulated by incoming radio waves to modified shadow boxes or even a complex disk made of some sixty...
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Women in Science
More Female Scientists.
The number of female scientists increased substantially in the 1930s, rising approximately 320 percent beyond what it was in the early 1920s yet remaining low in relation to the number of men who earned degrees in the sciences. A 1938 survey listed a total of 1,726 women scientists, excluding the medical sciences. The largest numbers in 1938 were spread over zoology (281), psychology (277), and botany (256), while the lowest were in engineering (8), anthropology (29), and astronomy (36). The statistics, however, only indicate the number of female scientists who actually got jobs, as opposed to those who had trained in those fields but got by on various grants. How widely a scientific field was taught, in addition, was likely to influence the accessibility of the field to women. Female zoologists graduated from 105 different institutions, while the sixty-three physicists came from some thirty-three schools. Thus, the greater number of some women in one discipline reflected its wider presence in the culture. Many of these women had earned Ph.D's.
Margaret W. Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982).
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Benedict, Ruth 1887-1948
The Role of a Father.
When asked about her formative years, Ruth Benedict acknowledged the important role her father had played in her childhood. A homeopathic surgeon whose success was thwarted by illness and who died when she was twenty-one months old, he became in her understanding of his memory a man fascinated with work and research, which she sought to equal. She attended Vassar College and graduated in 1909 after having been exposed to various ideas concerning women's rights, including the rights of women to study and have a profession. In 1914 she married Stanley Rossiter Benedict, a professor of biochemistry. In 1921, after spending eighteen months at the New School, she entered the Ph.D. program at Columbia, where Franz Boas became her mentor. She enjoyed anthropology because of the community of minds she encountered and also for the challenge of creating a space for herself as a woman.
Coming to the Fore.
By December 1921 Benedict had presented her first paper at the meeting of the...
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Boas, Franz 1858-1942
The Science of Anthropology.
Whereas Ruth Benedict offered new directions in anthropology, Franz Boas is probably the figure that made anthropology a scientific endeavor. Born in northern Germany in 1858, he studied at the universities of Heidelberg, Bonn, and Kiel, earning a doctorate in physics with a minor in geography. Following his first study expedition, to the Arctic, he visited the United States in 1884 and two years later emigrated from Germany because he perceived greater freedom in the United States to develop his own path of study. Following a brief stint as assistant editor for the journal Science, he taught and researched at Clark University, the University of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History, and Columbia University, During his career he published about ten thousand pages on northwestern Native American societies. He also published general and specialized scientific books.
The Engaged Scientist.
Boas's effort to teach anthropology at the turn of the century met with various difficulties. Such posts were few, and anthropology was rarely considered a science in its own right, alternately treated as part of psychology or natural history. His justification for studying foreign cultures—that closer political and economic relations with such nations as Japan required...
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Byrd, Richard E. 1888-1957
The Fascination with Exploration.
Born to an established family, Richard E. Byrd—whose brother, Harry Flood Byrd, was governor of, and later U.S. senator from, Virginia—attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and started an officer's career through which he rose to the rank of commander. Although he was forced to retire in 1916 because of a bad leg, he remained active in a variety of land posts, in particular in Pensacola, Florida, where he learned to fly. Throughout he remained fascinated with the various attempts that surrounded polar exploration and soon convinced several industrialists as well as the National Geographic Society to support a flight attempt to the North Pole from the islands of Spitsbergen north of Norway, a preferred departure point for air expeditions. In May 1926 Byrd succeeded in flying to the North Pole. Although his claim to success has been challenged several times, he nevertheless gained heroic status in the American public's mind. The image stuck when he also successfully flew across the Atlantic shortly after Charles Lindbergh. Byrd's interest then shifted to the South Pole, where throughout the...
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Earhart Amelia 1897-1937?
The Road to Flight.
Raised in a traditional Kansas family, Amelia Earhart faced difficult times when her parents, although well-to-do, overspent themselves. Her mother was able to recover some money from the estate and enroll Amelia in a school in Pennsylvania, but she never graduated, preferring instead to work as a nurse in a war hospital in Toronto. Meanwhile, she became the subject of a seven-year courtship, which she eventually rejected, fearing that the traditional limits of marriage would prevent her from attaining a meaningful life as an active woman. On Christmas 1920 her father took her to an air show inaugurating the opening of an airfield in Long Beach, California. Fascinated by the show, they went three days later to Rogers Field, where he bought her a ticket for a ride with pilot Frank Hawks. From that point she became obsessed with the idea of flying. She convinced Neta Snook, a female manager at Kinner Airfield, to teach her to fly and paid for her lessons, at a dollar per minute in the air, with Liberty Bonds. Her first successful record was set in October 1922, when she reached an altitude of fourteen thousand feet without...
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Karman, Theodore Von 1881-1963
The Road to California.
Theodore von Karman, born to a middle-class Jewish family, grew up in Budapest, Hungary. By the time he was six it was discovered that he had a gift for mathematics, able to calculate multiplications instantly and develop solutions to factor problems. His father, afraid that his son would waste his resources on pointless arithmetic tricks, ordered him to drop any interest in the subject for several years and to concentrate on the parental curriculum, which included history, geography, literature, and the study of six languages. By the time he was allowed to return to his mathematical interest, he had lost the capacity to calculate rapidly, and even when he regained some of it, the skill remained restricted to operations in Hungarian. In the meantime he developed an early interest in dynamics and applied mechanics, but when the time came to enroll in a university program he chose engineering rather than the sciences on the advice of his father. Graduating from Royal Joseph University in Budapest, Karman then served in the army before undertaking studies at Gottingen, Germany. Then followed various teaching posts and a directorship of the Aeronautical Institute at Aachen. Karman met Robert Millikan at a scientific conference in 1924 and two years later agreed to visit the California Institute of Technology for a few months. In...
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Lilienthal, David E. 1899-1981
NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGER
Rising to the Challenge.
Born in Illinois of Czechoslovakian parents, David Lilienthal graduated from Harvard Law School in 1923, where he had studied with Felix Frankfurter, then a professor at the school. Lilienthal went to work in Chicago for a private law firm. His personal interests centered around issues of conservation and development of natural resources. Following his successful handling of a difficult telephone rate case before the U.S. Supreme Court, he was appointed head of the State Utility Commission of Wisconsin in 1931. Two years later, on the advice of Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Lilienthal to join the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
In April 1933 President Roosevelt asked Congress to create an agency to oversee the use, development, and conservation of the Tennessee River Valley. This proposal included safe navigation, reforestation, industrial and agricultural programs, national defense production management, and the production and distribution of power at Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama, where the river's sudden drop made possible the establishment of a hydroelectric dam. The TVA was to be run by a committee of three men: Arthur Morgan, Harcourt Morgan, and Lilienthal.
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Millikan, Robert A. 1868-1953
PHYSICIST AND ADMINISTRATOR
Born in 1868 in Morrison? Illinois, to a preacher and a former dean of a Michigan college, Robert A. Millikan spent his childhood in Iowa. Self-taught in physics while at Oberlin College, he graduated in 1893 with a master's degree and enrolled at Columbia University the same year as its sole graduate student in physics. There he studied with Michael Pupin, another self-starter, who had risen from immigrant status to that of respected inventor. Following the completion of his Ph.D. in 1895, Millikan was invited to the University of Chicago to assist Albert Michelson, whom he knew from having taught a course for him the preceding year. Because Michelson disliked lecturing, Millikan assumed heavy teaching loads yet found the time to initiate his own program of research, achieving notice for his studies of electric charges and the photoelectric effect. While at Chicago he wrote several texts that were eventually used by generations of science students. He also became a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences and later assumed the research directorship of the National Research Council (NRC), formed in 1916 to...
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Urey, Harold C. 1893-1981
Focus on the Problem.
Indiana-born chemist Harold C. Urey first taught high-school classes before entering college at the University of Montana, where he majored in biology. In order to pay for his studies, he worked as a waiter, a construction worker, and eventually as a biology instructor. After graduation he worked as an industrial chemist in Philadelphia during World War I. His dislike of the industrial setting prompted him to pursue a university career. He entered graduate 'school at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1921, earning his doctorate two years later and then traveling to Denmark to study with physicist Niels Bohr. Of his time in California, Urey recalled both the collegiality and the hardworking atmosphere that permeated the small chemistry department, which inspired him to apply himself fully to the field. His early papers, using quantum theory, concerned the way molecules interact with light.
Working on Isotopes.
Moving to Columbia University in 1929, Urey started research on isotopes. The concept was still new—it had been introduced in 1913—and the periodic table of elements was being actively searched for stable isotopes. Those for oxygen had already been found, but Urey was more interested in the hypothesis that hydrogen had an isotope, an idea that had existed since the...
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Von Neumann, John 1903-1957
MATHEMATICIAN, PHYSICIST, COMPUTER PIONEER
In an age of increasing specialization within the sciences, John von Neumann seemed to be involved in everything, from mathematics to physics to computers. During the 1930s he was notable for his applications of mathematics to quantum physics and his pioneering work in game theory. He possessed an inquisitive mind and an extraordinary ability to learn about new fields quickly and offer solutions others had not considered.
Born Johann von Neumann in Budapest, Hungary, in 1903, at age twenty he offered a definition of ordinal numbers that was adopted everywhere. He completed a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the Zurich Institute in 1925, and the following year, at age twenty-three, a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Budapest. His dissertation on set theory was also widely influential. At age twenty-nine he published Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik (1932; translated as...
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People in the News
Astronomer Walter Sydney Adams had already contributed significantly to the study of white dwarfs when he applied some of his methodology to planets, thus determining in 1932 that the atmosphere of Venus is rich in carbon dioxide.
Naturalist Charles William Beebe decided to explore ocean depths by building a heavy steel shell, a bathy-sphere, that in 1934 helped him reach a record depth of 1,001 meters.
In 1937 botanist Albert Francis Blakeslee discovered that the alkaloid colchicine, obtained from the autumn crocus, could cause mutations in plants, an important step in identifying chemical influences in heredity.
In 1934 P. W. Bridgman, a Harvard professor of mathematics and physics, received the National Academy of Sciences Comstock Prize for devising and using various apparatuses to apply pressures of up to six hundred thousand pounds per square inch to determine how materials behave under high pressure.
Successful in developing the differential analyzer in the early 1930s, Vannevar Bush, a professor of electric power transmission and vice president of MIT, was named president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., in 1939.
As president of the National Academy of Sciences, an agency of the federal government, W. W. Campbell reported at its...
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AWARDS FOR AERONAUTICS
The Guggenheim Award, intended to recognize significant progress in aeronautics, was first bestowed upon Orville Wright for 1929 on 8 April 1930. The Robert J. Collier Trophy had a similar purpose but tended to focus more on engineering achievements.
Ludwig Prandtl, for his work on aerodynamics.
Frederick Lancaster, for his work on aerodynamics.
Juan de la Cierva, for his original development of the autogiro.
Jerome C. Hunsacker
William Durand, for his achievements in the development of aircraft-propeller theories.
Hugo Eckener, for his work in promoting the transport airship.
Donald Douglas, for outstanding contributions to the design and construction of transport aircraft.
Harold F. Pitcairn and Associates, for their work in the development of the autogiro.
Packard Motor Company, for its...
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Cleveland Abbe Jr., 62, geographer, 18 April 1934.
John Jacob Abel, 81, respected biochemist, 26 May 1938.
Edward Goodrich Acheson, 75, inventor who studied the properties of carbon, 6 July 1931.
Harold D. Arnold, 49, physicist noted for his invention of the three-electrode high-vacuum thermionic tube, 10 July 1933.
Louis Austin, 64, physicist, 27 June 1932.
James Baldwin, 73, noted psychologist who edited Psychological Review, 8 November 1934.
Samuel P. Baldwin, 70, geological explorer who became a pioneer in ornithology and bird-banding, 31 December 1938.
L. A. Bauer, 67, physicist who studied magnetism, 12 April 1932.
Bernard Behrend, 67, construction engineer and inventor, 25 March 1932.
Calvin Bridges, 49, early geneticist who worked on the interpretation of deficiencies in genetic data, 27 December 1938.
Mary Emma Byrd, 84, professor of astronomy who joined the faculty of Smith College, resigning in 1906 to protest the college's acceptance of Rockefeller and Carnegie foundation grants, 30 July 1934.
W. W. Campbell, 76, astronomer, 14 June 1938....
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Arthur Albert, Fundamental Electronics and Vacuum Tubes (New York: Macmillan, 1938);
John Stuart Allen and others, Atoms, Rocks and Galaxies: A Survey in Physical Sciences (New York: Harper, 1938);
Cyril Andrews, The Railway Age (New York: Macmillan, 1938);
George Pierce Baker, The Formation of the New England Railway Systems (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1937);
Ernest Barnes, Scientific Theory and Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1933);
Franz Boas, General Anthropology (Boston: Heath, 1938);
Boas, The Mind of Primitive Man, third edition (New York: Macmillan, 1938);
W. Boyle, The City That Grew (Los Angeles: South-land, 1936);
P. W. Bridgman, The Physics of High Pressure (London: Bell, 1931);
W. E. Butler, The Engineer's View of the Promised Land (New York: Fortunes, 1939);
Richard E. Byrd, Alone (New York: Putnam, 1938);
Byrd, Discovery (New York: Putnam, 1935);
Alexis Carrell, Man, the Unknown (New York: Harper, 1935);
Walter Chrysler, with Boyden Sparks, Life of an American Workman...
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Important Events in Science and Technology, 1930–1939
- On January 25, a new amendment to the Air Commerce Regulations sets five hundred feet as a minimum altitude at which aircraft may fly except during landing and takeoff.
- On February 17, Louis Bamberger and his sister, Mrs. Felix Fuld, the widow of his late partner, found the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.
- On February 18, Clyde William Tombaugh confirms the existence of Pluto, the ninth and last planet in Earth's solar system, which had been calculated by Percival Lowell in 1906.
- In March, Harlow Shapley calculates the Milky Way galaxy to be 250,000 light years in diameter.
- In March, chemist Thomas Midgley Jr. develops the manufacturing process for Freon, a gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
- On March 10, Eleanor Smith establishes a women's flight altitude record of 27,418 feet.
- On April 4, the American Interplanetary Society (later the American Rocket Society) is founded for the "promotion of interest in and experimentation toward interplanetary expeditions and travels."
- On April 22, W.A. Mudge at International Nickel produces the first age-hardening wrought-nickel alloy, K-monel.
- In May, Transcontinental and West Airlines establish the first transcontinental New York-Los Angeles air...
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