May 27th--This Day in Engineering History (And What A Day It Was!) - An Engineer's Aspect


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 27th--This Day in Engineering History (And What A Day It Was!)

1781 – Giovanni Battista Beccaria, Italian physicist died (born 1716).

Image: Giovanni Battista Beccaria

From New Advent:
"At the age of sixteen he entered the Order of Clerks Regular of St. Joseph Calasanctius, and successively taught in the Scuole Pie of Palermo and Rome. His ability as instructor being soon recognized, he was appointed by royal authority professor of physics in the University of Turin (1748). Here be ardently devoted himself to researches on atmospheric electricity, in which he made liberal use of kites, rockets, and iron wire for the purpose of exploring the electrical conditions of the atmosphere. Henley's pith-ball electroscope was his recording instrument. In broken or stormy weather, positive and negative electrification were detected; whereas in calm, serene weather "the excessive or positive was always found". The sinuous or forked character of lightning was attributed to the resistance of the air; and the rupture of the shoes of a man struck by a flash, to the "moisture of the feet flying into vapour". Beccaria confirmed the observation of Andrew Gordon that water evaporates more rapidly when electrified; also the conclusion of Abbés Nollet and Menon that animals (cats, pigeons, chaffinches) lose weight when subjected to prolonged electrification, the loss being ascribed to increased "transpiration" under electrical stimulus. He was also among the first to recognize and clearly state that the electrical charge on a conductor is confined to the surface. An experimental demonstration of this law of electrostatics was devised by Cavendish in 1775 and independently by Coulomb in 1788 and popularized in 1816 by Biot, whose name it usually bears. Beccaria adopted the two-fluid theory of Franklin as well as the views of the American philosopher on the preventive and protective functions of lightning conductors.

In 1755 Beccaria was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1766 he contributed a paper to the "Philosophical Transactions", in which he describes (in Latin) five of the more important of his experimental researches. In 1770 he contributed a second paper (also in Latin) in which he expounds five theorems followed by fifteen corollaries in electrostatics. His principal work is his treatise "Dell' elettricismo artificiale e naturale" (1753), which was translated into English in 1778. Other works are "Lettere sull' elettricismo" (1758); "Experimenta atque observationes quibus electricitas vindex late constituitur" (1769); and "Dell' elettricita terrestre atmosferica a cielo sereno" (1775)."

1873 - Elijah J. McCoy was issued one of his many patents for a lubricating device (U.S. No. 139,407).

"This [patent] was designed to be attached to a steam engine cyclinder and provide oil to the steam chest chiefly when the steam was exhausted, but close a valve otherwise. The cup of oil contained a central vertical tube with a regulator at its top that would control the oil flow depending on steam pressure on the valve at the bottom. The small tap on the side at the bottom was to drain off condensed water. A glass viewing port in the side towards the top permitted visual inspection of the oil level." (From: Today in Science History)

1874 - J. Edgar Thomson died (born 1808).

Image: J. Edgar Thomson.
Source: Wikipedia.

"John Edgar Thomson (February 10, 1808 – May 27, 1874) was an American civil engineer, railroad executive and industrialist. Thompson was an entrepreneur best known for his leadership of the Pennsylvania Railroad from its founding in 1852 to his death 1874, making it the largest business enterprise in the world and a world-class model for technological and managerial innovation.

Thomson's sober, technical, methodical, and non-ideological personality had an important influence on the Pennsylvania Railroad, which in the mid-19th century was on the technical cutting edge of rail development, while nonetheless reflecting Thomson's personality in its conservatism and its steady growth while avoiding financial risks. His Pennsylvania railroad was in his day the largest corporation in the world, with 6000 miles of track, and was famous for steady financial dividends and for high quality construction, constantly improving equipment, technological advances (such as replacing wood with coal), and innovation in how to manage a large complex organization (Wikipedia)."

1876 – Sir William Stanier, British railway engineer was born (d. 1965).

As CME, "Stanier's first London, Midland & Scottish design was the Princess heavy passenger pacific, which incorporated many aspects of Churchward's GWR designs. These did not steam very well, and only 12 were built. In 1937, the Coronation Class (later known as the Duchess Class) was produced and incorporated a number of improvements including a larger superheater. The first members of this class also featured streamlining. Many consider the Duchess Class as the finest British passenger locomotive every built. On a press trip in 1937, the Coronation Scot set a new British record of 114mph - beating the previous record set by a Gresley A4. It is likely that a Duchess may have eventually beaten the final speed record of the Mallard's 126mph, but the LMS lacked a suitable stretch of high speed track and World War 2 intervened. The Duchess Class also had a remarkable power output for their size when compared to larger international locomotives. Weighing only 105 tons, Duchess of Abercorn achieved 3300 indicated horsepower whilst pulling a test train up to Beattock Summit.

Stanier built many other very successful designs for the LMS. Of particular note are the "Black 5" mixed traffic 4-6-0, and the 8F 2-8-0 freight designs. The 8F was chosen by the War Department as a standard locomotive, and as such served with the LNER as the O6 Class during and after World War 2 (The London and North Eastern Railway Encyclopedia)."

1883 - Wolfgang Ostwald was born (d. 1943).

"German chemist who devoted his life as a teacher, researcher, editor and one of the founders of colloid chemistry. He defined colloids as disperse systems that are generally polyphasic and that possess particles 1-100 millimicrons in size. He discovered the rule of colour dispersion in the optics of colloidal systems, explained colloids' irregular flow behaviour, textural viscosity, and textural turbulence, and developed a method of foam analysis. He edited (from 1909) Kolloidchemische Beihefte and other journals and as the founder (1922) and president of the Kolloid Gesellschaft, Ostwald advanced research in colloids. He was the second child of 1909 Nobel Laureate Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald (Today in Science History). "

1887 - Kasimir Fajans was born (d. 1975).

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Kasimar Fajans was a"Polish-American physical chemist who discovered the radioactive displacement law simultaneously with Frederick Soddy of Great Britain. According to this law, when a radioactive atom decays by emitting an alpha particle, the atomic number of the resulting atom is two fewer than that of the parent atom. When a beta particle is emitted, the atomic number is one greater.

After study at the universities of Leipzig, Heidelberg, Zürich, and Manchester, Fajans served on the faculty of the Technical Academy at Karlsruhe in Germany from 1911 to 1917. In 1913, in collaboration with Otto Gohring, he discovered uranium X2, which is now called protactinium-234m. In 1917 he joined the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Munich, where he rose from associate professor to director. From 1936 to 1957, when he retired, Fajans was a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1942.

1890 - American inventor Frank J. Farrell of New York City was issued a patent for an "Apparatus for melting snow" to be placed in a street gutter (No. 428,670).

"The box-shaped apparatus was designed so that the upper surface, a removeable cover, formed a portion of the bed of a street gutter. Inside, a duct for heated fluid had openings under a perforated tray, and drain holes. Steam could be supplied from an adjacent house. An automatic steam trap using a float-ball prevented the waste of live steam. The patent described that snow would be thrown upon the surface tray to be melted; the perforated tray caught sticks and stones. Earlier in the year, he patented a steam trap. He patented eight valves between 1890 and 1893 (Today in Science History)."

1890 - Two U.S. patents for the first jukebox were issued to Louis Glass and his business associate, William S. Arnold (No. 428,750 & 428,751) concerning a "coin actuated attachment for phonographs."

"Their first jukebox was a coin-operated Edison Class M Electric Phonograph with oak cabinet placed in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. This was before the time of vacuum tubes, so there was no amplification. For a nickel a play, a patron could listen using one of four listening tubes. Known as "Nickel-in-the-Slot," the machine was an instant success, earning over $1000 in less than half a year (Today in Science History)."

1896 – Aleksandr Grigorievich Stoletov, Russian physicist died (b. 1839).

Image: Aleksandr STOLETOV Russian physicist, founder of electrical engineering - by Yakovlev artist, 1957 Postcard.

From Wikipedia:
"Aleksandr Grigorievich Stoletov (Russian: Александр Григорьевич Столетов, August 10, 1839-May 27, 1896) was a Russian physicist, founder of electrical engineering, and professor in Moscow University.

His major contributions include pioneer work in the field of ferromagnetism and discovery of the laws and principles of the outer photoelectric effect.

Achievements of Alexander Stoletov include:

Magnetism (1871-1872)
  • Stoletov was the first to show that with the increase of the magnetic field the magnetic susceptibility of iron grows, but then begins to decrease.
  • Built the curve of the magnetic permeability of ferromagnetics, known as the Stoletov curve.
  • Developed two new methods for measuring magnetic properties of various materials.
Photoelectric effect (1888-1891)
  • Studied the outer photoelectric effect, discovered by Hertz in 1887. Published the results in the six works.
  • Developed quantitative methods for the study of the photoelectric effect.
  • Discovered the direct proportionality between the intensity of light and the corresponding photo induced current (Stoletov's law)
  • Discovered the Stoletov constant which defines the ratio between the intensity of the electric current and the gas pressure under the maximum current.
  • Built the first solar cell based on the outer photoelectric effect and estimated the response time of the photoelectric current.
  • Discovered the decrease of the solar cell's sensitivity with time (fatigue of solar cells).
  • Calculated the proportion between electrodynamic and electrostatic units, producing a value very close to the speed of light."

1897 – John Cockcroft, British physicist, Nobel Prize laureate was born (d. 1967).

Sir John Douglas Cockcroft, OM, KCB, CBE received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atomic nucleus, and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power.

"He first collaborated with P. Kapitsa in the production of intense magnetic fields and low temperatures. In 1928 he turned to work on the acceleration of protons by high voltages and was soon joined in this work by E.T.S. Walton. In 1932 they succeeded in transmuting lithium and boron by high energy protons. In 1933 artificial radioactivity was produced by protons and a wide variety of transmutations produced by protons and deuterons was studied. In 1934 he took charge of the Royal Society Mond Laboratory in Cambridge ("

1840 - Lars Fredrik Nilson, a Swedish chemist who discovered scandium in 1879, was born (d. 1899).

In 1874 Nilson became associate professor of chemistry. While working on rare earths, in 1879 he discovered scandium. During this time he also studied the gas density of metals which made it possible to determine the valence of various metals.

In 1882 he became director of the chemistry research department of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. His research partially took a new direction from then on. He conducted studies on cow milk and various fodder plants.
Nilson was a member of several academies and got several awards, including the Order of the Polar Star (Wikipedia).

1909 - William Webster Hansen, U.S. physicist and one of the founders of the technology of microwave electronics, was born (d. 1949).

From Wikipedia:
"Hansen's father, an immigrant from Denmark, was a hardware store owner in Fresno, California and encouraged his son's early talent in mathematics and enthusiasm for electronics. Entering Stanford University at the age of 16, he received his doctorate in 1933.

He went on to become interested in the problem of accelerating electrons for X-ray experiments, using oscillating fields, rather than large static voltages. At the University of California, Berkeley, Ernest Lawrence and David H. Sloan had worked on an accelerator driven by a resonant coil. Hansen proposed replacing the coil with a cavity resonator. However, in 1937, the brothers Russel and Sigurd F. Varian came to Stanford to work on the foundations of what was to become radar. Hansen exploited some of the Varians' work to develop the klystron and during the years 1937 to 1940, along with collaborators such as John R. Woodyard, founded the field of microwave electronics.

In 1941, he moved his team to the Sperry Gyroscope Company where they spent the war years employing their expertise in radar applications and in other problems.

Returning to Stanford in 1945 as a full professor, he embarked on the construction of a series of linear accelerators based on klystron technology and of GeV performance. Along with the Varian brothers, he co-founded Varian Associates in 1948. Sadly, he was never to see the completion of the klystron project. He died at age 39 in Palo Alto, California of a lung disease caused by inhaling the beryllium used in his research. His wife Betsy, the daughter of Perely Ason Ross, committed suicide a few months later."

1909 - The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) came into being on May 27, 1909.

"The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was conceived as a 'Research Institute' or 'University of Research' by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, in the twilight years of the 19th century. A long period of almost thirteen years was to elapse from the initial conception in 1896 to the birth of the Institute on May 27, 1909. The early history of the Institute is a fascinating chapter in the story of higher education and scientific research in India. The cast of characters in the drama that led to the establishment of the Institute includes, in addition to its charismatic and generous founder J.N. Tata, figures from the pages of Indian history. There is Swami Vivekananda, whom J.N. Tata befriended on his famous voyage to the United States, the Maharaja of Mysore, Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his mother then acting on his behalf, and Lord Curzon the Viceroy of India, whose first task on arrival on December 31, 1898 was to receive a draft proposal prepared by the Provisional Committee set up to plan the establishment of the Institute.

The plan was shepherded through many difficult years by Burjorji Padshah, a close associate of J.N. Tata. Unfortunately, J.N. Tata died in 1904 unaware that his vision would indeed be realized a few years later. When the British Government finally issued the Vesting Order in 1909, an unmatched experiment in higher education and research was launched in India.

In the century that has passed since its inception, IISc has grown to become India's premier centre for research and postgraduate education in science and engineering (Indian Institute of Science)."

1914 - Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, british physicist and inventor of the incandescent light bulb, died (b. 1828).

Sir Joseph Swan "produced an early electric incandescent lamp. He began these experiments in the 1840’s and obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp in 1860. Swan’s early lamps provided low light output, were short lived, and were operated from battery cells. Low voltage operation required relatively high filament current that necessitated that the power source be co-located near the Swan lamp. He also addressed the problem of photographic print fading and in the mid 1850s some began to experiment with carbon, perfecting and patenting the process in 1864. Thus Swan invented the dry photographic plate, an important improvement in photography (Today in Science History)."

1919 – The NC-4 aircraft arrives in Lisbon after completing the first transatlantic flight.

A 1945 newsreel covering various firsts in human flight, including footage of the flight across the Atlantic (From Wikipedia):

1924 - Thomas A. Edison was issued a patent for a "Method of Producing Chlorinated Rubber" (U.S. No. 1,495,580).

1927 – The Ford Motor Company ceases manufacture of the Ford Model T and begins to retool plants to make the Ford Model A.

1930 – The 1,046 feet (319 m) Chrysler Building in New York City, the tallest man-made structure at the time, opens to the public.

1930 - Masking tape was patented by inventor Richard G. Drew of St. Paul, Minnesota. (U.S. No. 1,760,820).

1931 - The first U.S. full scale wind tunnel for testing airplanes was opened in Langley Field Research Center, Va.

Image: A scale model of an airship under test in the full-scale tunnel.
Source: Wind Tunnels of NASA.

"In the 30-ft high by 60-ft wide tunnel, flying characteristics of full-size airplanes were tested in air speeds up to 115-mph. The air was driven by two propellers downstream, each over 35-ft in diameter, powered by 4,000 hp electric motors. Over the next 65 years, tests were also run on helicopters, the Mercury space capsule, parachutes and parafoils, the occasional dirigible and, once, the fastest submarine in the world. Generations of aircraft passed through the Full-Scale Tunnel; all emerged more airworthy than when they entered. NASA closed the tunnel in October 1995. A smaller scale wind tunnel opened there in the 1920s. By 1936, a new wind tunnel was built able to provide an air speed of 600 mph (Today in Science History)."

1931 - Auguste Piccard and Charles Knipfer took man's first trip into the stratosphere when they rode their balloon to an altitude of 51,800 feet (nearly 10 miles above the earth).

Image: Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer.
Source: PULS.

The trip required the use of a pressurized cabin, which Piccard had designed. On-board experiements included the use of an electroscope to investigate cosmic rays Today in Science History).

1933 – The Century of Progress World's Fair opens in Chicago, Illinois.

1934 - One Woman is Killed When Stands Collapse in De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.


DE PERE, Wis.--(AP)--Her neck broken when a temporary bleacher collapsed at a baseball game here Sunday, Susan Vanderlinden, 55, died at a hospital. The stands, holding about 50 persons, crashed, and Miss Vanderlinden was caught between the bleachers and the car parked nearby.

1937 – In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic, creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County, California.

1937 - Frederic Eugene Ives died (b. 1856).

Image: Frederic Eugene Ives.
Source: "A New Principle in Heliochromy" by Frederic Eugene Ives.

Frederic Eugene Ives was an "American photographer and inventor of the halftone process, a method of reproducing photographs on a printing press. Prior to this process, photos and illustrations were reproduced from hand-engraved plates. In this way printers could reproduce line drawings, but not the shades of gray in a photograph because printing presses cannot print gray - only black and white. Ives invented a screen that would convert a photograph into a pattern of tiny dots. Large dots form where the image is dark, and tiny dots where the image is light, thus giving the illusion of shades of gray. In 1881, he was the first to make a three-colour print from halftone blocks. Further inventions in photography and colour printing yielded 70 patents (Today in Science History)."

1950 - The First National Convention of the Society of Women Engineers is Held.

"On May 27-28, 1950, about fifty women representing the four original districts or sections — metropolitan New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., and Boston — attended the first "national convention" of the Society of Women Engineers at Green Engineering Camp of the Cooper Union in New Jersey, and elected Dr. Beatrice A. Hicks president. Over the next three years, the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Los Angeles sections were chartered. In 1957 the SWE Archives was established, and the national SWE Archives Committee became a SWE standing committee (SWE)."

1958 – The F-4 Phantom II makes its first flight.

1959 - Small Bridge Collapses Over Tsatsawassa Creek.

The Troy Record, Thursday Morning, May 28, 1959.

Dump Truck Removed From Creek

A crane and a bulldozer were used yesterday afternoon to remove a two-ton dump truck from the Tsatsawassa Creek on the Dunham Hollow-East Nassau road, off Route 66, at Hoag's Corners, which made it's plunge when a small bridge collapsed. No one was injured in the accident.

Collapse of the bridge, which measured about 25 feet across, deprives three families of a convenient means of travel. The bridge leads to a town road which runs about 500 yards and comes to a dead end. State Police said last night that the three families are encountering inconvenience as a result of the bridge collapse. The bridge was constructed by Rensselner County but is maintained by the Twon of Nassau.

Claude Coonrad of Averill Park, operating the truck owned by the Ackner and Hunt Sand and Gravel Co., of Averill Park, was able to clamber to safety in spite of his precarious position of being suspended in the air. The back of the truck was resting on the stream bed amidst the wreckage of the bridge. The truck was removed about 4 p.m. and the crane was used to lift the rear end of the vehicle which was pulled out by the bulldozer.

The bridge collapsed about 11 a.m. yesterday. State Police of the New Lebanon station were sent to the scene.

Clyde Bassett, superintendent of highways of the Town of Nassau, said last night plans have been made to make temporary repairs to the bridge today to permit foot travel over the structure.

Mrs. William Sinclair, who lives nearest the bridge, told The Record Newspapers that "it presents quite a problem for us and two other families as we are completely cut off."

Mrs. Sinclair, her husband, three children and Mr. Sinclair's parents are among those marooned. Others cut off are Mrs. Mary Turner who lives alone and Mr. and Mrs. James Murdock.

The highway ends at the Murdock property and is used not only by the families involved but also by deliverymen who make their rounds each day.

At one time the road extended further than the Murdock property.

In the winter and spring the stream is usually quite high at this spot. Fortunately no telephone or electric wires were torn down by the collapse, residents said. The telephone is their only means of communication at present. Efforts will be made, authorities said, to make temporary repairs so that the families can go and return to their homes.

1973 - Roof Collapse Injures 5 in LaFollette, Tennessee, USA.

Middlesboro Daily News, Middlesboro, Kentucky, Monday, May 28, 1973.

Roof Collapse Injures Five In LaFollette

LaFollette, Tenn. (UPI) -- Five persons were injured in LaFollette yesterday when the roof of Woodson's Supermarket collapsed. A police spokesman said the flat roofed structure apparently collected more water than the building could support.

The spokesman said it had rained in the area for 12 hours. Police said only two of the five persons injured required hospitalization and they appeared to be in good condition.

1982 - Merle Antony Tuve died (b. 1901).

"Merle Anthony Tuve, PhD (June 27, 1901 - May 20, 1982 was an American scientist and geophysicist who was the founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He was a pioneer in the use of pulsed radio waves whose discoveries opened the way to the development of radar and nuclear energy.

In 1925, with physicist Gregory Breit, he used radio waves to measure the height of the ionosphere and probe its interior layers. The observations he made provided the theoretical foundation for the development of radar. He was among the first physicists to use high-voltage accelerators to define the structure of the atom. In 1933 he confirmed the existence of the neutron and was also able to measure the bonding forces in atomic nuclei.

Tuve proposed that an electronically-activated proximity fuse would make anti-aircraft fire far more effective, and led the team of scientists that developed the device, which proved crucial in the allies' victory in World War II. He led in the development of the proximity fuze at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and also made contributions to experimental seismology, radio astronomy, and optical astronomy. In 1942, Merle Tuve was the founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Merle Tuve was the Director of Terrestrial Magnetism Research at the Carnegie Institution for Science (1946-66). He served on the first U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, on the National Research Council Committee on Growth, and on the U.S. Committee for the International Geophysical Year. He was the first chairman of the Geophysical Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences (Wikipedia)."

1988 - Ernst Ruska died (b. 1906)

"With the idea that electrons having shorter wavelengths than light could give better microscopic resolution than optical microscopes, in 1931 Ruska created the first electron lens under the tutelage of Dr. Max Knoll at the Technical University in Berlin. In 1933 he refined this development into the electron microscope, with performance a full order of magnitude better than the best optics. He joined the Siemens company in 1937 to market the invention, leaving that position in 1955 for the Institute for Electron Microscopy of the Fritz Haber Institute. He retired in 1972, and shared one-half of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1986 for his invention (NNDB)."

1994 - The Highest Temperature Produced in a Lab was Reached at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Image: The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor.
Source: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

"In 1994, the highest temperature produced in a lab was a plasma temperature of 510 million degrees Celsius (918,000,000 deg F) in the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) operated at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory of Princeton University. An early record was set there in 1985, when the TFTR was the first tokamak to achieve the reactor temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius. The TFTR (Dec 1982-Apr 1997) was the largest magnetic fusion experiment in the U.S. and was the first such device in the world to studied the confinement and heating of plasmas with 50/50 mixtures of deuterium and tritium - the fuel mixture likely to be used in the commercial fusion power plants of the twenty-first century (Today in Science History)."