This Day in Geek History: April 1
Charles M. Hall is granted a patent for the “Manufacture of Aluminum,” the first inexpensive method for producing the material. (US No. 400,665) The process will lead to the widespread commercial use of aluminum.
The first dishwashing machines go on sale in Chicago, Illinois.
The Edison Company launches a new division, the Kinetograph Department, transferring the manufacture and sale of Kinetoscopes and films to the Edison Manufacturing Company, out of the Edison Company’s laboratories.
The first automatic record changer is introduced by His Master’s Voice.
In New York City, the Empire State Building opens a month ahead of schedule. It will remain the world’s tallest building for over forty years, until the completion of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in 1972.
The first radio tube to be made of metal is introduced in Schenectady, New York.
The first advertising contract for a commercial FM radio station goes into effect at station W71NY in New York City.
The journal Physical Review publishes what will later be famously known as the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, “The Origin of Chemical Elements.” The paper argues through a mathematical analysis that Big Bang nucleosynthesis would explain the relative abundance of the light elements hydrogen and helium in proportion to heavier elements in the universe. Prior to the paper, the “Big Bang” theory had was an alternative to the “Steady State theory.” Following the analysis, the Big Bang will increasingly grow to become the prevailing cosmological model. The paper is written by physics PhD student Ralph Alpher and his adviser George Gamow. The highly respected physicist Hans Bethe was persuaded to lend his name as a co-author partly due to the amusing similarity between their names and the first letters of the Greek alphabet, “alpha, beta, gamma,” when Gamow learned that the paper would be published on April 1st. However, Bethe will later make significant contributions to the theory.
Part one of Planning and Coding Problems for an Electronic Computing Instrument by Herman Goldstine and John von Neumann is published. It is the first discussion of programming stored program computers, though such computers do not yet exist at the time of the publication. The second and third parts of the paper will be published April 15th and 16th, respectively. Read the paper online at the Internet Archive.
The first weather observation satellite, Tiros I, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in order to test experimental techniques for taking television footage of weather patterns from orbit. It is the first of several launched in the TIROS program, named for their function: Television Infrared Observation Satellite. The launch is NASA’s first step in determining whether satellites can be useful in the study of the Earth. At that time, the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven. TIROS will prove extremely successful in weather forecasting.
United States President Richard Nixon signs the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, requiring surgeon general’s warnings on tobacco products and banning cigarette advertisements on television and radio in the United States, effective January 1, 1971.
United States President Jimmy Carter visits the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, three days after the most serious nuclear accident in U.S. history. He tours the control room, a deliberate public display of confidence on Carter’s part to demonstrate that the situation is under control. Carter has a thorough understanding of nuclear reactors. As a Navy officer in the early fifties, he had assisted in the design and development of nuclear propulsion plants for the Naval Reactors Branch. He also trained as an engineering officer for a nuclear power plant.