This Day in Geek History: August 27
A lunar eclipse causes panic among the sailors of the Athens fleet, affecting the outcome of a battle in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians were ready to move their forces from Syracuse when the Moon was eclipsed. The soldiers and sailors are frightened by this celestial omen and are reluctant to leave. The fleet’s commander, Nicias, consults soothsayers and postpones the fleet’s departure for twenty-seven days. The delay gives an advantage to their enemies, the Syracusans, who go on to defeat the entire Athenian fleet and army, killing Nicias in the process.
The first experimental hydrogen-filled balloon leaves Champs de Mars, Paris, unmanned, and reaches a 900m altitude. Under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences, Jacques A.C. Charles sent up a 13ft (4m) diameter hydrogen-filled balloon of rubber-coated silk. One of the spectators present for the demonstration is the American ambassador Benjamin Franklin. The gas had been manufactured, beginning on August 23, 1783, by pouring 225kg of sulphuric acid over half a ton of scrap iron. Able to lift about 9kg, it travels 24km in about forty-five minutes. The balloon descended close to the little village of Gonesse, where frightened local farmers attacked it with pick axes and spades, leaving only torn remains.
Clara Barton becomes the first female federal employee to achieve equal status when she is hired as a Patent Office clerk
The element Gallium was discovered by P.E. Lecoq de Boisbaudran. In an article in the Annales de Chimie in 1877, he will recount the discovery, “On August 27, 1875, between three and four at night, I perceived the first indications of the existence of a new element that I named gallium in honor of France (Gallia).” His first spectroscopic analysis of the tiny amount (he estimated 1/100 mg) of the prepared sample showed a previously unknown violet line at 417.0, indicating a new element.
J.A.D. McCurdy transmits the first radio message ever sent from an aircraft in flight over Sheepshead Bay in Long Island, New York.
“Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is first published in the All-Story Magazine. Burroughs is receives US$700 for the story, but it will turn out to be so popular that he will continue the series into the forties with two dozen sequels. The franchise will go on to become one of the most successful in early literature and film. Its success will be instrumental in bringing the fantasy and science fiction genres into the mainstream.
RKO Pictures releases the film She, directed by Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel and starring Helen Gahagan, Randolph Scott, Helen Mack, Nigel Bruce, and Gustav von Seyffertitz, to US theaters. The film is based on the H. Rider Haggard novel of the same name. IMDB listing
Sir Frank Whittle and Hans J.P. von Ohain successfully test the Heinkel He 178, the first modern jet-propelled aircraft in Marienehe, Germany. However, it only remains airborne for seven minutes.
The first international television link is established when the BBC in Britain transmits the live first cross-Channel television program via microwave relays to celebrate the centenary anniversary of the first cross-Channel telegraph transmission by submarine cable. The signal is relayed 95 miles (153km) for the two-hour program from Calais, in Northern France, to London, England. The show presents the town of Calais, a torchlight procession, dancing, and a firework display from the Place de l’Hotel de Ville. It is the first live broadcast from the European continent.
Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, publishes the first edition of the Guinness Book of Records. By Christmas, the book will top the British bestseller list. In 1997, the book will sell over 80 million copies.