August 10th--This Day in Engineering History - An Engineer's Aspect


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Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10th--This Day in Engineering History

1602 – Gilles de Roberval, French mathematician born (d. 1675).

Image: Portrait of Gilles Personne de Roberval (1602-1675) at the inauguration of the French Academy of Sciences, 1666, where he was a founding member. Source: Wikipedia.
"Roberval developed powerful methods in the early study of integration, writing Traité des indivisibles. He computed the definite integral of sin x, worked on the cycloid and computed the arc length of a spiral. Roberval is important for his discoveries on plane curves and for his method for drawing the tangent to a curve, already suggested by Torricelli. This method of drawing tangents makes Roberval the founder of kinematic geometry.

He was elected to the Académie Royal des Sciences in 1666. In fact he was a founding member of the Académie. In 1669 he invented the Roberval balance which is now almost universally used for weighing scales of the balance type. He presented details to the Académie in that year.

Roberval also worked with Jean Picard in cartography and wrote on mapping France. He studied the vacuum and designed apparatus which was used by Pascal in his experiments (Gilles Personne de Roberval)."
1675 – The foundation stone of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London is laid.

Image: The Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Source: The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1829.

According to Bright Hub, The Greenwich Royal Observatory, or The Royal Observatory, Greenwich as it is currently known was founded in 1675 under King Charles II. It is the site of the Prime Meridian, Universal Time, and a 28-inch refracting telescope. Until its official closing as a scientific institute in 1998, it was the oldest in Great Britain still in operation.

"For more than 200 years, the main work of the Observatory was to compile the annual volumes of The Nautical Almanac. Since its first edition in 1767, The Nautical Almanac has given the precise positions of the Sun, Moon and planets to allow mariners to determine their position at sea from sightings made with a sextant (SkyEye)."

1839 – Aleksandr Stoletov, Russian physicist born (d. 1896).

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."
1846 – The Smithsonian Institution is chartered by the United States Congress after $500,000 is given for such a purpose by scientist James Smithson.

Image: An 1816 portrait of Smithson by Henri-Joseph Johns, now in the National Portrait Gallery
of the Smithsonian Institution. Source: Wikipedia.

James Smithson graduated from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1786, and became a fellow of the Royal Society with his proficiency in chemistry and minerology. His work includes 27 published papers, 200 manuscripts, and thousands of notes.

Smithson wrote his will at the age of 61. In it, he arranges a pension for a former servant, and leaves the rest of his estate to his nephew. At his nephew's death, the money is to go to the nephew's heirs, or, if there are no heirs, to the United States, to establish a "Smithsonian Institution ("
Congress accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation after Smithson's nephew died without heirs, and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust July 1, 1836. Eight years later, Congress passed an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, a hybrid public/private partnership, and the act was signed into law on August 10, 1846 by James Polk (Wikipedia).

1876 - Alexander Graham Bell makes the world's first long-distance call.

Image: Alexander Graham Bell places the long-distance call that inaugurated service from New York to Chicago. Source: B.U. Bridge.
"Born on March 3, 1847, he came to Brantford, Ontario with his family in 1870. He conceived the idea of the telephone in Brantford in 1874 and made the first long distance call between Brantford and Paris, Ontario on August 10, 1876. The Bell Memorial, at the intersection of West, Wellington, and King Streets, was completed in 1917 and the Bell Homestead on Tutela Heights is now a national historic site. Bell was inducted into Brantford's Walk of Fame in 1999 (The Brantford Public Library)."

1869 - O.B. Brown patents the motion picture projector.

"Patent Number 93,594 In 1869, O. B. Brown of Malden, Massachusetts was awarded a patent for an optical instrument. Brown described the instrument as combining a phantasmascope (or phenakistoscope) with that of a phantasmagoria (or magic lantern). The device was used to project moving pictures on a wall or screen (Marusek)."

1885 - Leo Daft opens America's first commercially operated electric streetcar, in Baltimore.

Image: Small electric locomotive Ampère, built by Daft in 1883. Source: Wikipedia.

"Professor Leo Daft, in 1885, began an experiment on the Baltimore & Hampden lines to use electric power to propel former horsecars along the rather steep and curving line between 40th & Roland and Oak (Howard) & 25th Streets. Power was supplied through a third rail laid between the riding rails that supplied power to a locomotive pulling a horsecar. Although the success of the line is debatable, it is known that the line reverted to horse power in 1889, as the electrical equipment used by the line wore out. Still, the experiment did point the way towards the future, and changes were in store for Baltimore's transit ("

1889 - The screw cap is patented by Dan Rylands.

Image: Advertisement for Hope Glass Works. Source: Rylands Patents and History.

From a fun blog, The Past:
"Dan Rylands was working at the Hope Glass Works in Barnsley, a company his father Ben had begun when in partnership with Hiram Codd, the man who designed the famous 'Codd Bottle. The bottle that kept the ingredients fresh by the use of a highly ingenious marble in the opening. While screwcaps had been patented they were not to successful until the nineteen twenties when the 'White Horse Distillers' began using them and saw their sales increase dramatically because of this. The cork stopper remained in some whisky bottles for years but the screw top had come to stay!"

1893 - Dr. Rudolf Diesel's prototype engine was tested.

Image: Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, 1883. Source: Wikipedia.

"At Augsburg, on August 10, 1893, Diesel's prime model, a single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time. Diesel spent two more years making improvements and in 1896 demonstrated another model with the theoretical efficiency of 75 percent, in contrast to the ten percent efficiency of the steam engine. By 1898, Diesel was a millionaire. His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping (DOE Energy Kids Page)."

1897 - A young researcher at German chemical firm Bayer, Felix Hoffmann, first synthesizes acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin's active ingredient.

Image: Felix Hoffmann (1868 - 1946) working in his lab. Source: Bayer Shering Pharma.

According to The Chemical Heritage Foundation:
"Within a two-week period in August of 1897, Felix Hoffmann synthesized aspirin — one of the most widely beneficial drugs ever — and heroin, one of the most harmful of illegal substances.

Legend has it that Hoffmann was searching for a medicine to ease his father’s rheumatism pains when he acetylated salicylic acid, the active ingredient in salves and teas made from willow bark and certain other plant materials. Since antiquity, the pain-relieving and fever-reducing properties of willow bark were well known, and in the early 19th century, salicylic acid was isolated from it by several chemists. In 1859, Herman Kolbe determined its chemical structure and synthesized it. In 1874, the Heyden Co. near Dresden began manufacturing and selling synthetic salicylic acid, a cheaper product than the extract from willow bark itself. However, salicylic acid had unpleasant side effects — it irritated the stomach, and some patients were simply unable to tolerate it."
1902 – Arne Tiselius, Swedish chemist, Nobel laureate born (d. 1971).

Image: Arne Tiselius, 1953. Source: Oregon State University.

"Tiselius, Arne (1902-1971) was a Swedish physical chemist who won the 1948 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research on electrophoresis (a method of separating and purifying through the use of an electric field) and adsorption (a process in which matter gathers on the surface of a material). His work resulted in new methods for accurately analyzing proteins. He also identified individual proteins in blood serum (HowStuffWorks)."

1908 - Red Wing, MN Grandstand Moved by Wind.
"RED WING, Minn., Aug. 10.---During a heavy rain and wind storm the grandstand at Athletic park, crowded with 400 persons, was lifted from its foundation and carried a distance of about three feet.

The creaking timbers and the terrific wind caused consternation among the spectators at the ball game and there was a wild scramble for the exit. There was a near panic but it lasted only a few moments and no one was injured. The damaged to the grandstand was slight."
Source: The Duluth News Tribune, Duluth, MN 11 Aug 1908.

1913 - German physicist and Nobel Prize winner (1989) Wolfgang Paul was born.

Image: Wolfgang Paul. Source:

Wolfgang Paul (August 10, 1913 – December 7, 1993) was a German physicist who co-developed the ion trap. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1989 for this work (Wikipedia).

"An ion trap is a combination of electric or magnetic fields that captures ions in a region of a vacuum system or tube. Ion traps have a number of scientific uses such as trapping ions while the ion's quantum state is manipulated and mass spectrometery. The two most common types of ion traps are the Penning trap and the Paul trap (quadrupole ion trap) (Wikipedia)."

1931 - Cincinnati, OH Tri-Motor Airliner Crashes.
"Cincinnati, O., Aug. 10 -- (AP) -- A pilot's desperate struggle to halt the head-long plunge of a tri-motored airplane failed to prevent its crash here yesterday and six persons were carried to instant death.

The plane, bound from Cincinnati to Atlanta, Ga., had just taken off from Lunken airport when the propeller of its right-side engine came off and a moment later the engine itself tore loose and hurtled to the ground.

Out of control, the big passenger plane at once started its death dive while Pilot M. T. ODELL, 23, Cincinnati, frantically strove to right it.

Witnesses said ODELL apparently attempted to land the plane in a corn field at the edge of the Little Miami River, and failing in that, tried to head for a sand bar on the opposite side of the stream. Instead, however, it smashed into a clay bank, turned over nose first, tore out the entire front end, and killed all.

Airport officials said the accident was caused by a broken hub on the propeller. When the blade came off, the motor revolved at such a terrific speed its fastening bolts were unable to hold it. Department of commerce inspectors said they would report to Washington officials but agreed the broken propeller hub was the cause. The plane had left the airport hardly one minute and was up about 500 feet when the accident occurred.

The plane was operated by the Embry-Riddle division of the American Airways.

The usual inspection of the plane was made before the trip and everything was found to be in good condition, airport officials said. Stanley C. Hoffman, general operations manager of the line, and Frank Ware, maintenance manager, said every precaution had been taken in preparing the plane for its take off."
Source: Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune 1931-08-10.

1933 – Keith Duckworth, English mechanical engineer born (Cosworth (d. 2005).

Image: Graham Hill in consultation with Keith Duckworth. Source: O.G. News.

"Keith Duckworth was the outstanding racing engine designer of his generation.

Cosworth Engineering, the company he founded with his fellow engineer Mike Costin in 1958, produced a staggeringly successful series of Ford-based and Ford-sponsored engines. From 1960 to 1983 it not only won a record 155 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races but dominated international Formula 2, Formula 3 and Formula Junior. It won the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race, and added multiple victories in American Indianapolis-style speedway racing.

Duckworth was proudest of all in having manufactured precision-built engines in substantial quantity, thereby opening Formula 1's doors to a flood of new car manufacturers buying competitive Cosworth power 'off the shelf'."

1942 - Milwaukee Warehouse Collapses.

A four-story warehouse collapsed and buried twelve men in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An additional six men were rescued from the rubble with minor injuries.

There were 25 men working in the building. They reported no warning signs before the collapse.

Image: "The Titusville Herald", Titusville, Pennsylvania; Tuesday Morning, August 11, 1942. Source: Newspaper Archive.

1954 – At Massena, New York, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Saint Lawrence Seaway is held.

Image: The St. Lawrence Seaway opens in Montreal in this 1959 file photo. Source: The Penticton Herald.

"The St. Lawrence Seaway (French: la Voie Maritime du Saint-Laurent) is the common name for a system of canals that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the North American Great Lakes, as far as Lake Superior. Legally it extends from Montreal to Lake Erie, including the Welland Canal and the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. The seaway is named after the Saint Lawrence River, which it follows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. This section of the seaway is not a continuous canal, but rather comprises stretches of navigable river, a number of locks, and short channels made to bypass difficulties in the natural waterway (Wikipedia)."

1960 - Discoverer 13 is launched.

1966 - The first US moon satellite Orbiter 1 was launched.

Image: Lunar Orbiter 1. Source: NASA.
"The main objectives of the mission were to photograph potential landing sites for the Apollo missions and the site where Surveyor 1 had landed three months earlier and to provide the first clear images of the lunar far side. The photos were made on 79 meters (259 feet) of 70-mm film, which was automatically developed and then scanned for transmission to Earth. Though its highest-resolution pictures were blurred by smearing, this mission returned the best lunar images seen to date.

Changes in the spacecraft's orbit led to the discovery of variations in the Moon's gravitational field, caused by lava-filled basins, which would be important in planning the Apollo landings. Though intended to orbit the Moon for one year, the spacecraft was deliberately crashed into the lunar far side after orbiting for about 11 weeks. Having used up its supply of film, and with only a small amount of gas remaining in its attitude-control thrusters, NASA opted to end the mission in order to prevent the spacecraft's transmissions from interfering with Lunar Orbiter 2, which was to be launched about a week later (NASA)."

1966 - Ottawa Ontario- Heron Road Bridge over the Rideau River and Canal collapses, killing 9 construction workers and injuring 80.

Image: Heron Road Bridge Disaster. Source: Ottowa Worker's Heritage Museum.

"Nine workers were killed and 57 others were injured in Ottawa’s worst construction disaster when the south span of the Heron Road Bridge collapsed without warning into the Rideau River on August 10, 1966. Most of the workers killed were crushed beneath thousands of tons of wet concrete. Through all the dust and confusion, it was not until early the next day before everyone had been accounted for. An army of rescuers (including the mayor of Ottawa, Don Reid) worked their way through the rubble to free the trapped and injured workers. All available cars, trucks, and even a military helicopter were pressed into service to take the injured to hospital. It was almost another two years before the bridge was rebuilt and opened to traffic. In 1987, a plaque listing the dead was erected in a boulder just west of the bridge along Heron Road by the Building Trades Union (unknownottowa)."

"What happened in the aftermath of the disaster underlines how much times have changed since 1966. At the official inquest into the causes of the disaster, Oliver Gaffney, head of the construction company O.J. Gaffney Limited of Stratford, admitted partial responsibility for the collapse. The $100,000 inquest put the blame on the use of green lumber and the lack of diagonal bracing on the wooden support forms. As a result of the findings, the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario suspended two of its members, reprimanded a third, and the company was fined $5,000, the maximum penalty under the existing Construction Safety Act. And after very little delay, the province of Ontario’s construction safety standards were completely rewritten (Ottowa Public Library)."

Image: Tipton Daily Tribune, Tipton, Indiana, Thursday, August 11, 1966. Source: Newspaper Archive.

1968 - Charleston, WV Turboprop Plane Crashes Short of Runway.
"Charleston -- Fifteen officials of the National Transportation Safety Board began their investigation late Saturday into the crash of a Piedmont turboprop plane that killed 32 of 37 persons aboard when it undershot Kanawha Airport here.
Rains throughout the day prevented the officials from making a thorough inspection of the crash site located about 50 feet right of the main runway here.

EDWARD SLATTERY, director of public affairs for the NTSB said the cockpit voice and flight recorders had been recovered from the wreckage in apparent good condition and were sent to Washington where read outs will take place Sunday.
NTSB officials also confirmed that the airport's glide slope electronic guidance system was inoperative at the time of the crash. SLATTERY said the system had been shut down for a few days "for repairs."

He said pilots had been made aware the system was not operating.

It was the worst aircraft disaster in West Virginia history.

The F-227 aircraft was making an instrument approach through a thick fog when it thundered into the ground bouncing and spewing metal and aircraft fuel.

An eyewitness, RALPH G. STONE, 32, of Charleston, said the airliner "would have missed the runway by 50 feet if it had the altitude to land safely."

Landing under instrument conditions, the plane hit the hilltop edge of the runway about 50-yards short and about 10 feet too low.

The momentum carried the plane in bounces through a patch of trees and onto the runway area, tearing off a wing and spewing fuel in its path. The fire started after the plane came to a stop."

Source: Post Herald and Register Beckley West Virginia 1968-08-11.

1990 – The Magellan space probe reaches Venus.

1992 - Satellite TOPEX/Poseidon launched.

Image: Artist's rendering of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite. Source: Wikipedia.

"Topex/Poseidon is a little satellite that could. Launched on August 10, 1992, the joint U.S.- French spacecraft was designed to fly for three to five years. This week it celebrates its 10th anniversary and is still going strong.

When it turns 10, Topex/Poseidon will have made 46,763 trips around Earth measuring the height of the oceans to within 4 centimeters (less than 2 inches). Since launch, it will have faithfully provided more than 98 percent of the science data it was designed to collect despite technical and mechanical challenges, and its advancing years (JPL)."