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Important historic dates in science

January 30: In 1950, development of the hydrogen fusion bomb (H-bomb) was ordered by U.S. President Truman. The codename of "Super" for the project reflected the far greater power of this thermonuclear device over the earlier fission bombs used to end WW II.


January 29: In 1896, Émil H. Grubbe, a Chicago researcher, became the first known to administer x-ray radiation treatment for the recurrent breast cancer of a fifty-five-year-old woman. X-rays had been discovered the previous year in Germany. Grubbe tried radiation as a tool against cancer after he suffered a radiation burn while experimenting with X-rays. His experiment didn't cure the woman's cancer, but others in the late 1890s who applied X-rays to various cancers - especially skin cancer - not only relieved cancer pain but actually cured some, which encouraged continued use and study of the X-rays. Grubbe did not publish his work until several years later, and his claims of priority as the first to use radiation treatment were widely doubted.

January 28: In 1958, the first privately-owned thorium-uranium atomic reactor to supply power began construction. It was the first reactor designed to supplement fissionable uranium-235 with fertile thorium-232. This was the Indian Point nuclear generating station, built at Buchanan, New York, at a cost of $100 million. It was a pressurized water reactor able to produce 275,000 kilowatts of power. The design and construction was executed by the Babcock and Wilcox Co. for the Consolidated Edison Co. The Indian Point 1 operating licence was dated 26 Mar 1962 and its shutdown date was 31 Oct 1974.

January 24: In 1958, after heating to 100 million degrees, two light atoms are smashed together to create a heavier atom (the first man-made nuclear fusion).

January 23: In 1896, Wilhelm Roentgen first made a public lecture-demonstration of his X-ray device, in Würzburg, Germany.

January 22: In 1939, the uranium atom was split for the first time using the cyclotron at Columbia University in New York City. Thus began the Manhattan Project, leading to the construction of the atom bomb. The project was subsequently moved inland to the University of Chicago to protect the research from any possible German bombing of New York. (Also the weight of the apparatus was so great that the floor was in danger of collapsing!) The cyclotron that performed the first-ever fission experiment was designed and built by John Dunning (who became Dean of the Engineering School, 1950-69). In 1965, the cyclotron was taken to the Smithsonian Institute. The original invention of the first cyclotron was by physicist Ernest Lawrence.

January 21: In 1954, the first atomic submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched at Groton, Connecticut. Nautilus' nuclear propulsion system was a landmark in the history of naval engineering and submersible craft. All vessels previously known as "submarines" were in fact only submersible craft. Because of the nuclear power plant, the Nautilus could stay submerged for months at a time, unlike diesel-fueled subs, whose engines required vast amounts of oxygen. Nautilus demonstrated her capabilities in 1958 when she sailed beneath the Arctic icepack to the North Pole. Scores of nuclear submarines followed Nautilus, replacing the United States' diesel boat fleet. After patrolling the seas until 1980, the Nautilus is back home at Groton.

January 20: In 1896, X-rays were first used in a clinical setting, both in America and in Gemany.

January 20: In 1633, Galileo, at age 68, left his home in Florence, Italy, to face the Inquisition in Rome. By 22 Jun 1633, he buckled under the threats and interrogation by the Inquisition, and renounced his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

January 18: In 1896, The first x-ray machine is exhibited in the U.S. at Casino Chambers, New York City. For an admission charge of 25 cents, patrons could view the "Parisian sensation."

January 16: In 1953, a sample amounting to about 200 atoms of fermium (Fm, atomic number 100) was first by ion-exchange chromatography and identified at the University of California, Berkeley. Like einsteinium, fermium was first isolated from the debris of the Nov 1952 test of the hydrogen-bomb (called the "Mike" event, conducted at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean). Samples of debris were collected by drone aircraft flying through the cloud. For security reasons, it was kept secret until 1955 [See Phys. Rev., 99,1048 (1955)]. Because it is short-lived, scientists doubt that enough fermium will ever be obtained to be weighed. Fermium was the eighth transuranium element of the actinide series to be discovered, and was named in honour of Enrico Fermi.

January 15: Edward Teller, nuclear physicist born January 15, 1908
(died September 9, 2003)
Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist who participated in the production of the first atomic bomb (1945) and who led the development of the world's first thermonuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb. After studying in Germany he left in 1933, going first to London and then to Washington, DC. He worked on the first atomic reactor, and later working on the first fission bombs during WW II at Los Alamos. Subsequently, he made a significant contribution to the development of the fusion bomb. His work led to the detonation of the first hydrogen bomb (1952). He is sometimes known as "the father of the H-bomb." Teller's unfavourable evidence in the Robert Oppenheimer security-clearance hearing lost him some respect amongst scientists

January 14: Theoretical and technical innovator Ernst Abbe dies
Born: January 23, 1840- Died: January 14, 1905
German physicist who made theoretical and technical innovations in optical theory. He improved microscope design, such as the use of a condenser lens to provide strong, even illumination (1870). His optical formula, now called the Abbe sine condition, applies to a lens to form a sharp, distortion-free image. He invented the Abbe refractometer for determining the refractive index of substances. In 1866, he joined Carl Zeiss' optical works, later became his partner in the company, and in 1888 became the owner of the company upon Zeiss' death. Concurrently, he was appointed professor at the Univ. of Jena in 1870 and director of its astronomical and meteorological observatories in 1878

January 13: In 1958, Linus Pauling (1901-1994) presented the petition of 9,000 scientists to the U.N., asking to halt the testing of nuclear bombs. Pauling, together with his wife, was instrumental in collecting thousands of signatures from scientists all over the world for the petition to end nuclear bomb testing, which was presented to Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations. A few months later the Soviet Union called for an immediate halt to nuclear testing, and in October, after more tests by both sides that added markedly to world concern about fallout, talks began in Geneva to discuss details of a possible test ban.

January 13: German physicist Wilhelm Wien born January 13, 1864
German physicist Wilhelm Wien (died August 30, 1928) received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1911 for his displacement law concerning the radiation emitted by the perfectly efficient blackbody (a surface that absorbs all radiant energy falling on it). While studying streams of ionized gas Wien, in 1898, identified a positive particle equal in mass to the hydrogen atom. Wien, with this work, laid the foundation of mass spectroscopy. J J Thomson refined Wien's apparatus and conducted further experiments in 1913 then, after work by E Rutherford in 1919, Wien's particle was accepted and named the proton. Wien also made important contributions to the study of cathode rays, X-rays and canal rays.

January 12: In 1896, Dr. Henry Louis Smith took the first x-ray photograph, Davidson, NC. It showed the location of a bullet in the hand of a corpse, using a 15 minute exposure. Smith obtained the hand of the corpse, and fired a bullet into it, for this experiment. Smith was a professor of physics and astronomy at Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.

January 12: In 1965, at 10:58 a.m. PST, scientists conducted what they called a "controlled excursion", burning up a nuclear rocket in Nevada. It produced a radioactive cloud over Los Angeles.

January 9: On this date in 1962 - US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site.

January 9: Richard Wilhelm Heinrich Abegg, Physical chemist was born.
Abegg (born January 9, 1869; died April 3, 1910) whose work contributed to the understanding of valence (the capacity of an atom to combine with another atom) in light of the newly discovered presence of electrons within the atom.

January 8: 1642 - Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist/astronomer, dies at 77 in Italy

January 8: English physicist Stephen W. Hawking born January 8. 1942
English theoretical physicist whose theory of exploding black holes drew upon both relativity theory and quantum mechanics. He also worked with space-time singularities. Hawking now holds the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, formerly held by Sir Isaac Newton. Afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALS), Hawking is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to speak without the aid of a computer voice synthesizer. However, despite his challenges, he has utilized his intelligence, knowledge and abilities to make remarkable contributions to the field of cosmology (the study of the universe as a whole). Hawking wrote the book A Brief History of Time.

January 8: 1989 - Soviet Union promises to eliminate stockpiles of chemical weapons

January 8: Walther Wilhelm Georg Bothe, born 8 Jan 1891; died 8 Feb 1957.
Bothe was a German physicist who developed the coincidence method of detecting the emission of electrons by x-rays in which electrons passing through two adjacent Geiger tubes at almost the same time are registered as a coincidental event. He used it to show that momentum and energy are conserved at the atomic level. In 1929 he applied the method to the study of cosmic rays and was able to show that they consisted of massive particles rather than photons. This research brought him a share (with Max Born) in the Nobel Prize for 1954. In 1930, he observed a strange radiation emitted from beryllium when it was exposed to alpha particles, later identified by Chadwick as consisting of neutrons. He built Germany's first cyclotron (1943).

January 7: 1943 - Nikola Tesla, Yugoslavian physicist (tesla motor), dies at 86
Serbian-American inventor and researcher (born 9/10 july 1856) who discovered the rotating magnetic field, the basis of most alternating-current machinery. He emigrated to the United States in 1884 and sold the patent rights to his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to George Westinghouse.



January 7: In 1953, President Harry Truman announced in his State of the Union address that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb.





January 7: In 1896, a special article titled THE LIGHT THAT NEVER WAS is published in the Post-Dispatch in New York announcing that Professor Wilhelm Roentgen had discovered a light which, for the purpose of photography, will penetrate wood, flesh and most other organic substances.


January 5: On this date in 1896 The Austrian newspaper Wiener Presse reported the discovery by German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen of a type of radiation that came to be known as an X-ray.