This Day in Geek History: April 12
A French newspaper mistakenly publishes an obituary for Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, following the death of Albert’s brother Ludwig’s death. The obituary describes him as “a merchant of death,” which shocks Nobel into setting out to change his public image. His efforts will eventually lead to the establishment of the Nobel Prize. Visit the official Nobel Prize website.
A Mercury arc lamp is first publicly demonstrated in the UK by Peter Cooper Hewitt.
Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr. announces that the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk is “safe, effective and potent” after a year of field trials at a press conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the tenth anniversary of the death of former president Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from polio.
Yuri Gagarin, age 27, becomes the first man to orbit the Earth when he is launched into space aboard the Soviet spacecraft Vostok 1, which is equipped with a radio, television, and life-support equipment to relay information on his physical condition. The flight is entirely automated. Gagarin’s controls are even locked to prevent him from taking control of the ship. However, he has a key in a sealed envelope to unlock the controls in case of an emergency. He remains in space for an hour and forty-eight minutes before re-entering the atmosphere, ejecting from his capsule, and making a planned descent using his own parachute, though The Soviet Union will deny that he parachuted in order for the flight to be recognized as a world record. Twenty-three days after Gagarin’s flight, the U.S. will put Alan Shepard into orbit.
United States President John F. Kennedy states during the course of his regular press conference that “no one is more tired than I am…” (of seeing the United States second to Russia in space.) “They secured large boosters which have led to their being first in Sputnik, and led to their first putting their man in space. We are, I hope, going to be able to carry out our efforts, with due regard to the problem of the life of the men involved, this year. But we are behind … the news will be worse before it is better, and it will be some time before we catch up… ”
Ronald Wayne, one of the three co-founders of Apple Computer, leaves the company just eleven days after the company was established, relinquishing his ten percent share for US$800. In his short time working with co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Wayne illustrated the first Apple logo, wrote the company’s partnership agreement, and wrote the manual for the Apple I. He choose to leave the company because the partnership agreement imposed unlimited personal liability on all three co-founders, irregardless of which partner incurred the debt. According to the later book, Apple Confidential 2.0 by Owen Linzmayer, neither Jobs nor Wozniak were financially well-off, and Wayne realized that he “either was going bankrupt or the richest man in the cemetery.” By 1982, a ten percent share of Apple Computer will be worth US$1.5 billion. Read more about Ronald Wayne in an excerpt from Apple Confidential.