This Day in Geek History: April 2
The first lead pencils are manufactured by Joseph Dixon, at his factory in Salem, Massachusetts. Dixon will be largely responsible for the development of the graphite industry in the U.S.
The first surviving daguerrotype photograph showing details of the sun are taken by French physicists Armand Fizeau and Léon Foucault. The five inch (12cm) image has an exposure of one sixtieth of a second, and shows the umbra/penumbra structure of several sunspots, as well as limb darkening. The photographic process is new; Daguerre had only just perfected the daguerrotype process in 1838.
George B. Brayton of Boston, Massachusetts receives a U.S. patent for a gas-powered engine. (US No. 125,166) He invented this first American commercial internal combustion engine, which he will later manufacture and sell. The engine injects a pressurized air-fuel mixture from a reservoir, into the water-cooled cylinder in which it is ignited. Its principle of continuous ignition later will become the basis for the turbine engine.
Charles M. Hall receives a patent for the inexpensive electrolytic process to extract aluminium from its ore, which he had invented on February 23, 1886. (US No. 400,655) Although aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, it is not found naturally in pure form, and thus it must be separated from its surrounding ore.
Thomas L. Talley opens the first moving picture theater, The Electric Theatre, as part of a carnival in Los Angeles, California. Admission is just ten cents for a one hour program.
John William Mauchly and John Presper Eckert, Jr. submit a memo to the U.S. Army describing an Electronic Difference Analyzer that can calculate ballistic trajectories in thirty seconds, 14.5 minutes less than the best method the Army had in use. The proposed machine would fully utilize about eighteen thousand vacuum tubes simultaneously. The memo will later evolve into a US$400,000 contract awarded to the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering by the U.S. Army. In 1946, the result of the memo, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC), will be unveiled.
Walt Disney announces his plans to build a Disneyland amusement park.
2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, premieres at the Uptown Theatre in Washington, D.C. The critically acclaimed film has what is believed to be a record number of 70-millimeter wide gauge prints made for a film during the roadshow era. The film’s grand scale and accurate portrayal of technology will go on to inspire generations to pursue careers in science, and the film’s mainstream success will inspire countless science fiction films. IMDB
The last episode of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, which premiered in 1966, airs on the ABC network. (No. 1.1245) The series, which was developed as a dramatic series, began introducing supernatural elements into its storyline six month after its launch, an unprecedented move for a daytime television series. The series is notable for being among the first popular daytime series to air on ABC and, more importantly, for being one of the very first cult hits among the teenage demographic. The series premiered on June 27, 1966 and ran for 1,225 episodes. TV.com